By: Patti Lynn
This is 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 two counts each of bribery and unlawful compensation, three counts of official misconduct, and one count of conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.
The final day of jury selection in the case of Florida vs. Patricia Atkins-Grad was delayed by more than 30 minutes today as the morning court schedule ran late. The remaining 25 jurors were not brought into the courtroom until after 2:00 PM.
Defendant Atkins-Grad had more support today. In addition to her husband David, her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Norman and Sharon Grad, also attended. Once again, I was the only member of the public in attendance. Substituting for Sun-Sentinel reporter Paula McMahon was another Sun-Sentinel reporter, Lisa Huriash. Huriash regularly covers the City of Tamarac.
The crux of the prosecution and defense strategies became obvious as each side questioned the prospective jurors. The State of Florida wanted to know if the jurors would believe, as honest, testimony from someone suspected or convicted of a crime.
Defense Attorney Kenneth Malnik asked the jurors if they believed that all politicians, or elected officials, were dishonest; or if testimony from a law enforcement official would be more believable than evidence from a regular citizen.
Culturally diverse with Hispanic and African Americans well-represented. Although many are women, culturally, they appeared more aligned to Broward County than any jury that I have seen in several years.
Many of the jurors had friends or relatives connected to police or law enforcement agencies. Their acceptance, by the defense, confused me since people who are friends with law enforcement types are usually very strict in their codes of right and wrong. This may be a problem in the trial.
Court will reconvene on Tuesday, December 4, 2012, at 1:30 PM. Following Judge Bober’s instructions to the jury panel, testimony will begin. Attorney Malnik advised that he wanted all of the prosecution’s witnesses listed as his witnesses also. That should be interesting. Several seated elected officials of Tamarac are scheduled to appear, as are the current and former City Manager.
The stars of the trial will be, no doubt, Bruce Chait and his son, Shawn, owners of Prestige Development. They received a plea deal, a big issue in this trial. That may be something that the defense will emphasize. We will see.