Key witness testifies in J.T. Burnette corruption trial

Key witness testifies in J.T. Burnette corruption trial
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 5:30 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A key witness was on the stand Thursday afternoon in the corruption trial of Tallahassee businessman J.T. Burnette.

Paige Carter-Smith testified in federal court and already pleaded guilty to fraud in the case surrounding development deals in Tallahassee.

Carter-Smith has close ties to Burnette, along with Scott Maddox, the third major player in the alleged scheme. She began her testimony describing her relationship with both Maddox and Burnette, and also detailed working with KaiserKane, the company owned by Burnette’s cousin.

Carter-Smith said she was on a contract with the company in 2014. The contract was for a $10,000 “success fee,” and she explained that it was for work to keep her busy and less involved in the McKibbon hotel deal, which ultimately fell through.

Then, in February of 2014, she had an invoice prepared for KaiserKane to pay governance $100,000 saying that invoice would not have been made without Burnette knowing about it.

Carter-Smith said it was prepared under direction from Maddox and that he was going to “conflict himself out of the vote” pertaining to the hotel project by MHG. On April 14, 2014, KaiserKane sent a $100,000 dollar check to Governance.

Thursday morning, Charles Simon, who was working for InvestCorp, who sold the Double Tree to Burnette back in 2013, also testified.

Prosecutors showed text and email chains between the two, and many of them were talks about the MHG hotel proposal. Simon testified the project would have impacted the double tree’s value..

Simon also received a forwarded email from Burnette referencing $44,000 he spent. Simon understood it was to launch a legal battle over the hotel.

During cross examination Simon was asked if Burnette ever talked about paying anybody off, and he said no.

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