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Trump's pardons include ex-Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty, Boca real estate mogul James Batmasian

McCarty served 21 months for fraud

Kimberly Miller
Palm Beach Post
Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty.
Boca Raton property owners James and Marta Batmasian are seen entering a courtroom before an employment discrimination lawsuit hearing at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in 2017. The suit was filed by the Batmasians' former CFO, James Baker. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

Among the 26 people who were granted full pardons from President Donald Trump on Wednesday was former Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty and Boca Raton real estate mogul James Batmasian.

McCarty, who was elected five times to the Palm Beach County Commission starting in 1990, pleaded guilty in 2009 to a federal charge of honest services fraud for steering bond-underwriting business to her husband and for accepting free or discounted hotel rooms from a company that she backed to build the planned hotel at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach. She served 21 months of a 3½-year prison sentence. 

Her husband, Kevin, pleaded guilty to felony charges that he failed to report his wife’s crime. He was sentenced to eight months in federal prison and stripped of his licenses to sell securities. Kevin McCarty died of pancreatic cancer in 2018.

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According to a statement from the White House press secretary released late Wednesday, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax media company and a West Palm Beach resident, were "among those supportive of Ms. McCarty."

"I've known Mary for 20 years and I think she did incredible work as a fair-minded and bi-partisan commissioner," Ruddy told The Palm Beach Post on Thursday.

While he didn't follow the case closely at the time, Ruddy said he was aware of enough facts to consider McCarty's prosecution "judicial overkill." 

"I think she's a great person, I think her late husband was a great person and I think the president doing this was justified," he said. 

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Rep. Brian Mast arrives at an event featuring Donald Trump Jr. Hilton at Palm Beach Airport Friday October 16, 2020 in West Palm Beach.  [MEGHAN MCCARTHY/palmbeachdailynews.com]
Bernhard Langer, teeing off during the third round of the Regions Tradition Champions Tour tournament in May 2019 in Birmingham, Ala., is the defending champion in Boca Raton.

Brian Mast, golfer Bernhard Langer backed Batmasian's pardon

Batmasian, a Harvard-educated attorney, served eight months in federal prison in 2008 for failing to pay the IRS about $250,000 in payroll taxes.

According to the White House press secretary statement, Batmasian’s pardon was supported by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-Palm City), Alice Johnson, and former Masters champion Bernhard Langer, who lives in Boca Raton, "among many others from the South Florida community that Mr. Batmasian has done so much to serve through his extensive charitable works."

James Batmasian, with his wife, Marta, at his side, turns and tilts his head to the sun before entering court Friday for sentencing. He's the largest owner of commercial property in downtown Boca Raton. (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

"He does a lot of good work in Boca Raton," Langer said Thursday about Batmasian. 

The White House statement notes that Batmasian "made overtime payments without withholding for income taxes or FICA contributions. While illegal, Mr. Batmasian recorded all of these payments and made no attempt to hide them when confronted by IRS investigators."

More:Trump friend Chris Ruddy of West Palm Beach criticizes Priebus

McCarty and Batmasian were among Trump's 26 full pardons and three commuting of sentences Wednesday that included Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman who has a home in Palm Beach Gardens, Broward County-based political operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, father of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

"The pardon power can be absolute, and it can be absolutely good or absolutely bad," said Peter Cruise, chairman of the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics. "There were some people on the list that raised my eyebrows about why they got it." 

McCarty was not one of them. 

Cruise, whose commission was established in 2012 following public corruption arrests that removed three county commissioners from office, including McCarty, said the pardon is a victory for her and well-earned for work she's done since prison.

"All of us make mistakes and she's paid very heavily for those mistakes," said Cruise, noting also that Trump fundraiser and powerhouse lobbyist Brian Ballard is McCarty's brother. "I don't have a problem that the president granted her the pardon." 

More:Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort released from prison amid coronavirus pandemic

Life after prison for McCarty

After McCarty and her husband served their respective sentences, they opened a management consulting business, Cypress Consulting.

Later, Mary McCarty began coaching people heading to prison on how to handle the time before, during and after incarceration.

Mary McCarty and her husband, Kevin, during a speaking event for the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club in November 2015 in Boca Raton. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

In 2015, at a talk for the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club in Boca Raton, she described her “rise and fall and rise.”

“It’s the first time that I’ve spoke to a group in public” since getting out, McCarty told about 40 people. “I’m a little rusty.”

Her husband, Kevin, a former chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Board, was on hand.

>>READ: Mary McCarty’s got a brand new gig: Prison-life coach

She recalled the day in 2009 when, standing at Miami International Airport, she was surrounded by armed guards, waiting for a flight to prison.

“I had shackles that were cutting into my ankles. My waist was surrounded by chains and connected to handcuffs. It was a surreal scene,” she said. She recalled thinking, “How did I get here? How did it happen?”

McCarty was elected to the Delray Beach City Commission in 1987 at age 32 — one of the city’s youngest leaders ever before being elected to the Palm Beach County Commission.

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During that speech in 2015 McCarty recalled arriving at the federal lockup. “I felt I had been dropped into a manhole. Life was going on, and nobody was paying attention to the fact that I existed.”

Along with McCarty, two other former county commissioners — Warren Newell and Tony Masilotti — pleaded guilty to honest services fraud amid a federal corruption investigation that targeted local government in Palm Beach County.

More:Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Masilotti moved to halfway house after 3 years in prison

Batmasian and the ex-mayor of Boca Raton

Batmasian and his wife, Marta, also were tied to former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie, who is awaiting trial for alleged public corruption.

Haynie is charged with official misconduct, perjury, misuse of public office, corrupt misuse of official position and failure to disclose voting conflicts.

More:Developer Batmasian who paid Boca mayor may have committed perjury

A Palm Beach Post investigation revealed Haynie’s financial ties to Batmasian and his wife, the largest commercial landowners in Boca Raton.

More:Former Boca mayor’s trial pushed back to July

Cruise said pardons are only good for the specific case mentioned in the pardon and are not a wholesale forgiveness for other cases or anything that happens in the future. 

"If you are wealthy and connected, and you work it, you have a better chance of getting a pardon," Cruise said. "It can be a very expensive process and a long process." 

Inside

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