By: WCTV Eyewitness News
August 6, 2019
Photo: Tallahassee DIA
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Suspended Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox and longtime associate Paige Carter-Smith pleaded guilty to fraud charges at a Tuesday morning hearing at Tallahassee's federal courthouse.
Maddox and Carter-Smith each pleaded guilty to two counts of honest services fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit tax fraud.
"He accepts responsibility for the things that he did wrong and wants to move on with his life and his family's life in Tallahassee because much of his life has been devoted to Tallahassee and he wants Tallahassee to heal," said Maddox’s defense attorney Stephen Dobson after the plea hearing.
Maddox and Carter-Smith face up to 45 years in prison. Sentencing is set for November 19.
It was contentious at times inside of the courtroom, with some community members watching, saying it's important to see those responsible are held accountable.
"We got you, bud."
Those words came from long time activist and Tallahassee watchdog, Erwin Jackson, as Scott Maddox made his way out of federal court.
Jackson says Tuesday's guilty plea is justice long overdue.
"That's exactly what I told him almost nine years ago and to have him finally admit to what he's done as guilty is a positive thing, but now he has to pay the time, pay the price," Jackson said.
After the hearing, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Lawrence Keefe refused to comment on a potential sentence for the two, saying the judge will have a lot of factors to consider.
The charges Maddox and Carter-Smith pleaded guilty to stem from money paid by a ride sharing company and a front company for the FBI.
According to the indictment, the ride sharing company approached Maddox in 2015, as the city commission was considering a rideshare ordinance.
Maddox was non-committal, and directed the company representative to contact Carter-Smith to help the company obtain a favorable result.
After a meeting, the company agreed to pay Carter-Smith’s firm, Governance, Inc. a $5,000 monthly retainer for her “consulting” services.
Carter-Smith then served as a go-between for communications between the company and Maddox.
Maddox incorporated amendments requested by the company into the final ordinance, according to the federal indictment.
During that time, the company paid Governance approximately $30,000 and Governance in turn made approximately $40,000 in payments to Maddox.
In the FBI front company charges, FBI agents posed as developers pursuing Tallahassee real estate projects.
"There have been problems with public corruption and the ensuing lack of public trust that people have being concerned that it's not a level playing field or that it's rigged," said a U.S. Attorney after the pleas were handed down.
According to the indictment, businessman J.T. Burnette arranged for the front company to pay Governance up to $10,000 per month for as long as three years to get their project authorized.
Burnette also faces dozens of charges and his case remains unresolved.
Timeline of the Case
June 2017: Federal subpoenas are issued to the City of Tallahassee and the Community Redevelopment Agency
September 2017: A third subpoena was issued for the most recent five years of Maddox’s communications
February 2018: A federal search warrant for Maddox’ Apple iCloud account was accidentally made public
December 2018: Scott Maddox and Paige Carter-Smith indicted
December 2018: Governor Rick Scott suspends Scott Maddox from Tallahassee City Commission
January 2019: Trial date delayed from January 14 to February 11
January 2019: Trial date delayed, status conference set for March 29
March 2019: Judge denies motion to drop more than half of the charges against Maddox, Carter-Smith
March 2019: Maddox and Carter-Smith trial date set for November 4
May 2019: J.T. Burnette indicted, trial date set for June 17
July 2019: Burnette files to sever his case from Maddox and Carter-Smith and delay to February 2020
July 2019: Maddox and Carter-Smith schedule a change of plea hearing
August 2019: Maddox and Carter-Smith plead guilty to three charges each