In the summer of 2011, the arrest of U.S. Rep. David Rivera seemed all but certain.
Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had waded through piles of credit-card receipts and banking records, tracing thousands of dollars from Rivera’s political campaigns to his personal accounts. Miami-Dade prosecutors were preparing a “draft” complaint charging the Republican congressman with 52 counts of theft, money laundering and racketeering.
The lengthy probe of Rivera’s finances “unequivocally explains the theft and/or fraud of campaign funds,” FDLE inspector Brett Lycett wrote in a July 5, 2011, e-mail to a prosecutor. “We believe the violations are quite evident.”
But in the ensuing months — after Rivera’s lawyer poked holes in the case — the investigators’ confidence gave way to prosecutors’ increasing skepticism about the potential charges. The 52-count complaint accusing Rivera of systematic misspending of campaign funds was never filed; instead, prosecutors would write a 16-page memo explaining why they believed they could not arrest Rivera for anything.
Newly released e-mails and other records from the Rivera investigation show the increasing tension between the FDLE and the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office as the case dragged on through this past April, when prosecutors — under pressure from the FDLE to make a decision — finally dropped the high-profile case.
Some six months earlier, in November 2011, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey urged Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle to move more quickly, worried that the time lag would prevent them from bringing some charges against Rivera.
“While I appreciate the need for careful deliberation in matters such as this, I am concerned that the statute of limitations may become an issue if a decision regarding prosecution is further delayed,” Bailey wrote in a Nov. 3 letter to Rundle.
By then — unbeknownst to Bailey or his investigators — Rundle’s prosecutors had already offered to drop the criminal charges against Rivera if the congressman agreed to admit to civil election-law violations, e-mail records show. More here.