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Former lobbyist Adam Corey, FBI agents testify against Andrew Gillum

 Andrew Gillum faces questions from reporters as he leaves the federal courthouse in Tallahassee after pleading not guilty to federal charges
Lydell Rawls
WFSU Public Media
Andrew Gillum faces questions from reporters as he leaves the federal courthouse in Tallahassee after pleading not guilty to federal charges

Witness testimony on the third day of former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum's trial focused on the first count against him: lying to the FBI.

Prosecutors played a secretly recorded tape of two FBI agents interviewing Gillum at Cascades Park near downtown Tallahassee in June 2017.

FBI agent Joshua Doyle was overseeing the investigation. In the recording, he asks Gillum if he’s ever accepted anything from Southern Pines Development Inc., a fictional company that undercover agents used as a shield for their investigation into suspected corruption inside City Hall.

“[Southern Pines] never tried to offer you gifts or give you campaign contributions or anything like that?”

Gillum responded: “No, they did not — they would not have — The only exchange we had was over me asking for their support [for the governor’s race].”

In August 2016, Gillum had accepted tickets to the broadway play Hamilton purchased by the undercover FBI agents, who called themselves "Mike Miller" and "Brian Butler." They also paid for hotel rooms, dinners and a boat ride during Gillum's stay in New York City. Gillum had planned to be in the city for a work event with People for the American Way, his previous employer.

The defense argues if Gillum knew he was being recorded he would’ve been in a different “state of mind,” Markus said. “He would’ve been more careful,” Markus explained to the judge.

On the third day of the trial, the prosecution called three witnesses in addition to undercover agent "Mike Miller." They include: Adam Corey, a former Tallahassee lobbyist and long-time friend of Andrew Gillum, undercover agent "Brian Butler" and special agent Evan Hurley.

Adam Corey and the undercover agents testified about the New York Trip, along with their relationship to one another and the failed attempts to bribe Gillum.

Hurley testified about a conversation he and another agent had with Gillum, during which the former mayor denied receiving any offers or gifts from Miller and Butler.

How did Gillum acquire the Hamilton tickets?

Text message exchanges show Adam Corey arranged to get the tickets from his client “Mike Miller,” an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer.

Miller had planned to take Gillum and Corey to a New York Mets game, but it was canceled due to rain, he testified in court. After that, he bought center-row tickets to the broadway musical Hamilton. Corey told Gillum and his brother Marcus Gillum that they got tickets to Hamilton via text message.

The story about the Hamilton tickets was somehow leaked to the press in October 2018, weeks before the November election when Gillum lost to Gov. Ron DeSantis by less than half a percentage point.

Soon afterward, Gillum was asked about how he got the Hamilton tickets in news interviews on MSNBC and NBC. He said his brother Marcus gave them to him.

Undercover agent "Brian Butler" said Marcus arrived at the show late, after they had arrived, picked up their tickets and were seated.

Butler says he had drinks and appetizers with Andrew Gillum and Adam Corey at the Hard Rock Cafe before they went to the broadway play. The next day, they took a boat trip around New York Harbor.

Corey took the stand after Butler, testifying for the prosecution. During his testimony, he confirmed text message exchanges between him and Andrew Gillum about the tickets.

"Awesome news about Hamilton," Gillum texted in response.

"Perfect, I am stoked to see the show, as well," Corey replied.

Prosecutors say Gillum lied to agents about New York trip

The final witness to take the stand on Wednesday was FBI special agent Evan Hurley, who took over the case at the end of the undercover portion of the investigation in spring 2017.

In June 2017, Hurley and special agent Josh Doyle arrived at Gillum's home at 7:45 a.m. and asked his wife — R Jai Gillum — if she could ask her husband to meet with them at Cascades Park.

She notified Gillum that they'd stopped by to speak with him, and he met them at the park about 15 minutes later.

"I knew at a high level that Hamilton happened," Hurley testified in court. Agents didn't tell Gillum that they knew about the trip when they met with him. They also didn't tell him he was under investigation or being recorded.

Hurley says part of the purpose of the interview in Cascades Park was to "assess Mayor Gillum's credibility to see if he'd tell the truth about what happened."

Agents were also seeking information about others who were under investigation at the time, Hurley explained.

Here's how Gillum, who met with agents without a lawyer, explained his relationship to the undercover agents posing as businessmen: "When I decided to run for governor I asked for their support, they didn't offer it, which was totally fine," Gillum is heard telling the agents. "Their interest was in municipal, city stuff. That was that."

"Did they ever offer you anything or give you anything?" Doyle asked Gillum. "No," he responded.

"I was on a trip to New York, they happened to be there and we hung out around town," Gillum said. "But they didn't offer anything."

Andrew Gillum's trial comes after a 2022 indictment

Gillum — who was once a rising star in Democratic politics — was indicted in June 2022.

The 19-count indictment against him and Sharon Lettman-Hicks, his business associate and mentor, was reissued with fewer charges earlier this year.

They're charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud resulting from an alleged scheme to funnel political contributions through Lettman-Hicks company P&P Communications into their personal bank accounts in the form of salary payments.

The defense claims that the pay they received from P&P was for legitimate work, and Gillum didn't know where the money to fund his salary was coming from.

In the instance that $130,000 came to P&P from Gillum's campaign, the defense argues the money to Lettman-Hicks' firm was to help get out the vote in the weeks leading up to the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary election. They say campaign workers were paid $15 an hour by P&P to help Gillum win the primary.

Investigators say they wouldn't have looked into financial transactions involving P&P if they hadn't begun the bribery investigation into Tallahassee city government. The undercover agents' failed attempts to bribe Gillum resulted in the charge of making false statements to the FBI after he denied receiving gifts or offers from them.

The two have pleaded not guilty and are on trial together.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last three weeks. After that, a 12-member jury will decide whether or not to convict the pair.

This story has been updated.
Copyright 2023 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Valerie Crowder is a freelance reporter based in Panama City, Florida. Before moving to Florida, she covered politics and education for Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina. While at PRE, she was also a fill-in host during All Things Considered. She got her start in public radio at WAER-FM in Syracuse, New York, where she was a part-time reporter, assistant producer and host. She has a B.A. in newspaper online journalism and political science from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting the news, she enjoys reading classic fiction and thrillers, hiking with members of the Florida Trail Association and doing yoga.
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