Prosecutors want to question reporter about Lt. Gov. Carroll

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 1:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 1:55 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE - Florida prosecutors want to question a newspaper reporter about the tangled criminal case involving a former aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.

But the Florida Times-Union is fighting the request and on Thursday asked a judge to block a subpoena of reporter Matt Dixon. Ex-aide Carletha Cole is charged with breaking state law, accused of giving Dixon a copy of a secret audio recording of her talking to Carroll's chief of staff.

Leon County Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield declined to rule on the newspaper's request, which comes at the same time prosecutors and attorneys for Cole are at odds over what evidence should be allowed in the nearly year-old case.

The criminal case has garnered attention because lawyers for Cole filed court documents in which the aide claimed to have found Carroll in a "compromising position" with her travel aide inside Carroll's office.

Carroll, a former Navy officer who is also married and a mother of three, called the allegations "false and absurd." The administration of Gov. Rick Scott has asked for a protective order to shield both Carroll and aide Beatriz Ramos from being questioned by Cole's attorney. A hearing on that request was scheduled to be held later on Thursday.

Attorneys for the newspaper told Sheffield that prosecutors can get what they need to convict Cole without questioning Dixon. Under Florida law, journalists have limited protection from testifying in cases they are involved with professionally.

Assistant State Attorney John Hutchins argued that the protection did not apply in cases involving those who witness crimes. He told the judge that Cole and Dixon exchanged emails and she sent him the audio recording.

"This is a criminal case, this is evidence of a crime," Hutchins told the judge.

The Florida Times-Union placed on its website the recording between Cole and John Konkus, the chief of staff for Carroll. Konkus can be heard saying that Scott's then-chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, is afraid of Carroll. Konkus also complained that Scott "is not leading."

Cole was fired in fall 2011 after she publicly spoke out about infighting in Carroll's office.

A sworn statement by a state law-enforcement agent says investigators looked into Cole's emails and cellphone records and discovered she had sent the recording to the Times-Union reporter.

Cole is charged with a third-degree felony and could get up to five years in prison if convicted.

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