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Maddox and Carter-Smith to plead guilty in FBI corruption probe

Photo: Tallahassee DIA
Photo: Tallahassee DIA(WCTV)
Published: Jul. 31, 2019 at 10:01 AM EDT
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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News

July 31, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Former city commissioner Scott Maddox and political consultant Paige Carter-Smith will be changing their pleas to guilty in the FBI corruption probe in a hearing next Tuesday.

They are charged on 44 counts of a racketeering conspiracy; those charges include engaging in bank fraud, extortion, honest services fraud, bribery, making false statements to federal officers, conspiracy to interfere with the IRS, and filing false tax returns.

The court has not yet ruled whether defendant J.T. Burnette will be tried with Maddox and Carter-Smith; his attorneys have filed multiple motions to separate his case.

Burnette has also filed to continue his case to next February, due to the large amount of evidence from the U.S. Attorneys.

Burnette will have a status hearing three hours after Maddox and Carter-Smith's change of plea hearing.

Burnette's attorney Tim Jansen wrote in a statement, "We are still planning on going to trial. He's still denying all the charges and we're not sure what, if any, impact the plea of the other two defendants will have on our case."

Maddox has previously made motions to drop more than half the charges against him; his attorneys argued there was no proof of "quid pro quo," meaning that Maddox accepted something in return for a favor. Those motions were denied.

Maddox and Carter-Smith's trial was originally scheduled for February 11, then delayed until November 4.

An expert weighs in

Dave Moye, a former assistant US Attorney, discussed what the plea change means for he case as a whole.

He said he is not surprised about the guilty pleas, due to the specific nature of the indictment, calling it, "hard to beat."

"It was a very thorough indictment, it covered a wide range of criminal misconduct from tax fraud, to bank fraud, to public corruption," said Moye.

He also said he believes it's likely that Carter-Smith and Maddox have struck a deal for a lighter sentence by helping prosecutors.

"Pursuant to paragraph 5K 1.1 of the United States sentencing guidelines, very high likelihood that they are in the process of cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation and even in the prosecution of other criminal conduct," said Moye.

Moye said the most effective way to reduce a possible sentence would be to cooperate with the government.

"It would be co-conspirator testimony, which is pretty strong, and pretty specific," said Moye. "Now, I'm speculating but I would suspect that that would be the kind of evidence that Mr. Maddox or Ms. Carter-Smith could provide to the investigators."

Their cooperation could be an issue for defendant J.T. Burnette, whose innocent plea still stands at this time.

Within the indictment, there are still five unnamed companies and six unnamed people.

Moye said he believes some of those entities may also face criminal prosecution, thanks to information from Maddox and Carter-Smith.

"It would be hard for me to believe that whoever was paying those monthly sums, which were considerable, believed they were doing so with the honest intent and above board," said Moye.

Moye said it will be several months before an actual sentencing will take place; there still needs to be a pre-sentence investigation and an extensive report for the judge to consider. The US Attorney will also need to follow any possible leads from defendants, and prosecute new co-conspirators.

In addition, Moye said that even if Maddox and Carter-Smith are able to make a deal, the sentencing guideline levels for this kind of indictment are high enough that they may still face jail time.

"I don't think the levels for which they would get reduction would put them in a bracket that would avoid confinement," said Moye.

The Other Possible Players

There are five unnamed companies and six unnamed people in the original superseding indictment.

Company A is described as an "architectural engineering firm" on page 19 of the indictment. Prosecutors write that this company paid Governance a monthly retainer fee "based on fear of economic harm. That company had a contract for water resources engineering in 2013 and 2015.

Company B is described as a "rideshare company that operated across the United States." Person A is related to this company, described as a government relations professional employed by Company B.

The indictment alleges that Carter-Smith met with Person A and solicited payments from Company B in exchange for Maddox' votes on different ordinances. It also states that this company paid Governance a total of $30,000.

The superseding indictment describes Company C on page 24 as a "waste services provider," with Governance serving as the "marketing and planning consultant" for this company. Person B is a regional vice president employed at Company C, serving the Tallahassee area.

The indictment states that Maddox implicitly and explicitly continued to solicit and accept payments from Company C in exchange for an agreement to engage in official acts to benefit that company.

When the City of Tallahassee fined Company C $64,000, Person B went to Maddox, who got the fine reduced to $7,000.

Company D is listed on page 27 as a construction company. Person C is Company D's owner, and negotiated a contract with Governance.

Maddox voted against amendments to City administrative policy that would have posed economic challenges to Company D, and assisted the company in obtaining a contract extension to perform sidewalk construction and rehabilitation.

Listed on page 29 is Company E, described as a residential development company. Person D owned Company E.

Maddox helped with two separate issues, including an issue with the type of fencing used by the company, and during a separate issue regarding Tallahassee Utilities Department work.

Person E was a local developer and applicant for funding, and Person F was a local business owner and Maddox associate. When Person F told Person E to pay Governance for Maddox' vote, Person E refused.

Company F was a front for undercover FBI agents investigating allegations of corruption in Tallahassee. Agents posed as representatives who were in real estate and medical marijuana entrepreneurs. The indictment states that J.T. Burnette agreed to assist Company F in obtaining approval for projects.