Big news out of Florida today:
Ousted former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer Monday abruptly ended what was expected to be a painful unpeeling of state party secrets by entering a surprise guilty plea to five criminal charges.
Greer, 50, of Oviedo, was facing a possible 75 years in prison for fraud, money laundering and theft. Now he faces a possible maximum sentence of 35 years.
If Circuit Judge Marc Lubet hands down a recommended sentence, spelled out by state guidelines, he’ll give Greer 3 1/2 years in prison.
The deal Greer cut did not include an agreement on his sentence, a likely mix of prison time and probation. That’s to be decided at a March 27 hearing.
He’ll remain free until then…
A lot of top Republicans in Florida politics are breathing sighs of release tonight:
Greer pleaded guilty to four counts of theft – one each for what the state characterized to phony invoices totaling $66,000 that were paid by the state GOP.
He also pleaded guilty to a reduced count of money laundering.
The plea short-circuited what was expected to be two weeks of political drama and an airing of dirty laundry and insider power plays during Greer’s three years at the helm of the Florida GOP, from 2007 until early 2010.
The trial’s witness list included some of the state’s most powerful politicians: former Gov. Charlie Crist, a close friend of Greer; former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum; former Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon; former Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos; Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford; former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux.
Greer and Chase had insisted that Greer was the victim of conservative Republicans angry that he supported Crist for the U.S. Senate rather than Marco Rubio.
For non-Floridians, here’s a backgrounder on Greer and the charges.