Ex-GOP chair Greer avoids trial with guilty plea - FOX 13 News

Ex-GOP chair Greer avoids trial with guilty plea

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ORLANDO (FOX 13) -

Former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer is now pleading guilty to corruption charges, avoiding a trial that could have been a public spectacle filled with political dirty laundry.

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, setting up what was expected to be a two-week trial involving top Republican leaders like former governor Charlie Crist.

"Today, Jim Greer, the man Charlie Crist personally picked to lead the Republican Party of Florida, admitted his guilt to five felony charges," said Florida GOP executive director Mike Grissom in a statement. "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."

Jury selection was scheduled to get underway in Orlando this morning, but when proceedings ran almost an hour late, speculation grew that a plea deal was in the works.  Indeed, Greer agreed to plead guilty to five of the six charges against him.

Prosecutors agreed to drop one count of organized fraud in exchange for the guilty plea, though they had previously told FOX 13 they probably would have dropped it anyway.

Greer, 50, had no comment on his way out of court.  His attorney said Greer was "falling on his sword for a lot of other folks."

"Sometimes clearing your name is not as important as taking care of your family," attorney Damon Chase said. "He's got a newborn baby. He's got two very small children. He's got two teenagers, and we're going to get through this and he's going to get on with his life."

The attorney also said Greer would not pursue a planned lawsuit against the Republican Party of Florida regarding severance pay.

Greer was released on his own recognizance until his sentencing on March 27.  Sentencing guidelines for the five charges suggest between 42 months and 35 years in prison, though Greer's attorneys will likely ask for leniency citing his lack of previous charges.

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