Attorneys in LG’s sex, tape and arson case agree to cool itby John Kennedy | July 24th, 2012
Attorneys for the state and a former aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll accused of giving an illegally recorded office conversation to a reporter agreed Tuesday to tone down their testy war of words.
Leon County Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield brought the attorneys behind closed doors and forced the agreement before a hearing Tuesday in the case against Carletha Cole, a 49-year-old grandmother and minister facing as much as 5 years in prison if convicted of the charge.
“We agree with the judge. That’s the rule, and we think we’ve followed it so far. But message received,” said Steve Andrews, Cole’s attorney. “It’s not unusual…for judges to call the parties back to praise them or scold them. It was a joint scolding, I would say. The judge wants a fair trial, and so do we.”
Cole was arrested in October. But the case gained new momentum earlier this month when Cole’s attorneys filed a court document alleging that her relationship with Carroll soured after Cole saw the lieutenant governor and her travel aide, Beatriz Ramos, in a “compromising position” inside Carroll’s office.
The filing also suggests that Ramos started a fire in Cole’s office wastebasket in retaliation. The illegally recorded conversation features Carroll’s chief-of-staff, John Konkus, criticizing Gov. Rick Scott and Cole said she made it to show how dysfunctional the state’s executive office had become.
The governor’s office has dismissed the charges as “outrageous.”
Once Cole’s attorneys aired the allegations of lesbian sex and arson, Tallahassee-area State Attorney Willie Meggs started talking publicly about increasing the charges against Cole.
But following Tuesday’s hearing, both sides apparently pledged to the judge that they would behave more civilly. A trial is not likely to take place until at least the fall, with depositions from witnesses in the case expected to be taken in coming weeks.
Andrews acknowledged that Meggs has offered plea agreements for his client to consider. But he and Cole have rejected them, he said.
“Mr. Meggs was very fair, reasonable,” Andrews said. “But some cases have to be tried. This is one.”
The Palm Beach Post reported earlier this week that the focus on Carroll may remove her as a potential speaker at the Republican National Convention, scheduled for Tampa from Aug. 27-30. With the case looking poised to stretch into the fall election season, it also could hamper whatever role she’d play in campaigning for Republican candidates.