(CNN) - A trial expected to last two weeks was suddenly shortened to 10 minutes Monday when former Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer made a surprise guilty plea to five criminal charges.
Greer was facing a possible 75 years in prison for fraud, money laundering and theft, but now has a possible maximum sentence of 35 years.
Miami, Florida (CNN) - The ex-chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, Jim Greer, is now apologizing for stoking fears about President Obama's address to school children last year.
Greer, now under indictment on fraud and money-laundering charges after being drummed out of the state party, also accused "many within the GOP" of having "racist views."
In September 2009, conservatives raised questions about the motives of president's back-to-school speech, which was beamed into many of the nation's classrooms. Greer was among them, charging that "taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology."
"While I support educating our children to respect both the office of the American President and the value of community service, I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda," he said then in a statement that made waves around the country.
Greer is now apologizing for those comments.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/11/art.crist.0428.gi.jpg caption ="Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is refunding money donated by the state's indicted former party chairman."](CNN) - Republicans in Florida are pouncing on Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to refund campaign contributions from indicted former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer, a longtime Crist ally charged with stealing money from party coffers.
In a letter to the governor dated August 5, Greer asked that $9,600 worth of contributions to Crist's Senate campaign be returned so he could help pay for his legal fees. The Crist campaign on Monday agreed to do so after the letter was reported by the St. Petersburg Times.
But Crist's decision comes after an earlier refusal to return money to Republican donors who sought refunds when the governor bolted the GOP and embarked on an independent run.
Crist's Republican critics are crying foul over the move, but they're also pleased to once again have Crist sharing the spotlight with the scandal-tainted Greer.
The campaign of Crist's GOP opponent Marco Rubio immediately took a shot at the governor's decision.
"It should surprise no one that despite refusing to return a single penny to Floridians who gave to him in good faith, Charlie Crist wasted no time in refunding money to his indicted political confidante," said Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Sunday that he did not know about a consulting company set up by the former head of the Florida GOP which was allegedly used to funnel party funds to the ex-party chair. (Photo Credit: CNN)
(CNN) – Florida Gov. Charlie Crist denied any knowledge Sunday of an alleged scheme by Jim Greer, the former head of the Florida Republican Party, to funnel the party’s funds into a shell company for Greer’s personal use.
Greer was charged Wednesday with six felony counts for allegedly directing state party funds to Victory Strategies, Greer’s consulting company, which then paid him. Greer, 47, faces one count of organized fraud, four counts of grand theft and one count of money laundering. Crist appointed Greer chairman of the Florida GOP in 2007. Greer left the post in February of this year after a chorus of state Republican leaders and donors raised questions about his leadership and management of party funds.
Related: Greer accused of 6 felonies
Greer’s attorney has said that Crist knew about Victory Strategies and had a role on working on the consulting company with Greer, claims that Crist denied on CNN’s State of the Union.
Crist told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that the attorney’s assertions were “absolutely untrue.”
“You know sometimes desperate people say desperate things and it’s very sad,” the governor added.
Crist also called the criminal case against Greer were “an unfortunate situation. It’s very disappointing and sometimes people disappoint you. And that’s what’s happened here.”
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/02/greermug.jpg caption ="The RNC spoke out in response to the arrest of ex-Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, calling the accusations 'unacceptable.'"]
Washington (CNN) - The Republican National Committee broke its silence Thursday regarding the arrest of ex-Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, one of Chairman Michael Steele's top supporters during his 2009 bid to lead the committee.
Greer was arrested Wednesday and charged with six felony counts stemming from a grand jury investigation into his activities while serving as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Prosecutors allege that Greer set up a shell company in February 2009 to funnel money from the state party into his personal bank account.
RNC spokesman Doug Heye called the accusations "unacceptable" and said donors "have a right to know that that their hard earned money is being used, as they expect, to elect candidates who stand for their principles."
"We have complete confidence in the judicial system of the State of Florida and look forward to justice being served," Heye said in a statement to CNN. "Sweetheart deals and personal enrichment are every bit as unacceptable as the offering of political appointments to keep Democratic candidates out of primaries."
After endorsing Steele three weeks before last January's hotly-contested election, Greer quickly became one of Steele's most prominent backers within the RNC. Steele later backed Greer to chair the powerful RNC Rules Committee, a position Greer gave up when he resigned as Florida GOP chairman earlier this year under pressure from party activists upset his with handling of party funds.
Greer, who once considered his own bid to head the RNC, was also one of Steele's top financial backers during the six-way race for the chairmanship.
On Jan. 28, 2009, two days before Steele's victory, Greer directed $15,000 from his campaign 527 account to the "Steele for Chairman" committee, according to publicly available filings with the IRS. It was one of the largest direct contributions to Steele's bid by any donor.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/02/greermug.jpg caption="Jim Greer was arrested Wednesday in Florida."]Washington (CNN) – Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer was arrested Wednesday and charged with six felony counts stemming from a grand jury investigation into his activities while serving as state party leader.
Greer, 47, faces one count of organized fraud, four counts of grand theft and one count of money laundering, Statewide Prosecutor Bill Shepherd announced at a late morning press conference. He faces up to 90 years in jail if convicted on all counts.
Greer is a political ally of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and contemplated running for chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2009.
Prosecutors charge that Greer steered $199,254 in state party money to a company, Victory Strategies, LLC, that he set up with former state Republican Party Executive Director Delmar Johnson. According to prosecutors, "Greer was paid $125,161" of the fees Victory Strategies collected from the state party. Prosecutors also said that Victory was given "a large amount for services that were never performed" by the company.
"The indictment and the affidavit allege that Mr. Greer developed a scheme to take money from the Republican Party of Florida through a shell company that he created called Victory Strategies," Shepherd said at the news conference. "He created that company to actively hide his own involvement."
According to Florida law enforcement officials, Victory Strategies received 10 percent of all major donations to the RPOF, as well as over $60,000 from GOP state party coffers at Greer's direction. And $40,000 more came from a 527 account designed to help Greer win re-election as state party chairman.
Prosecutors allege that a substantial amount of those funds then flowed directly to Greer.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/05/art.greer.rpof.jpg caption="Jim Greer (left) stepped down as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida in February."](CNN) - An attorney for former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer responded Wednesday to the criminal investigation into Greer's use of party money.
The lawyer, Gregory Miller, said Greer is innocent of any criminal activity and will fully cooperate with the investigation. Miller accused the current party chairman, John Thrasher, of having a "personal vendetta" against his predecessor.
"The statements and actions of John Thrasher today against his predecessor, former GOP Chairman Jim Greer, are without merit and the continuation of a political vendetta intended to conceal the actions of others and blame Chairman Greer, a private citizen, for the conduct of elected officials," Miller said in a statement.
"Mr. Thrasher's accusations are a heavy-handed attempt to avoid the Party's formally documented financial and legal obligation to Mr. Greer, who has not committed any criminal activity and looks forward to cooperating fully with any investigation," he said.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/31/art.greer.gop.jpg caption="Former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, right, appearing with Gov. Charlie Crist at a fundraising dinner in 2008."]Washington (CNN) - Former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer, who stepped down from his post earlier this year after grassroots leaders revolted against his management of the party, is under criminal investigation for allegedly setting up an secret fundraising contract that paid him and the party's executive director nearly $200,000 in donor money.
An independent annual audit of party expenses revealed that the party "may have been the victim of illegal criminal activity on the part of one of its vendors, controlled by a senior-level official," said Jim Thrasher, the current chairman of the party, in a statement Wednesday.
That vendor was Victory Strategies, LLC, a firm set up in February 2009 by Greer and former RPOF executive director Delmar Johnson that awarded them a 10 percent cut of all party donations.
Thrasher said he notified Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum on March 15 of the "potential illegal activity." McCollum called the information "serious and concerning" and referred the matter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is now investigating Greer for potential criminal activities.
Greer, the majority owner of the firm, and Johnson collected at least $133,000 worth of donor money in 2009 along with $66,250 in additional consulting fees.