Hardy’s Attorneys File Appeal with 2nd District

Attorneys for Stadium Naples defendant Paul Hardy filed motions in the 2nd District Court of Appeal on Tuesday to stop his trial from beginning Monday, and to have the charges dropped.

Claiming the statute of limitations has run out on the charges against Hardy, Miami attorneys Scott and Howard Srebnick asked the appellate court to overrule Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Dakan’s Dec. 22 decision to deny a motion to dismiss the charges. Dakan ruled against the motion without prejudice, saying he would revisit the motion after the state presented its evidence at trial.

The Srebnick brothers also filed a motion Tuesday in Collier Circuit Court, asking Dakan to stay the trial pending outcome of the appellate court decision.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal issued an order Tuesday giving state prosecutors until noon Friday to respond to the defense attorneys’ motion.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in Sarasota for the joint trial of Hardy, developer of The Strand, and former Collier County Commissioner John Norris. Hardy, who is charged with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, is accused of giving Norris a stake in the Stadium Naples deal to curry favor on votes beneficial to his development projects. Hardy is also charged with participating in a $300,000 cash transaction that was never reported to authorities. Norris is charged with racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and four counts of unlawful compensation.

Howard Srebnick said Tuesday the appellate court could rule several ways.

“Sometime Friday we would expect the court would decide one of four scenarios,” he said. The court could dismiss the charges outright, grant the stay while taking more time to decide whether to dismiss the charges, deny the stay and deny the dismissal of the charges, or deny the stay and consider dismissing the charges while the trial goes forward, he said.

If the charges are dismissed against Hardy, the ruling would have no impact on Norris’ trial. Norris’ attorney did not claim a statue of limitations argument, because his last act occurred in 1999. If Hardy is granted a temporary stay, it was unknown Tuesday whether the state would go forward with Norris’ trial Monday.

In the motions filed Tuesday in appellate court, the Srebnicks made the same arguments they made in Circuit Court on Dec. 22: That any acts Hardy committed related to Stadium Naples occurred in 1996-97, “more than five years before the filing of the (latest charges) on June 10, 2003.”

The Stadium Naples deal collapsed in July 1997 after Norris’ financial interest was disclosed to the public. By April 1998, Hardy was voluntarily cooperating with law enforcement agents by answering questions about Stadium Naples, defense attorneys argued. Furthermore, they argued, whatever involvement Hardy had with the $300,000 cash that was not reported, ended when the deadline to report the transaction passed in September 1997.

However, prosecutors argued during the Dec. 22 hearing, that Hardy was not truthful in his April 1998 statement to investigators, which only continued to further the conspiracy. They also argued that the last act involving the $300,000 did not occur until Feb. 28, 2001, when the money was paid back. Also, the charges filed in June 2003, were not substantially different from the charges filed in December 2001.

Ten defendants have been charged in the Stadium Naples public corruption case including three former county commissioners, a former county manager, three developers and their attorney, the founder of ESPN and a now-convicted stock-fraud swindler.

Norris and Hardy are the last two defendants facing charges. Eight have pleaded to reduced or related charges. Only former Commissioner Tim Constantine served jail time.