Tallahassee businessman J.T. Burnette was sentenced to three years in prison earlier this week over public corruption charges. Burnette will also have to pay a $1.25 million fine.
He was found guilty on five charges including extortion and bribery during his trial in August.
In a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), they explained why Burnette was sentenced.
“At trial, the government presented evidence that Burnette engaged in a multi-year scheme with [Scott] Maddox and [Paige] Carter-Smith to commit extortion, fraud, and bribery. During the scheme, Burnette and Maddox extorted bribe payments from FBI undercover agents (“UCs”) who were posing as real estate developers and entrepreneurs. Burnette instructed the UCs that to obtain preferential treatment, they must pay bribes to Maddox through Governance Services. Burnette, Maddox, Carter-Smith, and the UCs agreed that the UCs would pay Governance Services $10,000 per month in exchange for Maddox agreeing to perform official acts meant to benefit the UCs’ sham development company.”
Burnette’s sentencing came on the same day Scott Maddox and his romantic partner, Paige Carter-Smith, were scheduled to report to prison to begin their sentences. Maddox was the former mayor of Tallahassee, city commissioner, and chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
The presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, said Burnette was guilty of bribery.
“When you pay the bribe, you’re not a victim,” said Hinkle. “It’s bribery. This is Mr. Burnette saying he paid $100,000 because he was concerned what Scott Maddox would do or what official act Scott Maddox would take in the future.”
As a result of the trial, unearthed, never-before-heard audio recordings also showed Burnette worked with former Florida Rep. Halsey Beshears (R) on medical marijuana legislation to craft it in such a way that the company Trulieve, would have a near-exclusive hold on Florida’s medical marijuana “seed-to-sale” industry.
Burnette’s then-girlfriend, now-wife, is Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers.
On the tape, Burnette is heard bragging about “little tweaks” made to the legislation regarding criteria for companies seeking a medical cannabis license.
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