by: Rafael Olmeda
Suspended Margate Commissioner David McLean was convicted on two out of three bribery charges by a federal jury Tuesday, and his defense lawyer immediately announced plans to appeal the verdict.
The jury deliberated for a little more than five hours before finding McLean, 50, not guilty on the first of three counts of bribery and guilty on the other two. McLean was accused of using his influence as a commissioner to secure political favors for Lutchman “Chris” Singh, the landlord of the tiki bar McLean ran in a strip mall on State Road 7.
In return, prosecutors said, Singh gave McLean a break on $8,000 in rent and two cash payments totaling $6,000. The jury’s acquittal applied to the rent break.
McLean’s trial lasted just over a week, with closing arguments taking place Tuesday morning. Federal prosecutor Neil Karadbil reminded jurors of the hours of video and audio recordings they listened to last week — recordings McLean was unaware were being made.
Singh had agreed to cooperate with federal investigators to catch McLean in the act of making the illegal deals and accepting the rent receipt and the cash.
“The recordings tell the story,” Karadbil said.
But defense lawyer C. Edward McGee Jr. tried to portray his client as an honest businessman helping his landlord while avoiding illegal entanglements. McGee said McLean never voted on any issues that related to Singh because doing so would have been a conflict of interest.
Without the votes, McGee said, McLean’s acts amounted to making sure his landlord was in touch with the right people to get what he needed, legally. The payments were fair compensation, not bribery, he said.
Jurors apparently rejected that explanation.
Throughout the trial and even during the jury’s deliberations Tuesday, McGee and Karadbil clashed before U.S. District Judge James Cohn over whether the trial was taking place in the proper venue. One of the favors McLean was accused of doing for Singh involved securing a grant from Margate’s Community Redevelopment Agency.
The grant would have covered $25,000 worth of work on the strip mall, but would only have cost Singh $17,000. The two were going to split the difference.
McGee argued that the Margate CRA funding did not rely on federal tax money, so the federal court did not have jurisdiction. Karadbil said the federal funding was indirect, and the judge agreed.
“If the court is wrong and there’s an adverse effect on your client, then the appellate court will let us know,” Cohn said.
After the verdict, McGee said he would set the appeal in motion.
This article was written by Rafael Olmeda and originally published on sun-sentinel