Monday, June 18, 2007

Former Monroe County Attorney Gets Probation

Hendrick gets probation By NICHOLAS SPANGLER Miami Herald Originally Posted-Friday, May 4, 2007

Federal judge orders disgraced former county attorney to pay $50,000 fine James Hendrick, the former Monroe County attorney convicted in February of obstructing justice and witness tampering in a wide-ranging, years-long Keys corruption case, was given five years probation and a $50,000 fine Friday in Miami federal court.“An awful lot of people came forward on your behalf,” said U.S. District Judge Shelby Highsmith. A couple dozen filled the courtroom's pews: friends, business partners, Hendrick's wife and son. “Do not disappoint us.”“I will not,” said Hendrick, who leaned over the bar to hug his wife. Her eyes brimmed and she whispered to him.

Hendrick, 59, was convicted in February of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and witness tampering involving a bribe paid to then-County Commissioner Jack London.London had pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return for failing to report the $29,000 bribe and was facing three years in prison.He was expected to testify against Hendrick - his friend for some two decades - but died in November.

Another former Hendrick friend, political consultant Randall Hilliard, testified against Hendrick and was given immunity.Prosecutors never alleged that Hendrick profited from the $75,000 Marathon businessman Marvin Rappaport paid to Hilliard in 1996, when Rappaport was trying to jumpstart redevelopment of the former Hall's Fishing Camp in Marathon into a 79-room resort.But he helped negotiate London's $29,000 share of that payment. London helped win County Commission approval for the building permits for what later became a Hampton Inn. It's now a time share.

Rappaport was never charged due to the statute of limitations.In the background of Hendrick's three-week trial was an even more colorful character: Pritam Singh, a one-time hippie who became a Sikh and then a major developer.Never charged with a crime, Singh was mentioned in closing arguments by prosecutor Brenda Morris, who referred to him as Hendrick's “cash cow.”

The feds won the cooperation of Hilliard - the self-proclaimed “prince of darkness - who paid the bribe after collecting in fees from Rappaport, and testified the bribe was orchestrated by London and Hendrick, a partner at the time in a high-powered law firm with then-U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh Morgan.While cooperating with the federal government, Hilliard recorded phone conservations and in-person meetings with Hendrick, including at Singh's 50th birthday party in Vermont.In one of his most self-incriminating statements, Hendrick told Hilliard: “I'm sure no one would counsel me to sit here and talk with you because it would be considered witness tampering.”Hilliard also testified that Hendrick helped concoct untrue “legitimate business” explanations for the $29,000 that London used to pay a house lien in Ireland.

The defense, led by Miami-based lawyer Ed Shohat, hammered at the credibility of Hilliard.But London's wife of 24 years, Elaine London, gave damaging, voluntary testimony as well. She said Hendrick persuaded her husband to take a trip to Ireland to be “out of sight, out of mind.”Hendrick, who took the stand in his own defense, explained that he told London to do so for health reasons - not to avoid a grand jury subpoena.This report was supplemented with material from Herald reporter Cammy Clark.

No comments: