A prominent Miami developer accused by another of winning a trial by bribing a juror is striking back with a defamation suit and the release of a state attorney’s closeout memo finding no evidence of alleged graft.
In the lawsuit, an attorney for Ugo Colombo, a pioneering developer of luxury MIami high-rises, said comments by two opposing attorneys in a recent Daily Business Review article about the bribery assertion damaged Colombo’s reputation and harmed his business.
Colombo and Craig Robins, another big name known for redeveloping Miami’s Design District and Miami Beach’s Art Deco District, have been locked in a decadelong court battle over a $22 million Bombardier Challenger aircraft they once co-owned.
The dispute is rooted in Colombo’s allegation that Robins failed to pay $200,000 for his share of the corporate jet and an around-the-world trip.
In December, Dacra Development Corp., with Robins as president and CEO, filed the bombshell juror bribery lawsuit alleging either Colombo, his CMC Group Inc. or a proxy bribed juror Roderick Brooks in the 2014 trial lost by Dacra.
The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office already investigated the claim filed by Dacra trial attorney Dennis Richard and more than two years ago concluded “no such jury tampering or bribery had occurred,” the lawsuit said.
“Interviews of the jurors did not uncover any evidence of suspicious or illegal conduct by Brooks or any other jurors,” Timothy VanderGiesen, a prosecutor at the state attorney’s public corruption unit, wrote in the closeout memo dated Oct. 17, 2016.
Colombo’s defamation lawsuit filed Wednesday named Richard and Robins as defendants but focused on comments made by Richard and another Dacra attorney, Andrew Berman, who filed Dacra’s December juror bribery lawsuit.
Richard responded Friday by referring a request for comment to Berman, who had no response by deadline.
Attempts to reach Robins on Friday were unsuccessful.
The defamation claim is premised on allegations that Berman and Richard made their statements knowing about the state attorney’s conclusions.
Colombo attorney Jesse Dean-Kluger, who filed the defamation suit, said reviving the juror bribery allegation was “despicable” and “makes a mockery of the legal system.”
Attorneys for Colombo responded to the juror bribery complaint with a motion to strike the pleadings as a “sham.” The motion includes an affidavit signed Jan. 19 by Brooks saying he was never in contact or accepted money from Colombo or a proxy.
The closeout memo said Brooks voluntarily provided financial statements that explained the origin of money he came into have after the trial from an inheritance and loan.
“There is no basis for the lawsuit,” said Thomas Scott, a partner at Cole, Scott & Kissane in Miami, who filed the motion to strike.
Dacra’s attorney remained confident in his case.
“We fully expect to prevail on the motion you reference,” Edward Shohat, a partner at Jones Walker in Miami, said in response to the motion.
The jet, which has since been sold at an auction, was under the shared ownership of Colombo’s CMC Group and Dacra’s CL36 Leasing LLC. A jury in 2014 awarded more than $2 million in damages in favor of Colombo and CMC Group.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Darrin Gayles, now a federal judge, entered an amended final judgment ordering Dacra to pay $550,000 to Colombo and $929,535 to CMC Group and for Robins’ CL36 Leasing to pay $27,908 to CMC Group.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman in 2017 ordered Dacra to pay $1.5 million in attorney fees and costs.