Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Around the County

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Around the County

Article excerpt


Former St. Johns County Commission Chairman Tom Manuel, who in August pleaded guilty to one count of official corruption, will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at the U.S. Courthouse in Jacksonville.

His plea agreement includes a provision that Manuel would be sentenced "at the low end" of possible federal prison terms. If he had gone to trial and been found guilty, he may have received 20 years.

He has remained free pending the sentencing hearing.

However, Manuel has had to turn over a check for $3,400 to the U.S. Marshal's Service to satisfy the restitution part of his plea agreement. He previously had turned over $6,600, for a total of $10,000 that he accepted in April 2008.

That amount - already deposited into the Seized Asset Deposit Fund - "represents the amount of the proceeds (Manuel) obtained as a result of (his) offense," the agreement said.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard said in a brief that federal defendants may remain free until their prison reporting date unless they are drug offenders or violent criminals.

In April 2009, Manuel requested another trial delay due to his health. A heart transplant recipient, the delays involved his need to deal with tissue rejection issues.

The case against him began in February 2007, just after he'd assumed office.

FBI agents initiated what turned out to be an 18-month investigation into Manuel's business dealings, using both video and audio surveillance.

He was filmed accepting $10,000 in one instance. When he accepted $50,000 during dinner at a Ponte Vedra Beach restaurant, FBI agents arrested him and seized the money.

The attention on him sharpened after his informal meetings with developer Bruce Robbins of Jacksonville and attorney George McClure of St. Augustine. Both had grown suspicious of Manuel's motives and called the FBI.

The official charges said he was "corruptly soliciting, demanding, accepting and agreeing to accept anything of value from any person, intending to be rewarded in connection with any business of the St. Johns County Commission, involving anything of value over $5,000."

After his arrest, Manuel said publicly that he'd been set up by developers unhappy with his anti-growth votes and sentiments.

On Oct. 17, 2008, Manuel was indicted and suspended from office that same day by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. His District 4 seat was taken by a Crist appointee, businessman Phil Mays, who holds office until November 2010.

Manuel did not respond to a telephone request for comment.


A man whose 23-month-old daughter died in his locked car in June could be sentenced to life in prison if he is found guilty at trial, which begins with jury selection Monday morning. …

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