Boca Raton: Virus forces another delay for Haynie’s trial

By Mary Hladky

Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie’s trial on public corruption charges has been postponed until Sept. 21 due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Prosecutor Brian Fernandes and Bruce Zimet, Haynie’s criminal defense lawyer, agreed to cancel a scheduled July 20 trial and to set the new trial date because the pandemic has made it difficult to complete pretrial discovery.
They also were concerned that not enough potential jurors would be available in July.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen agreed to the new trial date on May 28.
A March trial date also was postponed.
Compounding the difficulties of setting Haynie’s trial date is that the main courthouse in West Palm Beach, where her trial would be held, has been all but shut down since April due to the pandemic.
Only essential hearings, such as pleas and bond reduction motions, have been held in person or though video-conferencing.
Jury trials have been postponed, and on June 17 Florida Chief Justice Charles T. Canady ordered the postponement extended until at least July 17.
Haynie, 64, was arrested on April 24, 2018, on charges of official misconduct, perjury, misuse of public office and failure to disclose voting conflicts. She faces more than 20 years in prison if she’s convicted.
Prosecutors contend that Haynie used her position on the City Council to vote on six matters that financially benefited James Batmasian, the city’s largest downtown commercial landowner, and failed to disclose income she received from him.
Haynie has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Zimet has repeatedly said she will not accept a plea deal.
Then-Gov. Rick Scott suspended Haynie from office, but she never resigned.
Her option to reclaim the mayor’s post ended March 31 after Boca Raton voters elected Scott Singer, who was elevated from deputy mayor to replace Haynie during her suspension, to a full term as mayor succeeding her.

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