JT Burnette’s attorneys file for acquittal
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Attorneys for JT Burnette are now calling for his acquittal after a jury found him guilty on five of the nine counts against him. His defense team argues in a new filing that there is not enough evidence for a conviction on any of the counts.
His attorney writes that the “case stands before the court in a far different light following the jury’s verdict.”
Burnette’s defense team argues that because the jury acquitted him on Count 1, a RICO Conspiracy, he cannot be liable on any of the remaining counts.
They say that because the jury acquitted Burnette of Counts 3 and 4, honest services fraud, he should have also been acquitted on Counts 2, 5, 6, and 8.
Count 1 alleged Burnette participated in a racketeering conspiracy. Count 2 charged Burnette with extortion, while Counts 3, 4, 5, and 6 were for honest services mail fraud.
Counts 7 and 8 alleged Burnette violated the Travel Act, and Count 9 charged him with lying to the FBI.
Burnette was found guilty on Counts 2, 5, 6, 8, and 9; those include extortion, two counts of honest services mail fraud, one count of violating the Travel Act, and lying to the FBI.
He was found not guilty on Counts 1, 3, 4, and 7; those include racketeering conspiracy, two counts of honest services mail fraud, and one other count of violating the Travel Act.
Defense attorneys argue Burnette should be acquitted on Count 2; they say there is insufficient evidence of complicity with Scott Maddox or any official act.
“As a private citizen Burnette can be liable for extortion (or attempted extortion) only if he aided and abetted Maddox,” attorneys write.
Burnette’s attorneys argue that in their testimony, Scott Maddox and Paige Carter-Smith “rejected any possibility that they were involved or complicit in any extortion plan.”
They write that without Maddox’s involvement, there is no extortion in which Burnette could have participated.
Maddox testified that he believed the checks from Southern Pines Development were for legitimate lobbying in Leon County, while Carter-Smith testified that she was never knowingly part of any unlawful activity.
Burnette was also acquitted on Counts 3 and 4 against him; the defense team says his alleged involvement in the first two payments is “central” to the Government’s claims.
“The jury’s acquittal on Counts Three and Four demonstrates that it rejected this core component of the Government’s case,” attorneys write. “Burnette’s failure to stop an alleged extortion scheme that the Government alleges had already commenced--an alleged scheme that the jury verdict establishes commenced without Burnette’s willing participation-- does not create aiding-and-abetting liability because it does not establish that Burnette willfully joined with Maddox in a scheme.”
Burnette’s attorneys say because of those acquittals, Burnette should have been found not guilty on Counts 5 and 6 as well.
They write that there are no recordings of a conversation between Burnette and Maddox that show they colluded in any bribery scheme, and Maddox confirmed no such conversation took place.
They also point to Carter-Smith’s testimony, that she believed the four $10,000 checks were not for influence from Maddox, but rather were for legitimate lobbying. The filing cites the lobbying agreement she sent to Southern Pines Development and her efforts to follow up and arrange a time to meet.
Burnette’s attorneys argue that the jury verdict establishes if there was a scheme to defraud, Burnette did not participate in its creation, and there is no evidence he joined such a scheme.
On Count 8, Burnette’s attorneys argue that there is insufficient evidence of bribery in the specific phone call listed in the charge.
“Without a bribe, there can be no facilitation of a bribe,” his attorneys write.
They cite testimony from Scott Maddox, in which he says he never spoke with Burnette about wanting to be paid through Governance.
On the final charge against Burnette, Count 9, his attorneys argue the evidence does not support the conviction of giving false statements to the FBI.
They say the questions were fundamentally ambiguous, the answers were not false, and the questions and answers did not concern a material matter.
Burnette’s attorneys filed the motion on September 13th; the Government has not made any filings in response as of Wednesday afternoon. Burnette’s attorneys had no comment on the motion.
Burnette’s sentencing is scheduled for October 28.
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