New Florida Gov. Denies Allegations He Took Illegal Contributions
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Newly inaugurated Gov. Bob Martinez has denied on the witness stand allegations that as a mayoral candidate he accepted illegal campaign contributions and bribes in support of a cable TV franchise seeker.
Martinez, who testified Thursday as a defense witness at the mail fraud trial of Nelson A. Italiano, told jurors, ″I have not committed any wrong.″
The governor, sworn into office Tuesday, flew back to his native Tampa and testified for two hours Thursday before proceedings were recessed. He returned to the courthouse today to resume his testimony.
Martinez has never been charged with any wrongdoing in his 1979 race for mayor of Tampa. He held the office until resigning to run for governor.
The allegations of illegal campaign contributions and bribes surfaced as a sidelight in the trial of Italiano, an insurance agent and once powerful Democrat who served as a consultant for Coaxial Communications.
Prosecutors contend Italiano, 58, peddled influence money to officials for favorable franchise consideration of Coaxial in Hillsborough County.
The county franchise was a stepping stone to a lucrative city contract, the government contended. Coaxial won the Hillsborough County franchise, but withdrew from city competition before the award was made in 1982.
The allegations against Martinez came from former Tampa builder and bus driver Eddie Perdomo, who testified last week that he acted as a conduit and funneled $8,000 to Martinez in checks and cash in 1979.
Perdomo described himself as a lifelong Martinez friend and said he passed half of the money in checks and half in cash on behalf of Coaxial to win Martinez’ backing of the cable television firm.
″Did you ever commit to anybody at all as to recommending anyone on behalf of any cable franchise?″ defense attorney Arnold Levine asked Martinez.
″No,″ the governor replied.
Martinez also said he never received any cash from Perdomo. He was quizzed about campaign checks he received from Perdomo, Perdomo’s wife, Rosemary, or Coaxial.
From records Martinez identified three $1,000 campaign checks.
″Each was on separate accounts as required by law,″ he said, adding that they were shown on disclosure forms. He said he did not remember being handed those checks directly.
″I have not received any cash from Eddie Perdomo at any time,″ Martinez said.
Martinez described Perdomo as someone he went to school with and then did not see again for 30 years until Perdomo showed up as a regular customer in Martinez’s former restaurant.
Martinez claimed Perdomo had a grudge because he had been denied a rezoning application and was unable to pass a city contractor’s test. Once during a meeting, he said, he learned that Perdomo ″felt somehow I had it in for him.″