A federal judge Wednesday came within a whisker of sending suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi to jail after finding that he violated the terms of his bond and lied to a probation officer about it.
But U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke instead allowed Pizzi to remain free on bail with less than a month before his trial on corruption charges of accepting bribes in exchange for political favors.
“If you keep this up, you will be across the street,” Cooke told Pizzi, referring to the nearby Miami Federal Detention Center. “You will be in jail.”
Cooke took Pizzi to task for sending out two political email blasts to his supporters in April that were also received by potential government witnesses the former mayor was forbidden from contacting before trial. Among the recipients: Miami Lakes town manager Alex Rey, whose administration was described as “corrupt” in Pizzi’s unsigned emails. They referred to an actual Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission’s ruling that found the town’s former public works director violated a conflict of interest law.
Pizzi’s probation officer, who had already put Pizzi on notice for sending out email blasts to no-contact witnesses earlier this year, told federal prosecutors that the former mayor lied when asked if he committed the same bond violation again in April. As a result, the U.S. attorney’s office asked the judge to revoke Pizzi’s $100,000 bond and detain him before his July 8 trial.
“I’m giving you fair warning right now,” Cooke told Pizzi, who was emotionally shaken by the prospect of being sent to jail. “No more, this is it. No emails. You just have to put your gadfly-ness on hold.”
Pizzi, a twice-elected Miami Lakes mayor who described himself as a longtime “gadfly” and “whistle blower,” said he can’t help himself because he’s “the guy who says the emperor has no clothes.”
“I think you’re going to have to let the emperor stand naked without your helping him,” Cooke told Pizzi.
Meantime, the CJA panel is heading to Hutchinson Island today for the annual conference. So it should be pretty quiet around the courthouse today and tomorrow.