Jim Greer sentenced to 18 months prison time

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Jim Greer was sentenced to 18 months in prison, followed by one year of probation, for five crimes he committed against the Florida GOP while serving as its chairman.

In other words, Greer will be fresh out of the can just in time for the 2014 gubernatorial election.

The Office of Statewide Prosecution asked that Greer be sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. Defense attorney Damon Chase asked for a shorter stint behind bars but had already conceded that his client expected to be locked up.

Circuit Judge Marc Lubet essentially sided with Chase, finding mercy in his heart for Greer.

“Society itself deserves justice,”Lubet said, However, “justice has to be tempered with some sort of mercy, if that mercy is deserved.”

The judge also noted Greer has paid back $65,000 and that this  was a case where a co-defendant, informer Delmar Johnson, walked away scot free. “You took the hit on these five felonies and you paid the money back,” noted the judge.

Greer’s pre-trial guilty plea in February allowed him to avert the possibility of up to 75 years in prison for fraud, money laundering and theft. 

Greer, ran the party from 2007 to 2010, has been able to stay at home since his plea announcement on Feb. 11. A grand jury had indicted Greer in 2010 on six counts, including a charge of organized fraud which was dropped with the guilty plea.

Greer’s attorney Damon Chase, who had fiercely claimed “the evidence was overwhelmingly in our favor,” was not immediately available for comment.

Greer’s guilty admission accepts the state premise that he created a shell fund-raising company called Victory Strategies that was used to steer Republican Party of Florida money into his personal bank account, on top of the $130,000 salary he got from the party.

Greer long claimed the party was aware of the arrangement, even approving a secret $123,000 severance deal that was supposed to shroud him from criminal liability. He filed suit against the RPOF, former Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, seeking the severance money and $5 million in damages.

The suit was dropped with the guilty plea.

RPOF leadership has spent the past three years trying to distance themselves from Greer, who they have accused of lavishly spending party money. 

While chairing the RPOF, Greer first drew complaints from inside the party for taking side in a number of primary contests.

Greer has blamed his banishment from the party and eventual downfall for his ties to Crist, and particularly his support of Crist’s controversial embrace of President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package and later Crist’s run for U.S. Senate in 2010 against Marco Rubio.

After Greer pled guilty, RPOF Executive Director Mike Grissom referred to Greer as “the man Charlie Crist personally picked to lead the Republican Party of Florida.”

“The truth is now known that Jim Greer broke the law, stole from RPOF and our donors, and then said and did everything he could to cover up and distract attention from his crimes,” Grissom said in a release. “Everything Jim Greer has said and done over these past few years should be considered in that light.”

Crist also disassociated himself from Greer’s actions, claiming under oath to have had no knowledge of Victory Strategies until one day reading about it in a newspaper.

Material from the News Service of Florida and the Orlando Sentinel was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.