Capellini "Not Guilty"? We'll Be The Judge Of That
In huge letters, the headline says, "Capellini Cleared." In small letters, between those words are the crucial, if equally dubious, "will be."
In addition to shenanigans like that, Capellini continues to refer to himself as the mayor, even though he's been removed from office by Charlie Crist after he was hit with a corruption charge.
It'd be pretty funny if it wasn't so repulsive.
Town activist and all-around madman Chaz Stevens sent me the rest of the newspaper and it's just full of the same kind of tricks. One page is dominated with the 60-point headline "Al Capellini Not Guilty," followed by "Charge Against Mayor 'The Ultimate Cheap Shot' Says Former Assistant United States Attorney!"
That former assistant U.S. attorney is, of course, William Bucknam, the henchman for millionaire Deerfield Beach Observer publisher and Republican crony J. David Eller. Bucknam is the guy that emceed the mayoral panel debacle. I don't know if the guy ever had any credibility, but if he did, it's all gone now. And Eller? He's been a joke since those water pumps he was peddling in Nigeria with his old partner Jeb Bush.
Capellini's lawyer, David Bogenschutz, will be arguing to dismiss the case on Thursday before Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen. I think Capellini really believes the charge is going to be dropped this week -- but that's just silly. There's way too much evidence piled up. This isn't a technical case, it's an egregious one. Capellini's engineering company was hired by the developer of the Deerfield Beach Office Park at Natura and the then-mayor clearly used the power of his elected position to not only push the project through his city but also to mislead everyone about it. The guy enraged the old folks at the Natura retirement center with his tricks. Here's a primer.
What I don't understand is why the State Attorney's Office went so easy on Capellini. Prosecutors could have easily hit him with numerous official misconduct charges for numerous conflicts of interests he'd accrued as mayor (including the Lanzo deal, Arbor Green, and Bill Gallo). Okay, now I'm thinking about Michael Satz and Dave Schulson and their incredible lameness in last year's Stacy Ritter investigation. Read this close-out memo -- it borders on criminal negligence in my opinion. Satz has a fucking responsibility to truly investigate corrupt public officials even if they are ...
... okay, five deep breaths.
I'm fine now. Anyway, the state's unlawful compensation statute is a beautiful thing, very adaptable and resilient, thanks in large part to the Florida Supreme Court, which takes these cases very seriously. In the Castillo ruling, which I encourage you to read, the state's top court ruled that circumstantial evidence of a corrupt deal is all that is needed for a conviction. Satz's office, for years, misinterpreted the statute to avoid have to do its job. Almost everytime John Countryman (how's that for a blast from the past) investigated a corruption case, he would end it by saying it looked awful, simply terrible, but since there was no PROOF of a quid pro quo, there was nothing poor old Satz could do. Well, the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that all you need is a quid and a quo -- the pro is a given and you're not going to get evidence of public officials making corrupt deals when most of them are done with a wink and a nod. The court says that all you need, really, is circumstantial evidence that there has been a "meeting of the minds."
Anyway, the point here is that if ever there was a case made for a jury trial, this is it. The people need to decide if what Capellini did, in their name, was criminal or simply sleazy. Any other outcome -- other than a fair plea deal -- would just be another black eye on this sorry, sorry county.