On a mid-December day, lobbyist Richard Candia says he first looked for Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi at town hall, then at a nearby field before finally catching up with him at a local Starbuck’s.
They agreed to meet there, Candia claims, so that he could give the mayor a $1,000 cash bribe.
“I removed the envelope from my coat pocket,” Candia testified at Pizzi's federal bribery trial last week. “I put the envelope on top of the newspaper [on the table]. He put another newspaper over it and he walked away.”
The lobbyist further testified he dropped off his 14-year-old son at a nearby “comic book store” before conducting the transaction.
But Pizzi’s defense team countered the now-convicted Candia, a star witness for the prosecution who will wrap up his testmony Monday, lied about giving the money to the mayor on Dec. 14, 2012. They say he fabricated the whole tale to curry favor with prosecutors in the hope of reducing his prison sentence.
Pizzi’s lead attorney, Ed Shohat, accused Candia of making “false statements” to prosecutors, the grand jury and to the 12-person trial jury during his testimony on the alleged bribe and other key issues.