Scott Maddox takes stand in JT Burnette trial
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Scott Maddox, the former Tallahassee city commissioner found guilty on federal corruption charges, is now testifying in the JT Burnette trial.
He began by speaking about his Aug. 2019 guilty plea to one count of honest services wire fraud, one count of honest services mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the US.
Maddox testified about the background of “Governance,” which he started in 1999.
He described it as a company “representing people on local government outside the city of Tallahassee.”
He testified that he sold the company to Paige Carter-Smith in 2010 for $100,000.
Maddox described Carter-Smith as his girlfriend of 11 years. He testified the two have sold property back and forth to one another.
“She’s my best friend,” he said.
Maddox also spoke about his relationship with Burnette.
“He was my friend,” he said.
Maddox testified that he met Burnette before running for office and that later Burnette became one of his top-tier fundraisers.
When asked what they liked to do together, Maddox replied, “drink bourbon.”
Maddox testified that he began representing the McKibbon Hotel Group in 2006, when they built the Aloft. He said his representation of the group ended in 2012 when he was sworn in as a city commissioner.
He said after an April 2013 city commission meeting, during which negotiations for McKibbon’s option to extend the land came up, Burnette came to him and asked him not to support McKibbon.
Maddox said he would declare a conflict of interest.
He testified that Burnette also asked that Carter-Smith not represent the group, and Maddox said he passed along the message. He said Burnette promised to pay Carter-Smith for the business she would’ve gotten: $100,000.
Maddox said Carter-Smith met with KaiserKane and negotiated a document.
In Feb. 2014, the McKibbon vote failed in a tie. Maddox had recused himself from the vote.
Maddox also testified about his first time meeting the undercover FBI agents.
He said when he met Mike Sweet at Madison Social in Oct. 2016, he was “severely intoxicated.”
When Sweet asked Maddox what he would need to put in the “coffers to get this ball rolling,” Maddox replied “twenty.”
Maddox testified that after Governance received the first check from the agents in Nov. 2016, he asked Burnette who Southern Pines Development was.
He also said he told Burnette he “didn’t want to go out and party with those guys,” but “he wanted me to put in a good word for him with them.”
On the subject of the first check, the prosecution asked Maddox if he did anything for that money.
He replied he believed it meant the project would have his favorable support.
“As a City Commissioner?” The prosecution asked.
“Yes,” Maddox replied.
When asked why he went to Las Vegas, Maddox testified that Burnette repeatedly asked him, saying he was a pro-business commissioner.
“I didn’t want to go,” Maddox said. “I came very close to not going.”
Maddox said Burnette was hoping for his help in locking in the FallsChase deal.
He testified that he believed he would be giving a presentation, selling Tallahassee to potential developers.
Maddox said he had no contact with the agents in January and February, and at a March 2017 meeting, he described them as aggressive.
Maddox’s direct testimony wrapped up just after 11; Burnette’s defense team then took over.
Burnette’s attorney Gregory Kehoe emphasized that Burnette was not present at the first meetings between Maddox and the FBI agents.
The Oct. 2016 Madison Social meeting came up multiple times; Maddox testified during cross-examination that his comments about $20,000 a month were actually related to Paige Carter-Smith doing work for Southern Pines on the FallsChase project in Leon County.
“So it had nothing to do with selling your vote,” Kehoe asked.
“No,” said Maddox.
Maddox also testified that he never received the checks sent to Governance.
“None of these checks were for you to do anything illegal, right?” Kehoe asked.
“Yes,” Maddox replied.
In January, Carter-Smith tried to get in contact with the agents.
Maddox testified that she was concerned the checks were coming in without a signed contract.
Maddox said he did not have anything to do with a fraud schemer.
“I should not have said the things I said at Madison Social,” he said, referring to his first meeting with Mike Sweet in Oct. 2016. “I indicated they would get favorable treatment, and I shouldn’t have done that. I certainly gave them the impression, when I was intoxicated, that I was the man behind the curtain, and I shouldn’t have done that.”
“During your dealings with Southern Pines Development, were you part of a plan to extort anyone?” Kehoe asked.
“No,” Maddox answered.
On redirect, the prosecution delved deeper into the counts Maddox pleaded guilty to in Aug. 2019.
In the count of honest services mail fraud, Maddox agreed to “perform official acts” in favor of Southern Pines Development.
The prosecution pointed out that during Maddox’s plea hearing, he signed the agreement that showed he promised “to provide favorable support in exchange for $10,000 payments.”
Maddox’s time on the stand wrapped up around 2:05 p.m.
The government’s final witness was FBI Special Agent Evan Hurley.
He and FBI Case Agent Josh Doyle interviewed Burnette at his home on May 24, 2017.
Hurley testified that Burnette was calm and collected throughout the entire interview.
In the recording of the interview, the agents tell Burnette they are investigating Mike Sweet for illegal drug activity.
“I never did anything with them,” Burnette said of the development firm. He added that Southern Pines “didn’t really seem to know what they were doing.”
Burnette told the agents he suggested lobbyists for hire, including Carter-Smith, and that the fake developers hired Adam Corey.
“I don’t know who they paid,” Burnette said on tape. “I never saw them pay anybody.”
The government rested its case at 2:37 p.m.
The defense called two expert witnesses in court on Monday afternoon.
The first, Larry Daniel, is a digital forensics expert. He specializes in computer, cell phone, and GPS data.
Daniel created a summary spreadsheet of texts and calls between multiple people in the case, including JT Burnette and Paige Carter Smith, JT Burnette and Melissa Oglesby, West Townsend and Scott Maddox, Trey Gardner and Paige Carter Smith, and Paige Carter Smith and Reggie Cardoza.
On cross-examination, the prosecutor pointed out that iMessage data is not included in the AT&T service records Daniel examined. He acknowledged other methods of communication, including Google voice or WhatsApp, also would not be included.
David Adams was the defense’s second witness on Monday.
He testified that he does business evaluation and economic advisory work, helping people understand what their businesses are worth. Adams has an MBA and is a mechanical engineer.
He explained multiple financial terms discussed in recordings from the trial, including “waterfall,” “return of capital,” “a preferred return,” and “promote.”
During cross-examination, Adams testified that in the conversations between Burnette and the undercover agents, “What I heard was somebody pitching a deal.”
“There was clearly an educational element,” he added.
At about 4:15 the defense called JT Burnette to the stand. However, Judge Hinkle acknowledge that a juror has a conflict and they needed to end court right at five.
Burnette will take the stand Tuesday morning.
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