Former Brevard County Clerk of Courts Mitch Needelman Found Incompetent To Stand Trial
By Space Coast Daily // September 23, 2021
Needelman was originally found guilty of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, bid tampering and official misconduct
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Melissa Souto determined that two competency evaluations of 68-year-old Mitch Needelman, former Brevard County Clerk of Courts, indicated that he was unable to participate in his own defense and agreed that he was legally incompetent to stand trial.
This ruling means that the State cannot proceed with the prosecution of Mr. Needelman unless he regains competence within five years of Tuesday’s ruling. Should that not happen, the case must be dismissed.
Based on the information contained in the reports of Dr. Jeffrey Danzinger and Dr. Kathy Oses, Needelman did not require involuntary confinement in a state mental health facility and will undergo treatment as an outpatient. Reports of his participation and progress will be made to the Court, Defense, and State.
In a statement State Attorney Phil Archer said:
“I’m disappointed in this development as it means Mr. Needelman will avoid, at least for now, being held to account for crimes he committed in office and in violation of the public trust. Our criminal justice system should strive to protect the rights of anyone accused of a criminal offense. However, Mr. Needelman continues to be the beneficiary of a very fortunate share of that protection. We will be monitoring his treatment carefully.”
Needelman was found guilty of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, bid tampering and official misconduct in October of 2017, however, allegations of possible juror misconduct surfaced immediately after the conviction.
A subsequent inquiry by the Court confirmed some members of the jury had engaged in inappropriate conduct resulting in Circuit Judge Marlene Alva’s order for a new trial on all charges on March 9, 2018.
Then Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the ruling, conceding the juror conduct did warrant a new trial on the bribery counts, however, the Court exceeded its discretion in ordering a new trial on the counts of bid tampering and official misconduct as there was no evidence those convictions were affected.
The Appellate Court did not agree, upholding the ruling of Circuit Judge Marlene Alva.
The State began preparing to re-try Needelman on all four of the original felony counts, when his attorneys filed a motion to establish his competence to stand trial on March 10, 2020.
Needelman was found guilty of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, bid tampering and official misconduct in October 2017
The Fifth District Court of Appeals issued their Opinion upholding the ruling of Circuit Judge Marlene Alva from March 9, 2018, ordering a new trial for Mitchell Needelman on all charged counts.
Needelman was found guilty of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, bid tampering and official misconduct in October of 2017. However, allegations of possible juror misconduct surfaced immediately after the conviction.
After an inquiry by the Court, it was confirmed some members of the jury had engaged in inappropriate conduct resulting in Judge Alva’s order for a new trial on all charges.
Then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the ruling, conceding the juror conduct did warrant a new trial on the bribery counts.
However, the Court exceeded it’s discretion in ordering a new trial on the counts of bid tampering and official misconduct as there was no evidence those convictions were affected.
The Appellate Court did not agree. The State will now begin preparing to re-try Needelman on all four of the original felony counts. No trial date has been set.
Needelman remains out of custody after he posted a $17,000 bond in March 2018.
CHRONOLOGY OF CORRUPTION
In early 2012, BlueWare CEO Rose Harr met then Brevard County Clerk Needelman, via Matt DuPree, a former lobbyist and business partner of Needelman.
On April 6, 2012, Needelman signed a contract with RoseWare LLC, one of the 10 companies within BlueWare’s “corporate family.” On the day of signing, $100,000 was wired from Brevard County to BlueWare.
On April 18, 2012, former Brevard County Clerk Scott Ellis filed a public records request for any and all contracts between the County Clerk’s office and BlueWare.
On May 3, 2012, Needelman issued an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for a contract to digitize old paper county records which were then being stored in a gymnasium.
This ITN, which was reportedly written by BlueWare itself, allowed only eight days to submit bids, which prevented other firms the time needed to prepare.
Selection of a bid was made only five days later. BlueWare, which had never performed such services for government before, submitted a bid of $8.5 million under the company name BlueGem, Inc.
Despite the short time-frame, the experienced document imaging company FNTI had submitted a bid of $3.5 million.
On May 23, BlueWare was wired an additional $500,000. The contract was signed on June 29, and BlueWare received its first monthly payment of $90,000.
While this was ongoing, Needelman and Ellis were competing for the Republican nomination for County Clerk. One of the major issues in the campaign was the contract Needelman had signed with BlueWare.
It would later emerge that some of the money Needelman had arranged for BlueWare to receive was being diverted to his campaign. The primary was held on August 14, 2012, and Ellis defeated Needelman with 60.8% of the vote.
On August 30, 2012, a former BlueWare employee filed suit against BlueWare and Harr for, among other things, illegal termination.
The suit claims that the employee was terminated in retaliation for threatening to expose Harr’s “improper conduct” with “a certain government official in the State of Florida.” Sometime in the next month, DuPree was hired by BlueWare.
On October 27, 2012, Needelman signed a $6.1 million loan with Hewlett Packard, despite the fact that the County Clerk is not allowed under Florida law to borrow money. On November 8, 2012, Needelman wired $5,690,526 to BlueWare.
On January 8, 2012, Ellis was sworn in as Brevard Country Clerk and continued his investigation into Needelman and BlueWare.
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