State prosecutors and lawyers for the Republican Party of Florida, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and former GOP Chairman Jim Greer met behind closed doors Thursday to hear testimony from Haridopolos and a list of witnesses expected to testify when Greer goes on trial for fraud and money laundering.
Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Michael S. Williams, Donald A. Lykkebak, the Orlando lawyer who represents Greer, and Haridopolos' lawyer Dean LeBeouf all objected to the presence of a reporter.
"It's just a general policy," Williams explained when asked to allow a reporter in. "When the depositions are transcribed and filed, you’ll have access."
Haridopolos was the first witness questioned. Accompanied by his attorney, Haridopolos spent more than an hour and a half answering questions.
"It was my first time ever being deposed," Haridopolos said as he left the office of GOP lawyer Steven R. Andrews. "There were a lot of questions I couldn't answer.’"
Haridopolos was one of several GOP leaders who signed a severance agreement to pay Greer $124,000 but said he did not know that Greer had created a secret company that was collecting money from the party. That company is at the heart of the criminal charges against the former party chairman.
Prosecutors say Greer diverted party money to his own use when he created Victory Strategies, a consulting company that raised money for the party. Greer insists he did nothing wrong and says party leaders were aware of the arrangement, which replaced a more expensive deal with professional fundraiser Meredith O'Rourke.
Greer was not allowed to sit in on the depositions but waited outside the room where witnesses were being questioned.
Other witnesses scheduled for depositions this week include O'Rourke, political consultants Pat Bainter and Mark Richendorfer and lobbyist Brian Ballard.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, Sen. John Thrasher and former GOP General Counsel Jason Gonzalez have already been deposed.
Lucy Morgan, Times Senior Correspondent