Official Favors for Money Lead to Serious Consequences

Former South Daytona, Florida magistrate Jerome Mitchell recently pled guilty to federal bribery charges for using his official position to reduce code enforcement fees on a local condominium in exchange for money. Mitchell's friend and South Daytona's acting mayor, Ron Clifton, also pled guilty to federal bribery charges and giving false information to federal officials regarding the same incident.

The U.S. Attorney's Office prosecuting both men indicated that in May 2010, Clifton met with "the purported...representative" for investors in the condominium project. Clifton suggested to the representative that Mitchell, a special magistrate over code enforcement, could reduce the hefty fines against the property "in exchange for a cash bribe." In June 2010, Clifton and Mitchell met with the representative who gave each man $5,000 in cash.

In July 2010 Stuart Buchanan, a local county planner, appeared at a hearing over which Mitchell was presiding and asked that the $241,000 in fines against the condo project be reduced. Mitchell obliged and reduced the fines to $12,000.

Perplexing to many is that Stuart Buchanan announced that he represented the condo complex owners even though he had nothing to do with the owners or the complex. Many speculate that Buchanan was "the purported [] representative" who sealed the deal with Clifton and Mitchell and that he was actually working for the government in a sting operation. However, no one is talking about it at this point.

Serious Charges, Serious Consequences

Clifton and Mitchell both pled guilty to federal bribery charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine because the amount was $5,000. In addition, Clifton pled guilty to providing false information to a federal official, which carries a maximum prison term of five years. However, both men secured prosecutors' word that they would recommend lenient sentences in exchange for the help of both men in further investigations of other individuals.

The possible penalties on the federal level for bribery and giving false information are substantial. If you find yourself charged with similar offenses, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation and your options.