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Lawyers seek bribery case reversal

Prosecution of an ex-Tampa Housing Authority chief and another defendant was flawed, they argue.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001

TAMPA -- Attorneys for two men convicted in a bribery case involving the Tampa Housing Authority asked a federal judge Friday to acquit their clients or grant a new trial.

Tampa lawyer Arnold Levine, who represents former Housing Authority Executive Director Audley S. Evans, outlined during a two-hour hearing a series of problems he had with the evidence presented at the trial, with the written indictment and some decisions by the judge.

On some of the charges, Levine argued that the prosecutor failed to establish that the alleged bribe was indeed a bribe and not a legitimate transaction. Levine also said there was no evidence that linked Evans to the alleged bribe and asked what, if anything, Evans did in exchange for the bribe.

"Someone has got to say why it happened," Levine told U.S. District Judge James S. Moody. "That did not occur."

Moody said he was "still struggling" with the link but did not make a ruling Friday.

The hearing stemmed from a bribery and kickback case against Evans, C. Hayward Chapman, a Tampa developer, and Dr. Patrick Watson, a Tampa physician.

At the trial in February, government prosecutors attempted to prove Watson and Chapman paid bribes to Evans in return for contracts in a conspiracy to subvert the bidding process. After three weeks of testimony, Moody dismissed all charges against Watson.

Jurors returned guilty verdicts on 15 counts against Evans for conspiracy, bribery, taking illegal gratuities and making false statements to a federal agency. The jury also convicted Chapman of paying illegal gratuities to Evans while Evans headed the non-profit Meridian River Development Corp.

The final tally from the 126-count indictment: convictions on 19 counts, acquittals on 67 counts, 40 counts thrown out by the judge. Evans faces a maximum of 77 years in prison.

Levine and Dewey Frank Winkles, Chapman's attorney, say there is a lack of evidence supporting the 19 counts that resulted in convictions. Winkles said he thought the written indictment was flawed in that it had incorrect dates and dollar amounts. The flaws make it hard to sort out what, if any, facts support the charges his client faced.

Prosecutor Robert E. O'Neill said the defense attorneys were not properly interpreting some of the precedents pertinent to the case. He also said the government stood by the indictment and the way it was written.

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