Burnette trial delayed, Maddox and Carter-Smith sentencing pushed back

Photo: Tallahassee DIA
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By: Julie Montanaro and Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 21, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- J.T. Burnette's trial has been delayed to October 5, while the sentencing of former City Commissioner Scott Maddox and Paige Carter-Smith are now set for October 29 at 1 p.m.

Burnette was indicted in the same FBI probe that led to the fraud charges against Maddox and Carter-Smith.

A motion filed by the US Attorneys on May 11 discusses the admissibility of recordings.

The government moved to exclude more than 100 recordings that J.T. Burnette seeks to admit; the recordings include more than 14 hours of audio.

The US attorneys allege the conversations in the recordings fall into three categories: (1) recordings of only the FBI undercover agents, (2) recordings of uncharged individuals, and (3) inadmissible and irrelevant recordings.

The motion says the FBI investigation from 2015 to 2017 involved undercover agents recording phone calls and in-person conversations. The government produced all 152 recordings created, but only 70 recordings include Burnette, Maddox, or Carter-Smith.

In August 2019, Burnette's exhibit list submitted to the government included all 152 recordings; in February 2020, the government filed to exclude the recordings of individuals who are "not charged-- or even referenced-- in the Second Superseding Indictment."

Burnette provided a revised exhibit and witness list, including 100 audio and video clips taken from 33 of the 152 recordings. Twenty-one of the clips have been "enhanced" to "improve" the recordings. The total run-time of the 21 enhanced clips and 84 non-enhanced clips is about 14.5 hours.

The government is now opposing the clips, saying they are "inadmissible hearsay, irrelevant, and excludable."

About 12 of the clips are recordings of only the undercover FBI agents; the government argues that Burnette's intent to use those clips "only makes clear the defendant intends to put the investigators on trial."

Large portions of the government's argument about the inadmissibility of the clips featuring only the undercover agents are redacted.

The government argues Burnette intends to introduce the recordings to suggest the investigation was not handled properly by the undercover agents; the U.S. Attorneys also argue the recordings in which the undercover agents discuss the nature of their evidence or law enforcement strategies are not relevant.

In the recordings involving uncharged individuals, the government argues the 23 clips could mislead the jury and confuse the issues.

As part of that argument the government writes, "the defendant intends to introduce this evidence in order to suggest to the jury that other public officials, lobbyists, and business people were having conversations with the UCs, but that those individuals were not charged with crimes."

Lastly, the government argues Burnette intends to admit irrelevant recordings involving himself and undercover agents; they argue a discussion of non-corrupt business between the defendant and the agents does not make the charges against him more or less probable.

Maddox and Carter-Smith pleaded guilty to fraud charges in August 2019; the two face up to 45 years in prison.

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