Sep. 30, 2014

Miami Mayor Guilty



By Zachary Fagenson


MIAMI (Reuters) - A Miami jury found a south Florida mayor guilty of corruption charges on Monday stemming from an undisclosed consulting job he took for a healthcare company while in office, as well as illegally using his position to lobby for a construction deal.

Steven Bateman, 59, was arrested in August 2013 and charged with two felony counts of illegal compensation and three misdemeanors for allegedly breaking Miami-Dade County ethics rules.

The jury found him guilty of the two felonies and one misdemeanor of illegal lobbying. He faces up to 15 years in jail for each felony count.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert Luck withheld pronouncing the verdict for two weeks to consider a defense motion to dismiss the case.

Bateman was mayor of Homestead, a city south of Miami at the entrance to the Florida Keys, from 2009 to 2013. He admitted to working as an outside consultant for the healthcare company, but said it did not affect his mayoral duties.

State prosecutors alleged that he illegally lobbied the town council, of which he was a member, to help speed construction of a child-care center.

During a weeklong trial Bateman’s lawyers argued that the former mayor was able to separate his public and private duties.

Bateman is the latest in a growing list of south Florida mayors to face prosecution for public corruption, although juries have acquitted some.

One-time Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño is currently serving a 40-month sentence after pleading guilty to accepting kickbacks late last year. A federal jury in August acquitted Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi of several corruption charges tied to an FBI sting operation.

Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina was also acquitted earlier this year on federal charges of conspiring to avoid paying taxes on $2 million in income and lying to authorities.

In May, federal officials arrested North Miami Mayor Marie Lucie Tondreau and alleged she was part of a mortgage fraud scheme that bilked more than $8 million from lenders. Tondreau, the city’s first Haitian-American mayor, has pleaded not guilty.