News Column

Crist Says He Didn't Know Greer Gave Himself Cut of Each Major Donation

Feb. 7, 2013

Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel

Charlie Crist

When former Gov. Charlie Crist was grilled by the attorney who is fighting to keep the former chairman of the Florida GOP out of prison, there were no major revelations, but there were hints at the mudslinging that may start next week when Jim Greer goes on trial in Orlando.

Did you tell Greer to leak Marco Rubio's American Express bill to the then-St. Petersburg Times, asked attorney Damon Chase. "It's possible," Crist said.

And didn't you refuse to interview George LeMieux, who wanted to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Mel Martinez, and then reverse course and give him the job after you made it clear that he should not run for re-election because you wanted the job?

That was something they had discussed, yes, Crist said. Crist's deposition was released Tuesday at the Orange County Courthouse, where Greer will stand trial, starting Monday.

Greer, 50, of Oviedo, is charged with fraud, money laundering and four counts of theft. Prosecutors allege that in 2009 he quietly set up a company, Victory Strategies LLC, hiding his 60-percent ownership , then hired it to handle major party fund-raising.

He used that company to funnel $125,000 in party money into personal bank accounts, the state alleges. Greer insists he did nothing illegal, that the money was legitimately earned fund-raising commissions.

When Chase deposed Crist in Tampa July 26, the former governor was cautious and forgetful. He said he knew the party was ousting its chief fund-raiser and knew that the work was being shifted to the party's executive director, Delmar Johnson. He had no idea, Crist said, that Greer also had given himself a cut of each major donation.

Chase cited the sworn statements of two witnesses -- Brian Ballard and Jay Burmer -- whom he said testified that they, individually, were involved in separate conversations with Crist and Greer about Greer taking on a direct role in fund-raising.

"I don't believe that's truthful," Crist said about the Ballard conversation. "It did not happen," he said of the conversation involving Burmer.



Source: (c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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