Federal prosecutors are seeking a hefty fine for J.T. Burnette after he was found guilty on five public corruption charges in August. The government issued a memo saying Burnette participated in extortion and bribery for so long and was unremorseful that the sentence should be extended.
“The defendant testified and told a story that in part attempted to justify his actions and in part asked the jury and this court to accept a fabricated version of events that was implausible, illogical and untrue when viewed in light of the damning evidence against him,” the government wrote. “Perhaps most importantly, although the defendant essentially admitted his complicity in a bribery scheme, he was unrepentant as to the gravity and impact of his actions.”
Burnette’s attorneys said he is a non-violent, first-time offender who has worked in various philanthropy efforts in his career that the sentence should be shortened.
“While Burnette regrets the taped statements played in court and the impact the trial has had on the community and the people he loves, this court should respectfully examine the whole person including Burnette’s positive actions, charitable works, and good character,” Burnette’s attorneys wrote.
Burnette’s trial brought to light numerous negative aspects regarding notable players in Florida’s political landscape.
It was revealed that in a secret audio recording played for jurors during the trial, Burnette bragged about securing Trulieve’s near exclusive licensing to operate medical cannabis in Florida in 2014. Burnette’s then-girlfriend, now wife, Kim Rivers is the current CEO of Trulieve.
Burnette worked with former Florida State Rep. Halsey Behears (R) in crafting the legislation to ensure few competitors would be able to operate their dispensaries in Florida. Beshears’ name was also added to a subpoena list in connection with the Congressman Matt Gaetz (R) sex trafficking probe.
The bribery and corruption scheme led by Burnette included former Tallahassee Mayor and City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his romantic partner Paige Carter-Smith. Numerous pieces of evidence in the trial included expletive-laced calls, texts, and meetings of Burnette bragging about his ability to influence city commissioners.
Burnette explained, “Scott Maddox is, you know, arguably, probably the most sophisticated politician of all the city and county players period. Okay? So, Scott and I have always worked deals together because at the end of the day, Scott can always wrangle the commission kind of in his direction.”
Maddox and Carter-Smith were each sentenced to five years and two months and testified against Burnette in the trial.
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