by: Lisa J. Huriash
A judge threw out a suspended Margate commissioner’s bribery conviction Thursday, saying there wasn’t enough evidence presented at trial to have found him guilty of a federal crime.
David McLean could return to his commission seat, which isn’t up for election until 2016. McLean’s lawyer said it’s the next step: “I’m going to be on the phone with the governor [Friday]; he’s been acquitted,” said McLean’s defense attorney, C. Edward McGee Jr. The governor, who had suspended McLean from office, has the power to reinstate him.
“It would all be up to what the governor does,” said city attorney Gene Steinfeld. “The city has never been in this situation.”
His seat is now occupied by Brian Donahue, who was selected by the commission to fill the seat.In September, jurors found McLean guilty of using his influence as a commissioner to secure political favors for Lutchman “Chris” Singh, the landlord of the tiki bar that McLean ran in a strip mall on State Road 7. In exchange, Singh gave McLean two cash payments totaling $5,000 in 2012 and 2013, the jury found.
McLean was paid for using his influence to help get construction grants from Margate’s Community Redevelopment Agency, a city board that McLean and the rest of the city commissioners also served on, prosecutors said.
But his attorney argued that prosecutors failed to prove that the Margate CRA received any benefits from federal tax money, as the law requires.
Prosecutor Neil Karadbil argued that the city received several million dollars in federal aid and that the CRA benefited from tens of thousands of dollars in federal stimulus funds used to build bus shelters in the district.
But it’s because of those bus benches that the federal judge acquitted McLean on the bribery charges. The judge wrote in his opinion that the prosecutor did not prove when the bus benches were delivered; they needed to be within one year of the alleged bribes as prosecutors had charged.
McLean was scheduled to be sentenced later this month. McGee said U.S. District Judge James Cohn’s decision is final unless the prosecutor decides to appeal.
McLean, whose father was a Margate city commissioner, is well-known for tattooing Margate’s city seal on his left arm, as well as for his Elvis impersonations at public events.
When he was just 22 years old, McLean won a special election to fill one of the Commission seats for four months. He lost the seat and then regularly ran for the City Commission until he was elected again in 2004.
This article originally appeared on sun-sentinel