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Greer May Do Time, Johnson Walks Free

Former Florida Republican Party executive director Delmar Johnson has been ordered to pay $65,093 restitution to the state GOP but faces no jail time nor criminal record for partnering with ex-party boss Jim Greer in what prosecutors called a scheme to steal political contributions.

Documents released Tuesday by the state’s Office of Statewide Prosecution show eight specific “circumstances” that led to Johnson’s light punishment, including that he was “under the dominion, control and direction of his supervisor, James Greer, in the commission of the scheme to obtain monies from the Republican Party of Florida.”

Greer was charged earlier this month with six felony counts of grand theft, money laundering and attempted fraud. He faces as much as 75 years in prison, if convicted.

Among the records turned over to Greer’s defense lawyer, Damon Chase, was a potential trial witness list of 63 party leaders and record keepers for banks and credit-card companies. Among them: Gov. Charlie Crist, who hand-picked Greer to lead the party, and Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, a close friend of Greer’s.

The so-called deferred prosecution agreement between state prosecutors and Johnson was signed May 18 – about two weeks before Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers arrested Greer at his Oviedo home.

Digital recordings also released Tuesday included phone calls Greer made while briefly held at Seminole County Jail on the day of his arrest. He repeatedly told associates that he was the victim of a political witch hunt.

“I just can’t believe they’ve done this,” Greer told one friend that day. Greer was later released on bond.

The records released by prosecutors also include a more than 50-minute phone conversation between Greer and Johnson in which they discussed rumors swirling around political circles about their impending downfall.

In the wide-ranging exchange, the two men initially sounded wary of each other – while each also pledged loyalty to their partnership. Among the topics of conversation in the March 25 call was Crist’s wedding more than a year-and-a-half earlier, with Greer asking Johnson whether the party paid for anything related to the governor’s marriage to Carole Rome.

“The party didn’t pay for anything,” Johnson said. “I mean that’s ridiculous.”

Greer (left) and Johnson (right)

Greer also confided in Johnson that the governor had recently called him and talked about possibly abandoning the Republican Party and running as an independent for U.S. Senate. That exchange occurred a month before Crist did just that – in the face of polls showing he would lose the GOP nomination to rival Marco Rubio.

Johnson drew more than $400,000 from the party playing a dual role as executive director and top fund-raiser, helped by his 40 percent stake in Victory Strategies, a company he formed with Greer, who held the remaining majority share. The company was to receive 10 percent of major contributions to the Florida Republican Party.

Prosecutors said that between February and October 2009, the Florida GOP paid Victory Strategies $199,254 with Greer receiving $125,161, while keeping his ownership hidden.

Greer’s annual salary as chairman was $130,000, which he apparently almost doubled through his share of fund-raising and purported party consulting.

Through his lawyer, Greer has denied any wrongdoing. He filed a lawsuit in March in his home Seminole County, claiming that party leaders were aware of the fund-raising deal he and Johnson had devised and had agreed to pay him a year’s salary when he agreed in January to step down as party leader.

Greer has said that the party reneged on the severance and later offered him $200,000 in “hush money.” Party leaders deny Greer’s counter-charges, although severance documents have surfaced bearing the signatures of Greer’s successor, GOP Chairman John Thrasher, a St. Augustine state senator, Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park.

GOP leaders say the Greer package was never fully endorsed by all involved. The office of statewide prosecution is overseen by Attorney General Bill McCollum, whose Republican bid for governor is supported by Cannon and Haridopolos who, combined, have steered more than $1 million they have helped raise to committees running television ads helping the candidate.

Cannon, Haridopolos and McCollum, who were central to the unmasking of Victory Strategies, are not listed as potential witnesses for the prosecution. Chase, Greer’s lawyer, is expected to submit his list of prospective witnesses in coming days.

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