Deerfield Beach Commissioner Sylvia Poitier Found Guilty

In the State of Florida versus suspended Deerfield Beach commissioner Sylvia Poitier, a Broward jury has found the embattled commissioner guilty on four counts of falsifying records.

A jury returned the verdict after just over an hour of deliberations Wednesday afternoon.  This followed a partial victory on Tuesday when one misdemeanor count against Poitier was dismissed by Broward County Court Judge Melinda Brown.

“I never, never had a doubt that I’m innocent,” stated Poitier, 76, of Deerfield Beach, in quote reported by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “How that jury could bring back a guilty verdict on me.”

Governor Rick Scott suspended Poitier, a Democrat, in April following an investigation by the Broward Sheriff’s Office and her subsequent arrest on five misdemeanor charges related to conflict of interest forms filed in 2009.

Prosecutors alleged that Poitier failed to reveal that her brother, Lionel Ferguson, had loaned $47,000 to the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association; a loan that was still outstanding when she voted in favor of a $30,000 grant to the group.

The three-day trial began Monday with jury selection and ended early Wednesday with closing arguments.

Poitier had initially pled not guilty to each of the five charges. She now faces up to one year in jail as to each of the four remaining misdemeanor charges.  A jail sentence is unlikely, though, as Poitier has no prior criminal record and a long history of service within the community.

The prosecutor said the verdict sends a message.

“The jury sent a crystal clear message to all elected officials in Broward County that they must be open and honest or there will be consequences,” David Schulson was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Johnny McCray Jr., Poitier’s attorney, told the Sun Sentinel that he would file a request for the verdicts to be thrown out. Otherwise, he would appeal to the Broward County Circuit Court.