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Carroll's accuser denied arson probe, Meggs says he may file more charges

 

The bitter feud between Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and a disgruntled aide escalated Monday as the aide’s attorney called for a state arson investigation into a trash can fire in Carroll’s office and the state attorney said he may expand the charges against the aide, Carletha Cole.

Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs, who charged Cole last October with giving an illegally taped conversation to a newspaper reporter, told the Herald/Times that he is considering additional charges against her for illegally recording the conversation she had with Carroll’s chief of staff, John Konkus.

In the recording, Konkus is heard blaming internal office problems on Gov. Rick Scott’s former Chief of Staff Steve MacNamara and accusing the governor of "not leading." Cole has declined comment. Cole’s attorney, Steven R. Andrews, denies his client made the recording.

After the recording surfaced on the Florida Times Union website last September, Cole, 51, was fired from her $42,500-a-year job as a senior program analyst for "conduct unbecoming."

Meggs said Monday he had hoped to settle the initial charges quietly, but said the tenor of the case changed last week when Cole’s attorney filed documents in court alleging that Cole caught Carroll and her travel aide in a "compromising position."

"We may amend that and charge her with recording it, too,’’ he said. "If you have to go to war, you go to war. I think we’re at war.’’

Illegally recording a conversation is a third-degree felony and it carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

In court papers, Cole said Carroll had a vendetta against Cole after she allegedly discovered Carroll and her travel aide, Beatriz Ramos, in a sexual encounter in Carroll’s state capitol office. Cole said Ramos then allegedly set fire to the trash can beneath her desk. Cole, in the same court documents, alleged that the governor’s office instructed staff to "covertly record" communications with the lieutenant governor’s office and the press. Download Carletha-Cole-filing Download Jennifer Carroll and Beatriz Ramos

Carroll, a former Navy officer and mother of three, told the Associated Press last week that the allegations are " totally false and absurd." In reference to the sex allegations, she told a reporter with WTSP Channel 10 News in Tampa Bay over the weekend that black women who look like her "don’t engage in relationships like that."

Ramos has refused comment, but told investigators that she accidentally set the trash can on fire with a cigar she had been given during a St. Patrick’s Day party.

Meggs said he believes the media is being used by Cole and her attorneys in an attempt to discredit Carroll. He called Cole’s allegations that there were secret recordings made in the governor’s office "something that Cole has manufactured in her mind" and Meggs said he has "no indication of anybody secretly recording anybody" except the alleged recording made by Cole.

A Herald/Times request of the governor's office for all audio recordings produced by Konkus, Cole and Ramos during that time period produced no records except for recordings of open press conferences and the Konkus tape.

Andrews confirmed that until recently both sides were attempting to settle the case amicably but efforts failed.

"We did try to resolve it and, as always, Mr. Meggs acted in good faith and was very fair,’’ Andrews said. "Unfortunately, some things can’t be resolved. It’s a war, but not with him."

Andrews on Monday released a copy of a letter he sent to the state fire marshal demanding an investigation into the trash can blaze. He accused Capitol Police of destroying evidence, suggesting that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement botched the investigation, and implying that Carroll and Ramos covered it up. Download 2012.07.14_SRA_LTR_TO_HALE_AND_PANNUCIO_RE_FDLE_INVESTIGATION[1]

"This request is not made without substantial indication that there was an apparent interference with this investigation with regards to its thoroughness and duration,’’ Andrews wrote in letters to lawyers for the state fire marshal and Gov. Rick Scott.

Julius Halas, director of the Division of State Fire Marshal responded Monday that his office would not be investigating. He noted that the incident had been investigated by FDLE and the evidence, "a small partially smoked cigar and a burned match was subsequently destroyed by the investigating officer." Download Letter_to_Mr._Andrews_from_Mr._Halas

Brian Burgess, Scott's spokesman, criticized Andrews as a defense attorney "doing his best to divert attention from the criminal proceedings that an independent, duly elected state prosecutor is pursuing against his client." He suggested " we should allow the legal process to proceed without turning this sad situation into a circus."

Andrews, however, suggested that the evidence was destroyed prior to the completion of the investigation. His letter points to an FDLE document that shows that the evidence was obtained and destroyed on the same day. He also cites a letter allegedly signed by Carroll that recommends FDLE investigator John Hamilton for a job with the Division of Alcoholic Beverages a day after he closed the fire investigation.

FDLE on Monday denied that agents prematurely destroyed the evidence and produced a conflicting document that indicates the evidence was destroyed two days after interviewing Ramos and having concluded the fire was an accident.

"The FDLE documents don’t square with their statement issued today,’’ Andrews said. "We are disappointed that the Fire Marshal declined to investigate this matter. It is understandable based upon the fact that the evidence has been destroyed."

After being fired, Cole began a campaign to implicate her former boss, alleging widespread misconduct in her office.

A Twitter account under Cole’s name has posted links to an online petition calling for Carroll’s impeachment. It had only a handful of signatures as of last week. Last month, Cole tweeted about her petition to ABC’s Nightline, CNN contributor Roland Martin and several other national media outlets.

In court documents, Cole describes herself as a minister with two children and four grandchildren, and no prior criminal record. The former head of a public relations firm and publisher of a women’s magazine, Cole was hired in Carroll’s office for her expertise in the construction and design of Web pages, and claims she took the job rather than begin a seminary program at Harvard, court filings show.

Her personnel file shows that Cole also worked for JP Morgan Chase before joining Carroll’s office. She also got permission from the governor’s staff to continue her outside public relations work.

 

Comments

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Big Voice

I think this woman is being tooled by Andrews. His past history has shown his dislike for the Governor and all who support him.

This is a willful character attack by a woman who has an ax to grind. Leon County State Attorney should throw the book at this woman.

Buh Bye

In reference to the sex allegations, she told a reporter with WTSP Channel 10 News in Tampa Bay over the weekend that black women who look like her "don’t engage in relationships like that." - REALLY??? What exactly does that mean Ms. Carpetmunching Carroll???

This woman is an idiot. She has always been to stupid to realize she has been nothing but a token. I bet Scott is real glad he picked this ninny for his LG. Funny part is, she has always believed any unsavory stories about other politicos in her own party and gloated over them. But, when it comes to her, oh no... they are trumped up charges!!

She needs to go.

Buh Bye

I meant TOO stupid... at least I caught it!

John Q public

The accuser took a lie detector and passed I would like to see the Lt Governor do the same. Even if she has an ax to grind, she maybe telling the truth, and it sure looks like they are trying to cover that up.

whasup

The reality here is quite simple: Herr Willie Meggs is a political prosecutor who shows favoritism to people within his jurisdiction. Herr Willie is the sort to prosecute or not, to bring reasonable charges or entirely unreasonable charges (under absurd novel theories of the law, sometimes) when it suits his interest and the interests of the States's Attorneys across Florida.

But aside from Herr Willie's gross malfeasance in office, let's consider a simple question.

Given where the Ramos woman worked (i.e., where her office is), why would her lit cigar end up in the Cole woman's trash?

The fact is that the Ramos woman had several trash bins to toss her non-extinguished cigar into, and many of them closer to her work station.

That alone should have caused the investigators to ask: so why did you toss your cigar in Cole's waste basket?

The answer is readily apparent ... the Ramos woman was marking territory and demonstrating her "power" by tossing her cigar in some other person's work space.

judge public

The guy Meggs is clearly demonstrating prosecutorial misconduct in that he has established a publically declared personal war against Cole. By indicating he is considering amended charges would be considered vindictive prosecution and ultimately abuse of power. Such behavior originates with Jennifer Carrol and the reason why the public has to view this circus and foot the bill for it in the first place. This is not an issue of national security here. This is an issue of whistleblowing and exposing chaos in a workplace. Cole has enjoyed five decades on this earth without scandal amd blemish. All of a sudden she finds herself at war with the liuetenant governor and and a self made enemy in Meggs. If this is a war, its a war between Barnum Bailey and ringling brothers circus.

joe blow

Jennifer Carroll: can you say TOKEN!

Anti-Tallahassee

Willie Meggs is a disgrace to legal profession - a hard thing to do. He is a politically motivated hack. His own words acknowlege that his prosecution is politically motivated. Who is he "at war" with? I guess a prosecutor has the right to wage war on citizens when he is a Republican.

RJohnson

This shows how the corruption in Florida is at an all time high. Why was a cigar lit (and match)in a public building in the first place when its against the law, and out of all the trash cans who did it end up in. Whasup above, made great points, so obviously our FDLE folks are inept at their jobs or are being told what to do. This whole thing stinks of corruption. Also consider, Ms. Cole passed a lie detector test. Furthermore, if there wasn't anything on the tape, they would have not bothered, but instead they go after her because something must be on the tape. This is a no brainer, but these arrogant republicans think they can fool everyone and cover everything up. This is so sick and makes Floridans look like a bunch of idiots.

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