The Gainesville Sun March 20, 2012 released the following:
“‘Botched’ indictment ends in local firm’s acquittal
By Jason Geary and Anthony Clark
The Gainesville Sun
A Gainesville-based construction company and its vice president were acquitted on federal charges of bribing a Polk County school official in Tampa on Monday because the grand jury indictment mistakenly referred to the Polk County government and not the Polk County School District.
M.M. Parrish Construction Co. and its vice president, Lloyd Whann, were on trial in Tampa’s federal courthouse for two weeks on charges of bribing Bob Williams, former assistant superintendent of facilities for the Polk County School Board.
Prosecutors accused the company of gaining a competitive edge by bribing Williams with posh hunting and fishing trips, expensive bathroom renovations on Williams’ home and a $2,000 shotgun.
The Gainesville-based company has received more than $100 million worth of work from the Polk County School Board, nearly four times as much work as its nearest competitor.
The defense argued the company got work based on its reputation for high-quality work and had no intent to influence Williams with gifts.
“Witnesses testified one after the other that there was not a better construction company in the state to show they got the work they got because they are the best. That’s the only reason they got it,” said Henry M. Coxe III, the company’s attorney.
Williams still faces punishment because he accepted a plea deal last year. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Whann’s attorney, Larry Turner of Gainesville, said the acquittal was about more than poor verbiage in the indictment. The case was in federal court because the indictment said Polk County received federal funding, but Williams worked for the Polk County School District, a separate government agency. That meant the evidence presented was insufficient, he said.
Turner said there were other problems with the way the indictment was drafted.
U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara said he has never seen a “botched situation” like this in his 14 years on the federal bench.
Lazzara told Michael Walsh, the company’s president, and Whann that they were not guilty of the charges and were free to leave.
The sudden ending brought both men to tears, and they embraced their lawyers, family and friends.
“I just had to thank God, that’s all I could think was thank you God for bringing us through this,” Walsh told The Sun on Tuesday. “We just appreciate all the love and support that we received from friends and customers and people from all over throughout the whole process.”
While M.M. Parrish Construction and the local real estate firm Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish Realtors were founded locally by the Parrish family, the construction company was sold in the early 1980s.”
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