State Attorney investigation closed with no formal charges

Published: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 09:40 AM.

An investigation into extortion charges against the political action committee Citizens Improving Gulf County and its president was closed last week with no formal charges filed.

The case was closed without charges on Oct. 16, but reopened Oct. 25 based on “new information”, according to the public information officer for the State Attorney’s Office.

Hess, in an unsigned letter closing the case last Wednesday, two days after The Star and its sister paper the Panama City News Herald renewed a request to see the file, arguing that once the file was public record – as it was when closed Oct. 16 by Hess – it remained a public record, said he found probable cause that an act of extortion had been committed.

“However, a jury could just as well have concluded that it was no more than dirty politics,” Hess wrote to Special Agent Renee Hatton with the FDLE.

A “heated discussion” transpired during an Oct. 25 BOCC meeting, Hess wrote Hatton, and “subsequently a number of phone calls” were made to Hess’s office about aspects of the case, “one of which was revisited”, he wrote.

“A criminal history obtained during the initial investigation shows that (PAC president Jim Garth) is a felon having been convicted in federal court of misapplication of bank funds. He has voted in Florida elections but it does not appear that his civil rights have been restored.”

Hess noted that is a third degree felony for a person to vote knowing he is disqualified.

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