- Faith & Family
City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones has filed a lawsuit against State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs and SAO investigator Robert Fielder. The 106-page complaint cites 16 claims including malicious prosecution, false arrest and civil rights conspiracy. The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida.
Spence-Jones was unable to go on record with any comments under the advise of counsel but she did say that she feels a lot like Moses.
“I stand on Exodus 4: 13-16 when Moses questioned why God sent him out,” she said. “Moses followed God’s instructions — that’s my testimony as well.”
Spence Jones, who fought for nearly two years to defend her name and to eventually regain her seat, after being stripped of her duties at city commissioner, has assembled a team of lawyers including the famed Charles Ogletree — a former Washington, D.C. public defender and faculty member [emeritus] at Harvard University, known for focusing on complex issues of law and working to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution for all citizens equally. Rundle Fernandez agreed to speak with us, but pointed out that she could only make limited remarks.
“I cannot discuss all of the details of the case but I can state that I am confident that the case will prove that as prosecutors we did what was fair and appropriate,” she said. “That said, we will leave this matter for the courts to decide.”
Prominent defense attorney, Roderick Vereen, who ran against and lost to Fernandez Rundle in the recent election for Miami-Dade County State Attorney, says he has read about 40 pages of the lengthy lawsuit.
“She [Spence-Jones] has gone after them individually rather than as a municipality, state, etc.,” he said. “If she’s successful, it will cause a chilling effect on those that seek to falsely accuse politicians like Michelle Spence-Jones of wrong doing when the evidence suggests otherwise. We have seen on numerous occasions attempts to use public discontent as a means of singling out certain political leaders. The same thing was done to City Commissioner Art Teele who was acquitted posthumously. People are being tried in the court of public opinion. I believe this case will show that there has long been an unbalanced approach taken by the State Attorney’s Office when it comes to the treatment of Black politicians. Don’t get me wrong — not all Black politicians have been innocent. The point is that we should be held accountable and treated the same. It’s unjust to turn a blind eye to the crimes of others, like some of our Cuban-American politicians, but to go after Blacks. This won’t be an easy case [for Spence-Jones and her attorneys] however, because there is a higher burden of proof placed on the prosecution when one is suing individuals. But the strategy is that when you sue individuals they have a more difficult time of hiding behind the corporate veil — that is hiding behind their office.”
Is it really a Black thing?
PULSE Executive Director Rev. Nathaniel Wilcox has led the way in support of Spence-Jones since she was first charged. He says it’s time to root out corruption at the top levels.
“I believe the state attorney and her office have blatantly violated the law for years,” he said. “We need someone to stand up to the state attorney and say we will no longer tolerate this in Miami-Dade County. The actions of her office basically led Teele to commit suicide. But Michelle is a lot stronger. What amazes me is that we haven’t seen any challenges like this before. The state attorney’s office has manufactured charges time and time again and betrayed the people of the State of Florida. Those who are proven to have conspired and used the office falsely and for personal gain should be required to spend time in jail.”
Rev. Richard Dunn, who was first appointed and then won Spence-Jones’s city commission seat during her legal problems and absence, says it is very difficult to be a Black politician in Miami or in Miami-Dade County.
“I could name other politicians that were either city or county commissioners that also faced persecution from the SAO or the courts and were either jailed or forced to plea bargain,” he said. “Johnny Winton, Mary Alonzo, Angel Gonzalez, Bruce Kaplan, Larry Hawkins and Pedro Reboredo all faced charges. None of them were Black. Some were Cuban-Americans — others were white. But I think that because there are so few of us [Blacks] that when one of us is charged or even accused of wrong doing, it’s natural that we are placed in the spotlight. In Miami we are a true minority. I know in the 19 months that I served while there were four Cuban-Americans and one white and one Black [me] on the city commission, I was the one that was always in the news. It was really a sense like you were always exposed to the public. There’s a tremendous amount of scrutiny that goes on as it relates to Blacks in public office here. Even President Obama has had to face that. But I just can’t tell whether the number of cases filed against Blacks versus those of other races is evidence that there’s a system of injustice at work.”
To view the complete version of the complaint filed by Michelle Spence-Jones against the State Attorney Office
By D. Kevin McNeir