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Witness: Attorney Threatened Me

February 13, 1998

MIAMI (AP) _ A witness in Miami’s election fraud trial began shouting outside the courtroom Thursday, claiming she was being harassed by the attorney for ousted Mayor Joe Carollo.

``I have been threatened. I can’t take this any more. I’m ill. They have come to my house 22 times,″ Josefina Gomez Perez said, accusing Carollo lawyer Kendall Coffey of mistreating her.

Gomez, a ballot collector, testified in Carollo’s civil lawsuit challenging the Nov. 13 runoff election results that declared Xavier Suarez the city’s new mayor. Carollo is suing to void questionable absentee ballots from the final count.

Coffey said the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

``Any comment that I threatened anyone is preposterous,″ Coffey said outside the courthouse. ``The judge took her testimony for what it was.″

The nonjury trial is being heard by Circuit Judge Thomas S. Wilson Jr., who has the option of upholding the election, making Carollo the mayor by excluding all 5,000 absentee votes or calling for a new vote.

Later in the day, a private investigator for Carollo testified that he spoke to a woman who claimed her ballot was snatched away before she had a chance to mark it.

Election investigators also testified that witnesses _ some invoking their Fifth Amendment rights _ had been warned not to testify about what they knew concerning the signing and collection of absentee ballots.

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