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Sansom, Richburg will be tried together, judge rules

IMG_0021 State Rep. Ray Sansom of Destin and former college president Bob Richburg will be tried together Sept. 29 on official misconduct charges, a judge ruled Wednesday, but the two men will be tried separately on perjury charges.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled after hearing from lawyers from the two men, who are ensnared in a case involving state tax money appropriated in 2007 for a taxpayer-funded building that prosecutors allege was to have benefited the private business interests of the third defendant, Destin developer Jay Odom.

When State Attorney Willie Meggs asked that all three men be tried together for "judicial economy," lawyers for the defendants objected. They said the grand jury testimony of other defendants would be challenged as hearsay evidence. Hearing that, Meggs said the state would try the cases as the defendants want.

"I have no problem with three trials. None whatsoever," Meggs said. "We could have five trials and that would be just hunky-dory with me."

Sansom, dressed in a blue suit and at times checking his email on his BlackBerry, was in Courtroom 3A in the Leon County Courthouse. He declined to comment after the 40-minute hearing, but appeared to be in good spirits as he waited for an elevator.

As Sansom left court, he referred all questions to his lawyer, Steve Dobson, who reiterated his view that too many people have jumped to the conclusion that Sansom is guilty. "We intend to prove that those allegations are absolutely false," Dobson said.  Asked if Sansom would seek to reclaim his former leadership post of House speaker if he's acquitted, Dobson said: "That will be a decision that will be made when this case is over."    

-- Steve Bousquet