A man once dubbed by the then Vice President of the United States as a “rising star in the Democrat Party” has fallen hard.
Scott Maddox, former chair of the Florida Democrat Party and former mayor of Tallahassee, was sentenced today to five years in prison, $76,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and $70,000 in forfeiture stemming from federal public corruption charges he pleaded guilty to in 2019 following a two-year FBI investigation.
His partner, Paige Carter-Smith, former head of the Downtown Improvement Authority, was sentenced to two years in prison, $115,610 in restitution to the IRS and $70,000 for her role in the corruption scheme.
The two were indicted in 2018 and pleaded guilty in 2019 to two counts of honest service fraud and conspiracy to commit tax fraud — three of 44 federal charges. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop the other 39 charges facing the pair.
According to court documents, while serving as a sitting, voting City Commissioner, Maddox received payments from Governance, a government consulting and lobbying company based in Tallahassee that he started in 1999 and sold to Carter-Smith in 2010. The payments were made to Governance by several companies in either monthly installments or lump sums, while companies sought favorable votes on City of Tallahassee issues. Specifically, the defendants pleaded guilty to Maddox’s acceptance and Carter-Smith’s facilitation of payments from a rideshare company in exchange for favorable treatment on issues it had before the City Commission, and payments from a FBI front company in exchange for his favorable treatment on issues that were anticipated before the Commission. The defendants also admitted to tax fraud that resulted in losses of more than $76,000 in total to the IRS.
During today’s sentencing hearing, long-time friends and relatives asked U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to be lenient, because both Maddox and Carter-Smith were “good people” who entered public service for the “right reasons” — to help people and the City of Tallahassee.
Just before sentencing the two, Hinkle said, “I don’t doubt they went into public services for the right reason. But they have, through their criminal conduct made it worse for those who also went into it for the right reason and continued doing it for the right reason.”
He said, “(Maddox) had a role in some good things in Tallahassee.”
The judge mentioned several of projects, including the Blairstone Road project.
But he said that what Maddox did by taking bribes “undermines confidence in the system.” He said even he has driven on Blairstone Road and scratched his head wondering if the massive multi-million-dollar project was built for the right reason or because there was money involved.
“That’s part of the problem with this type of crime,” Hinkle told the courtroom.
He said the nature of the offense, bribery involving a public official, called for a substantial sentence. However, the fact that neither Maddox nor Carter-Smith had a prior criminal history and that they were both involved in public service and other “selfless” acts, called for leniency.
Hinkle said, “The factors cut in opposite directions.”
In the end, Maddox, who was initially facing 108 to 125 months in prison based on the pre-sentencing report, was sentenced by Hinkle to 60 months. Carter-Smith was initially facing 87 to 108 months in prison and received only 24.
Hinkle instructed Maddox and Carter-Smith to self-report to prison at 2 p.m. in November 9.