Florida Appeals Court Throws Out State Senator's Theft Conviction

Friday, December 28th 2007, 12:05 pm
By: News On 6

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A state appeals court overturned a theft conviction against Florida state Sen. Gary Siplin on Friday, saying a jury wrongly convicted him of having an employee do campaign work on state time.

Florida's 5th District Court of Appeal ruled that an Orlando jury ignored the possibility that Siplin had no idea his office employee was being paid by the state while working on his re-election campaign in 2004.

The court also threw out a misdemeanor conviction of using state workers to further his campaign, saying the jury wasn't properly told that Siplin had to have knowledge of his employee working for the campaign on state time.

In Florida, appeals courts can overturn jury verdicts when the evidence contradicts what the jury finds in cases where the evidence is all circumstantial, as it was in Siplin's case.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill McCollum said the office had no comment on the decision.

Siplin, an Orlando Democrat, was sentenced in 2006 to three years of probation, community service and fines. Senate President Ken Pruitt, a Republican, allowed Siplin to continue his term pending the appeal.