By Patti Lynn
This begins the first in a series of reports from Patti Lynn, who is covering the trial of Patte Atkins-Grad, the suspended Tamarac City Commissioner who is charged with eight felony charges for allegedly taking cash or gifts from father and son developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. Lynn ran against Atkins-Grad two times for the City Commission seat.
Atkins-Grad was arrested as a Commissioner back in 2010 because she failed to disclose payments for a $2,300 BMW lease and $4,000 for her victory party back in 2006 for her election as state law requires. She has been charged with bribery and unlawful compensation counts, three counts of official misconduct, and one count of conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.
Day 1 Insight
Jury selection began on Tuesday in the matter of Florida vs. Patricia Atkins-Grad. Fifty potential jurors were seated in a process that will eliminate most. The jury will be six members and one alternate.
While waiting in the hallway, Atkins-Grad saw me and told me how happy she was to see me. I ignored her. Shortly thereafter, reporter Paula McMahon of The Sun-Sentinel arrived in the hallway. Defendant Patricia Atkins-Grad greeted her, asked about children, and thanked her for her previous articles. She then asked her, “Have you met Patti Lynn? She ran against me twice for Tamarac City Commissioner.” I again remained silent, nodding briefly to the reporter.
Initially, the Court Bailiff allowed only the prosecutor, defense attorney, and the media into the courtroom. The defendant was not allowed in. Shortly thereafter, both she and her husband were permitted in. About five minutes after Atkins-Grad was let in, the public was allowed to enter.
I was the only “public” there.
That is when the prosecutor reiterated, to the judge, the plea offer of two years imprisonment. The offer was two years in a State Penitentiary in return for a pleading of guilt. Atkins-Grad, who faces a term of 8 to 15 years, swore that her attorney had advised her of the offer.
She rejected the offer.
By gambling two years against potentially 15 years, I believe that’s a considerable risk. However, whatever her thought process is, she must think it’s a risk worth taking.
I noticed that Atkins-Grad has discontinued coloring her hair, which she had maintained during her terms as a City of Tamarac Commissioner. In addition to her arrest and indictment, Mayor Beth Talabisco and Commissioner Marc Sultanof were arrested and/ or indicted in the same incident related to a zoning change of a golf course.
Sultanof died before having his charges settled, and Talabisco’s charges were dismissed in court. There have been rumors that the State Attorney’s Office is appealing that dismissal. We have no evidence to either prove or disprove those allegations.
Testimony is expected to begin at 1 pm on Tuesday, December 4, the first scheduled day of the trial. It will continue again on Wednesday and Thursday.
No trial action will be held on Friday, December 7.