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Burnette trial day 8: FBI Agent testifies strip club night in Vegas had $6,500 price tag

A courtroom sketch of JT Burnette's defense attorney, Tim Jansen.
A courtroom sketch of JT Burnette's defense attorney, Tim Jansen.(Christopher Rivera)
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 11:24 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Day eight of the JT Burnette trial began with Undercover FBI Agent Mike Sweet back on the stand.

Sweet testified about a phone call with Burnette days after they returned from Las Vegas. He said he believed Burnette’s statements on the call were “false exculpatory statements.”

“I just don’t, I don’t want you to think you can effectively pay these people and get a vote,” Burnette said on the call. “I don’t want you to think you can write a check and get what you want. I have never done it before.”

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

Sweet said on the stand he believed Burnette was trying to absolve himself, and the statements were completely contrary to things he had said previously.

“This call was completely out of the blue,” said Sweet.

Burnette and the undercover agents traveled to Dallas in Jan. 2017.

At a recording of that meeting, the group talked about FallsChase.

“How do you know it’s economically viable?” One of the agents asked.

“These people are my ******* friends!” Burnette replied. “It’s a professional, transactional partnership.”

Burnette also told the agents “all of the other home builders are going to support going away from Steve [Ghazvini].”

When the agents say they are sending checks to Maddox, Burnette says, “let me tell you, don’t stop that.”

He tells the agents Maddox will “burn their house down” if they stop paying.

Sweet testified that it was his understanding that Burnette remaining in the deal was contingent upon Southern Pines Development continuing to pay Maddox.

Sweet’s testimony wrapped up at 10:15 a.m. Cross-examination began shortly after.

Burnette’s attorney, Gregory Kehoe, played recordings of phone calls and meetings between the two.

In one Feb. 2016 recording, Burnette is willing to assist Southern Pines Development, suggesting they connect with Will Butler and Drew Jones.

“My client is willing to help you for nothing,” Kehoe said.

“Yes,” Sweet agreed.

During a 15-minute phone call in March between Burnette and Sweet, Sweet made suggestions about the medical marijuana business.

“There is a build-up of loyalty because of the information you give him,” Kehoe said.

Sweet agreed, saying “that’s part of ingratiation, yes.”

In July 2016, Sweet brought up Maddox during a phone call with Burnette.

“Is there any recording prior to this that has the name Scott Maddox on it?” Kehoe asked.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Sweet testified.

Kehoe also asked about a 2016 fake investors meeting in Nashville; “Did you convey that you wanted an inside track?”

“Yes,” Sweet replied. “The evidence and investigation showed there already was an inside track.”

Burnette’s defense team confirmed that in Sweet’s first three face to face meetings with Maddox, Burnette was not present for any.

Kehoe discussed an October 29th unrecorded interaction between Maddox and Sweet.

Sweet testified that he had not planned to meet Maddox or recorded the interaction, confirming to Kehoe, “I was fairly intoxicated that night.”

“How does your intoxication affect your ability to hear and recall events?” Kehoe asked.

“It depends on the level of alcohol,” Sweet replied.

“You were stumbling down the street, right?” Kehoe asked.

“At the end of the night, yes,” Sweet replied.

The defense also introduced new recordings from the December 2016 Vegas trip from the Hustler strip club, as well as receipts from that night.

Two other undercover agents, “Ravi Gupta,” supposedly worth $1.5 billion, and “Jack DeWitt,” a fake “angel investor” were also there.

Sweet testified that he believed Maddox’s repeated question of “Why am I here?” was exculpatory; in that same conversation, Maddox wondered aloud if the group was made up of FBI agents.

The group spent $6,500 at the “Hustler” strip club, including $750 paid in cash by Sweet for Maddox to visit a private room. Sweet testified on Thursday that he was buying most of the alcohol; he confirmed Friday that his expenses accounted for $5,000 of the money spent.

The defense also asked about the post-Vegas phone call with Burnette; Sweet testified earlier that day, he believed it was brought about by Scott Maddox’s suspicion.

“What evidence do you have that this call was brought about by Maddox?” asked Kehoe.

“None, just a belief,” Sweet answered.

Kehoe went through the transcript, looking at individual statements and questioning Sweet on what he believed was exculpatory; Sweet replied that he was taking the communication out of context.

Cross examination of Sweet wrapped up just after 4:30, and redirect finished just after 5:00 p.m. Friday.

Court resumes at 9:00 Monday morning.

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