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Politics

Updated: Disgraced Fmr. State GOP Chair Jim Greer Pleads Guilty

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Update: 5:30 pm: WMFE-FM/ORLANDO-- Former Florida Republican Party Chair Jim Greer entered a surprise guilty plea in Orange County court Monday morning, just as his trial for grand theft was scheduled to begin.  Greer’s plea deal reduces his possible jail time and puts an end to court proceedings that could have been embarrassing for the Republican Party of Florida.

Judge Marc Lubet read off the charges in a courtroom that will not be seeing the tense political trial Florida had been expecting. Greer pleaded guilty to all four counts of grand theft and a reduced count of money laundering. In exchange, the state dropped the organized fraud charge and cut Greer’s possible jail time from up to 75 years to up to 35.

Greer is accused of hiring his own shell fundraising company and secretly paying himself $125,000 in party money when he was head of the Republican Party of Florida. He resigned under pressure in 2010.

Many prominent current and former state GOP lawmakers were on witness lists for both sides, including former state Governor Charlie Crist, who nominated Greer to party Chair in 2007, former State Attorney General Bill McCollum, former U.S. Senator George LeMieux, and current Florida House Speaker Will
Weatherford.

Greer’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 27th.    

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THE ASSOCIATED PRESS--Former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering just before jury selection in his criminal trial got under way.
 
 Jury selection was set to begin Monday, but neither Greer nor prosecutors appeared in the courtroom. The only sign of Greer's presence in the Orange County Courthouse were his wife and infant daughter.
 
Greer had earlier pleaded not guilty to allegations that he funneled almost $200,000 of party money into a company he had formed with his right-hand man.

Greer says party leaders were aware of the company and that his prosecution is political payback.  Sentencing is March 27 and he faces up to 35 years in prison.

Shortly after the guilty plea, the Republican Party of Florida issued a statement:

"Today, Jim Greer, the man Charlie Crist personally picked to lead the Republican Party of Florida, admitted his guilt to five felony charges. For the past three years, Jim Greer has tried to damage the reputation of the Republican Party and its leaders, but the truth is now known that Jim Greer broke the law, stole from RPOF and our donors, and then said and did everything he could to cover up and distract attention from his crimes. Everything Jim Greer has said and done over these past few years should be considered in that light."

The Orlando Sentinel reports a South Florida grand jury had indicted him in 2010 on six counts. Today the state dropped one: organized fraud.

Greer pleaded guilty to four counts of theft – one each for what the state characterized to phony invoices totaling $66,000 that were paid by the state GOP.

He also pleaded guilty to a reduced count of money laundering.

The plea short-circuited what was expected to be two weeks of political drama and an airing of dirty laundry and insider power plays during Greer's three years at the helm of the Florida GOP, from 2007 until early 2010.

Greer and Chase had insisted that the former chairman had done nothing improper, that Greer was the victim of conservative Republicans angry that he supported Crist for the U.S. Senate rather than Marco Rubio.