Well-known former state Rep. Mitch Needleman has been charged with bid tampering and bribery.
Needleman’s arrest was the culmination of a year long investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) into his dealings with BlueWare, Inc. Needleman at one time served as the Brevard Count clerk of courts and allegedly signed a multimillion dollar contract with BlueWare to divert part of the contract funds into his 2012 re-election campaign.
According to evidence on file, the police investigation allegedly revealed that funds were diverted back to Needleman’s campaign through a third party, a campaign lobbyist, who was also charged. The re-election campaign was not successful, and Needleman was arrested the same day the CEO of BlueWare was apprehended.
BlueWare had recently moved to Florida from Michigan County after being enticed with a potential $1.21 million in incentives to bring the information technology company to Florida. The incentives were to have been awarded by the state’s Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund (QTITR) and Quick Action Closing Fund (QACF) programs. There is some question as to whether or not the company received any incentive money.
BlueWare was to supposedly create at least 190 jobs over a period of four years, as they were getting setup and started to hire local employees. It looked like a good move that may have boosted the local economy.
Needleman served in the House from 2000 to 2008, immersing himself deeply into criminal-justice issues and committees, even becoming the head of the Juvenile Justice Committee. The former Marine was well-respected among his colleagues, who were shocked at the revelations that he may not have been as honest as people thought he was.
On the surface, this case looks gloomy for Needleman and it sounds like the police may have an open-and-shut case. But do they really? The issue will be how the money was diverted from the contract through the third party lobbyist and whether or not Needleman even knew what was going on. Just because he signed the agreement with BlueWare does not mean he devised the plan to funnel funds into his bid for re-election or was even aware of any such deal.
When it comes to criminal cases like this, appearances at first glance may not agree with what the actual facts turn out to be on closer examination. Needleman is entitled to a good defense and to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Dealing with an experienced criminal defense lawyer is the best move he could make.
Thomas C .Grajek is a criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, Lakeland, and Polk County Florida. To contact a Lakeland criminal defense lawyer or to learn more, visit http://www.flcrimedefense.com/ or call 863-688-4606.