From Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan:
For three years, former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer denied doing anything wrong and promised a trial that would embarrass a lot of people. So why did he plead guilty to five felonies Monday facing the certainty of spending years in prison?
And who paid Hank Coxe, a widely respected criminal defense attorney from Jacksonville who parachuted in at the last minute and quietly negotiated the plea that brought the long-running soap opera to a close. Coxe was in the courtroom when Greer pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering charges but did not speak and did not formally file a notice of appearance with the court.
For more than two years, Damon Chase, the Lake Mary civil attorney who represented Greer, hurled insults at party officials insisting the investigation was an attempt to destroy Greer. Chase even predicted that everyone would die in the end like a Shakespearean tragedy. Instead, Chase stood silently beside Greer as he answered, “Guilty, your honor’’ five times.
Chase said Greer “decided to fall on his sword rather than burn down the house.’’
Coxe stepped in a few weeks ago and reviewed the evidence, talking to prosecutors and Republican Party representatives as he pushed for a plea bargain.
“Hank Coxe was critical to getting the deal done. He is a very experienced criminal defense lawyer and he concluded it would be in Greer’s best interest,’’ said Steve Dobson, a Tallahassee lawyer who represented the party in a civil suit Greer filed in an attempt to collect $130,000 the party promised him in severance pay.