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On Wednesday William Sheppard, the lawyer representing former Commissioner Tom Manuel, released a transcript of a phone conversation to the U.S. district court with regard to Manuel’s sentencing hearing, scheduled for January.
The conversation, between St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar and St. Augustine attorney George McClure, is from a June 2008 telephone conversation and details information regarding Manuel’s FBI indictment on bribery charges.
In the motion filed Wednesday, Sheppard claims that government prosecutors failed to release FBI tapes and transcripts that could help Manuel during his sentencing hearing in January.
In the conversation, Shoar and McClure discuss the effect the Manuel case will have on county politics but what is not discussed is why and when Shoar took the case to the FBI — something Sheppard believes shows that the FBI has information that has not been handed over to the defense team.
McClure said Thursday that he recorded the conversation at the request of the FBI.
"The only reason why that conversation was recorded is because Sheriff Shoar had called me and left me a message that he had spoken to Tom Manuel. I’m not a criminal attorney but I know that when you have a potential defendant making a statement to law enforcement it could be an issue so I called and let the FBI know and they asked me to record the conversation in order to memorialize what was said."
In the conversation Shoar claims that he thought Manuel was corrupt from the beginning — before Manuel was sworn into office.
"There were times long before we went to the FBI where I told Tom — see, I was getting information on Tom early on, and it was the same stuff before you and I ever talked. It was very similar type stuff. And it was — one was he wanted to do something with affordable housing. I got word early on that a deal was brokered — and this is all fourth hand — that during the election, that Tom got the word to some money people that if they paid him $600,000 and I think gave him a Sonny franchise or some s*** up in Georgia, he would withdraw from the race. So this stuff was swirling around him from eight to 10 to 12 different directions," Shoar said, according to the transcript.
Although Shoar had suspicions of Manuel being corrupt long before his arrest, Shoar did not specify when and what caused him to go to the FBI in the conversation.
Shoar also stated in the conversation that the only person that didn’t "do what they were supposed to do" was Manuel.
"I think the only person that’s going to come out of this hurt is Tom Manuel. And that’s the way that it should be. Everybody else — me, to you, to Bruce, to our friends in Arlington, everybody, if you think about it, George, everybody did what we were sworn to do. All of us did what we were sworn to do, no more, no less," Shoar told McClure. "And all of us stepped up. The only person that didn’t do what he was supposed to do was Tom Manuel, and he’s going to have to pay the price."
Also in the transcript Shoar alludes to Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson and former District 3 Commissioner Ben Rich violating Sunshine Laws requiring that government business be conducted in the sunshine.
"I don’t think it will ever get tagged as a political issue, for a couple of different reasons. No. 1, it wasn’t," Shoar told McClure. " If it was — now, if I had tried to get Ben and Cyndi on a Sunshine violation, then you open yourself up to that criticism."
Thursday, Stevenson said she had no idea what Shoar was referring to in the transcript — a conversation which she said was "not very flattering for the Sheriff."
"I have no idea what he is talking about," said Stevenson. "I don’t know if he was trying to frame me for something or what — that was a little offensive."
For Stevenson the release of the transcript is "a reminder of a sad and difficult time in the county."
Ed Slavin, St. Johns County resident and activist, posted the transcript on his blog Wednesday.
"I think people need to be able to read how their government talks when they don’t think the people are listening," Slavin said. "[Hopefully this] opens up a lot of peoples 'eyes and will go a long way to restoring democracy."
Slavin said people are disgusted by what they have read.
Calls to Sheriff David Shoar, William Sheppard and Tom Manuel for comment were not returned prior to The Recorder’s press deadline.