Burnette Trial Day 7: Maddox questioned whether fake developers were FBI agents on Vegas trip

2nd undercover FBI agent ‘Mike Sweet’ testifying in Burnette trial
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 3:33 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:57 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Cross-examination of FBI Agent Mike Miller continued in federal court Thursday morning.

JT Burnette’s defense attorney Tim Jansen focused on a Jan. 2017 meeting in Dallas.

On a recording, Burnette suggested the “developers” use diversification, rather than just private equity. He offered to put up $1 million for the FallsChase project, adding that in his calculations, return on capital would take three and a half to four years, Burnette said on tape.

“He wouldn’t have been able to pay Scott— if he was— for seven to 10 years, right?” Jansen asked Miller.

“He never gave us a timeline,” Miller replied.

During the conversation, Miller asked Burnette “What’s our competitive edge?”

Burnette replies that they own the only 350 acres inside the Capital Circle; Jansen points out that Burnette doesn’t mention Maddox or Carter-Smith.

Undercover agent Mike Sweets then says what Burnette said on that tape is different from what he said in Nashville in 2016. He mentions a phone call between the two after the Vegas trip; Miller testified that he was not aware of a call.

“In Tallahassee, by paying people, you can even put yourself out of a vote,” Burnette says. “Here’s the deal, if you pay Scott Maddox, Scott ain’t gonna vote.”

Jansen argues that statement shows Burnette did not yet know Southern Pines Development was paying Maddox, when at this point they had already sent a check.

In another exhibit, the defense played a recording with no transcript, asking Agent Miller about some of the conversations.

During that meeting in Dallas, Miller testified that it was the first time he directly spoke with Burnette about the checks.

“Let me tell you this, don’t stop,” Burnette tells him. “Scott Maddox is the mafia.”

Burnette tells the agents they messed up, and Sweet said “we opened the door, my bad.”

“Why would he be apologizing if Burnette knew about the checks?” Jansen asked.

Miller testified that Burnette’s face was red and he looked upset.

“He was clearly bothered,” Miller said.

The defense finished its cross-examination of Miller by using recordings to show Maddox’s “vindictive nature,” in Jansen’s words. Maddox described making life difficult for Terry Franklin and Michael Bowman after one refused to donate money to a campaign and the other owed him money.

Cross-examination of Miller lasted until 11 a.m.; the prosecution then took about 45 minutes on redirect.

On redirect, Miller testified it was not unusual that Burnette did not bring up bribes or payments in early meetings.

“I’ve never had a subject talk to me about it in a first meeting,” he said.

Miller also confirmed in response to questioning that Burnette never resisted drinking, never drank beyond the point of comprehension, and was not drinking at the Nashville “couch meeting.”

“Was he the type of person who could be pushed into things?” The prosecution asked.

“No, Mr. Burnette was very confident in everything we talked about,” said Miller.

“Was Scott Maddox a commissioner who could be paid for votes, according to the defendant?” asked the prosecution.

“Yes,” Miller replied.

Miller testified on redirect that in Dallas, Burnette was worried about making Maddox angry if Southern Pines Development stopped paying him.

At about 11:45 a.m. Thursday, FBI Agent “Mike Sweet” took the stand, also testifying under his undercover name.

In transcripts, his name is listed as “Sweets,” but he spelled his name for the court as “Sweet.”

Sweet testified that he recently retired from the FBI after 25 years. He said he was an undercover agent for 20 years.

In his testimony, Sweet described his “legend,” or his backstory. He said he posed as a medical marijuana expert, with previous black market drug connections in cocaine from the 1980s. His character was a primary investor in Southern Pines Development and had invested $10 million in the company.

“JT is a brilliant man, a brilliant man,” said Sweet.” “He didn’t have a lot of extracurricular thoughts outside the business world,” explaining that the undercover agents sometimes struggled to keep up with Burnette.

The prosecution played a 25-minute recording of a July 21, 2016 phone call between Sweet and Burnette.

In the recording, Burnette tried to steer Sweet and Southern Pines Development away from what he believes is a bad property deal: the purchase of Joan Fregly’s property.

He explained how CRA funding works, and he said he is interested in working with the group on developing a piece of land near Cascades Park.

When Sweet asked how they get the land, Burnette said, “let’s talk in person.”

Sweet also testified about the “couch meeting” in Nashville, saying Burnette was calm and forthcoming.

An October 4th, 2016 recording from Madison Social depicts Sweet and Maddox’s first meeting.

When the two meet, Maddox tells Sweet any deal they do needs to include JT; Sweet testified that it “showed us there was clearly a relationship between JT and Scott.”

Sweet asks Maddox if he can hire him, and Maddox replies no, “but I’ll tell you somebody you can hire.”

When Sweet asks about paying Maddox Horne, Maddox replies, “you’d want to hire Governance, Inc.”

“JT will tell me that, right?” Sweet asks.

“JT will tell you who it is,” Maddox replies.

In the conversation, Maddox describes Burnette as a person of substance who manages risk.

When Sweet asks, “What would I need to pay, not you, but your-- what would I need to put into that coffers a month to start this ball rolling?” Maddox replies, “Twenty.”

Sweet testified that in the conversation, Maddox knew Southern Pines Development was paying Adam Corey $5,000 monthly for lobbying; he said he didn’t tell Maddox that, and he believes Burnette did.

The next day has multiple recordings of conversations between Sweet and Burnette.

Agent Sweet asks Burnette, “how do we fill Maddox’s coffers?”

Burnette replies that Maddox has a consulting company, adding, “I’ll handle it with Scott.” When Sweet discusses meeting as a group, Burnette suggests somewhere outside of Tallahassee, nixing the idea of Fort Lauderdale, saying it’s too close to Maddox’ hometown.

“You want to get away,” Burnette says on tape.

Sweet testified that the FBI agents and Burnette had “two different business models” on how to pay a bribe. He said Burnette wants to know what the problem is and pay to fix the problem, while the agents want to pay as they go and develop a relationship.

“He’s saying this isn’t the way he would do it,” Sweet explained.

Burnette also tells Sweet that Maddox only wants to have one point of contact.

“He doesn’t want to have inappropriate conversations with anyone but me,” Burnette says on tape.

On October 29th, 2016, Sweet testified that he met Paige Carter-Smith for the first time. He said he was not recording the conversation because it was unexpected, but wrote a report on their conversation with Scott Maddox.

Sweet said Maddox again said he was willing to help Southern Pines as long as JT was involved, saying he could “run interference.”

“I believed that meant whatever we needed,” Sweet testified.

Sweet’s testimony also detailed the December 2016 trip to Las Vegas.

He testified that UCs Miller and Butler flew in on a private plane with Maddox and Burnette, while he drove. He said the group went to a strip club called “Hustler.”

Sweet said he set up the trip because it was part of his legend, to be “filthy rich, a good guy, likes to party and buy drinks for people.”

He testified that he had some bottle service, with bottles ranging from $100 to $1,000.

Sweet said Maddox had “already been paying to get dances on his own,” when an employee told him Maddox wanted to “go up to the champagne room.” Sweet said he was told it was $750 per hour for a dance and bottle services, and he paid for Maddox to go.

He testified that there was some confusion about the event in an initial conversation with attorneys, but his recollections were refreshed by his notes.

During the Las Vegas trip, Sweet introduced two other undercover FBI agents to Burnette and Maddox.

At one point, Maddox said he had “tried to figure out whether you guys are all FBI agents, Hollywood actors... You can be anything above to me.”

Sweet jokes back, “Speak into my mic,” on the recording.

Sweet testified that showed how cagey and wary Scott Maddox was on the trip.

Sweet’s final piece of testimony Thursday afternoon surrounded a lengthy conversation on the afternoon of December 3rd in a bar area, with Maddox, Burnette, and himself discussing the FallsChase development.

He will be back on the stand at 9:00 a.m. Friday.

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