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Miami-Dade State Attorney details charges against Commissioner Joe Martinez

Miami-Dade State Attorney details charges against Miami-Dade commissioner
Miami-Dade State Attorney details charges against Miami-Dade commissioner 03:04

MIAMI – Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a press conference to detail charges against Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez.

Rundle told CBS4's Peter D'Oench, "In simplest terms, this shows an official using his office for personal benefit. Those in government who abuse their office undermine their position before taxpayers. No one wants to tolerate this type of activity. It is not easy when you find people who are elected who use that position for their benefit."

Miami-Dade Inspector General Felix Jimenez said, "These actions corrode the system and corrode the confidence in government."

Martinez surrendered to jail Tuesday morning on corruption charges involving $15,000 in payments from a business owner facing code violations. As he left the TGK Correctional Center he said, "One of these says I will be able to talk to you about the charges but right now I have to deal with it."

Click here to read the Arrest Warrant Affidavit.

Martinez, who has served on the County Commission off and on since 2000, is charged with unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation, according to an arrest warrant. Both are third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison each.

Charges against Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez 32:51

Martinez, 64, surrendered at a county jail Tuesday and has already pledged to fight the charges. He is likely to be suspended from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis, although no decision was immediately announced on that.

Martinez is a former police lieutenant who has been considering a run for Miami-Dade sheriff in 2024. That post was created through a voter referendum; Miami-Dade is currently the only Florida county without an elected sheriff.

Investigators say Martinez accepted $15,000 from a supermarket owner who was facing repeated fines for having too many storage units on the property. In exchange for the money, authorities say Martinez pushed legislation that would allow the supermarket and its landlord to legally have their storage containers.

Although that legislation ultimately did not pass, officials say the charges are still permissible. Martinez's attorney, Ben Kuehne, said in a statement that the charges may have political motives intended to derail his possible run for sheriff in 2024.

"For now, Commissioner Martinez makes clear that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and intends to aggressively work to clear his name," Kuehne said.

After a 17-year police career, Martinez was elected to the commission in 2000. He gave up the seat in 2012 for an unsuccessful run for county mayor, then failed in a 2014 Republican campaign for Congress. He was elected to rejoin the commission in 2016 and reelected in 2020.

Martinez's attorney released a statement, saying, in part:

"State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle directed Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez to surrender this week based on false allegations arising from his private practice work as a consultant when he was a private citizen and not an elected official.

"The investigation has been ongoing for five years, so the timing of the allegations that do not involve Commissioner Martinez's time in public office raise questions of a political impact when he is considered the front runner for the newly created sheriff of Miami-Dade County."

In a statement to CBS4, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levin Cava said:

"People's trust in our government is essential to our democracy. As the justice system moves forward with its process, my administration remains focused on addressing Miami-Dade's greatest challenges through the principled values our community deserves."

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