Prosecutors: Former Keys county attorney Jim Hendrick facilitated illegal Marathon election mailer

skinney@keynoter.comOctober 30, 2013 

The Monroe County State Attorney's Office on Wednesday said former Monroe County Attorney Jim Hendrick -- a convicted federal felon -- facilitated an apparently illegal political mailer targeting Marathon City Council candidate Mark Senmartin.

But there aren't any charges forthcoming, State Attorney Catherine Vogel said, as the identity of the so-called Scott Miller, the name attached to the mailer, remains unknown.

The one-page flier is a copy of a June 12 Code Compliance Board ruling against Senmartin. Also running for council are incumbent Rich Keating and former Councilman Pete Worthington; the top two vote-getters are elected.

The code board found Senmartin guilty of "illegally removing protected hardwood hammock" from his 1515 Bluefin Drive property. He was ordered by the Code Board to pay a $500 fine, $300 administrative fee and plant 10 trees.

The mailer urges voters to "consider this information before casting your ballot," and is attributed to Miller.

The mailer was illegal apparently because it didn't comply with state Statute 106.071(2), which reads: "Any political advertisement paid for by an independent expenditure shall prominently state 'Paid political advertisement paid for by (name and address of person paying for advertisement) independently of any (candidate or committee)."

The back page of the mailer reads "paid electioneering communication paid for by Scott Miller, 999 98th Street" in Marathon. No one by that name lives or has ever lived at that address, a waterfront eight-unit condominium called Ocean Point Villa just down the street from Marathon City Hall.

Hendrick told investigators in an Oct. 29 interview that "Miller" contacted him for help in producing and disseminating the flier.

In turn, Hendrick asked his son Joseph, an employee of the Market Share Co. marketing company in Key West, to order the mailers printed through Gemini Printing in Marathon and labeled/mailed by Island Advertising in Key West.

Gemini owner Denny Curry says he was paid $325 in cash to print 4,500 of the fliers.

From the State Attorney's Office investigative report: "Jim Hendrick facilitated the mailing of the Senmartin mailer/flyer and coordinated the printing and mailing through Linda O'Brien of Market Share."

O'Brien, whose company has produced Fantasy Fest since 1990, bid and contracted the job to Gemini and Island Advertising. On Oct. 10, Market Share received $2,800 in cash from a person claiming to be Miller.

There are no receipts or invoices related to any of the professional services, according to investigators.

"Normal business practices appear to have been ignored during this process by the coordinators of this job while neither knowing or identifying the client nor receiving payment for coordinating services rendered," according to the report.

Vogel said her team worked exhaustively to identify who is behind "Miller," without any luck. He's described as a white man in his early 50s with short, light brown hair and about 180 pounds.

As part of the investigation, none of the City Council candidates were interviewed. Worthington and Keating have denied any role in the mailer.

Investigator Chris Weber said "the subject of the investigation was the mailer and the person who paid for the mailer. There was no indication by any party that any candidate had anything to do with the mailer. Should the investigation headed in that direction, we would have gone that direction."

Hendrick: What's the big deal?

Hendrick said "I haven't met [Miller]. I've talked with him on the phone. He thought Senmartin was, I think he said, a bad guy."

Asked if it's normal for him to get calls from people he doesn't know asking for political guidance and help with mailers, Hendrick said, "I get calls all the time. I've been working on campaigns since the Carter Administration."

He added, "In my view, it got blown way out of proportion. We have a long history in this country of anonymous publications. I'm speculating that this Scott Miller was afraid of Senmartin's connections. I don't know if I should be paranoid."

Asked if he knows Hendrick, Senmartin said, "He's friends with certain people in town but I wouldn't know the guy if I ran into him."

Thoughts on a motive for the flier? "That's the big question: Why go to such great lengths?" Senmartin asked. "It has no place in a small town like this."

As the identity of Miller remains unknown, Weber and Investigator John Hernandez concluded: "No statutory requirement was found that requires a person paying for an electioneering communication present proof of identity."

Vogel said she has already begun a dialogue with Keys state Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) to close that loophole through legislative action.

Hendrick's federal conviction

In 2007, Hendrick was convicted in federal court of conspiracy, witness tampering and obstruction of justice and sentenced to five years probation, $50,400 in fines and 2,500 hours of community service.

That came out of Hendrick helping facilitate a bribe in 1996 to then-county Mayor Jack London.

At a 2009 resentencing, Hendrick avoided a federal prison term but was newly ordered to serve seven months of house arrest.

Hendrick essentially was convicted of coaching a witness to lie about circumstances of the $29,000 bribe paid to London. The bribe was in connection with a zoning change that allowed redevelopment of the former Hall's Resort in Marathon into a Hampton Inn. It's now a time share called the Hammocks at Marathon.

Randy Hilliard, a political consultant who was affiliated with London, solicited the bribe from developer Marvin Rappaport for the zoning change. London used the bribe money to pay off a lien on property he owned in Ireland. Rappaport was not prosecuted.

The FBI arrested London in 2004 as he boarded a plane to Ireland. London pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return for not reporting the bribe as income and had agreed to testify about Hendrick's role in the deal.

Given immunity from prosecution, Hilliard wore a concealed recording device during several conversations he had with Hendrick about the looming legal case and was the star witness in his trial.

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