Sansom charge dismissal sought

Aug 6, 2009

State Rep. Ray Sansom’s lawyer asked a judge Wednesday to dismiss the criminal case against him, arguing there was no evidence Sansom secured $6 million in taxpayer money for an airport building that a friend and political contributor would use.

The motion to dismiss also contends that prosecution “amounts to an unconstitutional encroachment by the executive branch upon the legislative branch” and would have an “enormous chilling effect” and would place “unmanageable expectations” on the Legislature.

Sansom, R-Destin, is awaiting trial on a felony charge of official misconduct related to the $6 million appropriation he got in 2007 and directed to Northwest Florida State College, where he later took a $110,000 job.

A grand jury concluded that Sansom, college president Bob Richburg and developer Jay Odom worked to get the money and that Odom was going to store aircraft inside part of the building.

Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs said Wednesday that he had not fully digested the 15-page motion but felt confident in his case. “We didn’t file it because we thought we were going to lose,” Meggs said.

The official misconduct charge stems from allegedly falsified budget documents. An early reference to the building said it would be at Destin Airport, but the final budget line omitted the location.

Sansom’s attorney, Steve Dobson, said the final language – Okaloosa JT Use Emergency Response Workforce Center – is “wholly accurate and contains no false statements.”

The college, which was in discussions with Odom to use hangarlike space in the building, maintains that no agreement existed. The building was to be used for emergency training and response, the college and Sansom say.

Dobson writes that the possibility of a sublease of space to Odom’s Destin Jet business was “never finalized and remained up in the air. Accordingly, the state can offer no conclusive proof that such a lease to Destin Jet would have ultimately occurred, and there is no manner under which the state can prove that the defendant ‘knew’ that such a lease would ever occur.”

The motion also says that Meggs cannot say who created the budget document. But investigators say the person who actually typed the document is irrelevant and say interviews show Sansom directed legislative staff to act on the appropriation.

The investigation has also uncovered an e-mail sent to Sansom before he got the money that outlined Odom’s plans to use the space.

Dobson also argues that a prosecution amounts to “unconstitutional encroachment by the executive branch upon the legislative branch” which has the power to appropriate money.

Noting the limited space to describe an appropriation, Dobson said lawmakers fearful of prosecution would have an “enormous chilling effect on the Legislature and place unmanageable expectations on that branch of government.”

The defense has also filed other motions with Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, including one to compel Meggs to outline more of his case. The trial is set to begin Sept. 29.