Early in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Lisa Bright, the former executive director of the city’s community redevelopment agency, the CRA’s lawyer tried to get the trial moved.
His argument? It would be impossible to find jurors who hadn’t heard of then-mayor Jose Rodriguez’ arrest on public corruption charges.
Now the same lawyer is asking Rodriguez’ arrest not be mentioned in court, a motion that would suggest no one on the jury had already heard about it.
In the motion filed Monday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, CRA outside attorney Lyman Reynolds predicted Bright’s lawyers would try to use Rodriguez’ arrest and conviction to cast a shadow on his credibility.
But since Rodriguez had been convicted only of a misdemeanor, Bright cannot under state law “introduce evidence of the guilty plea, adjudication, or incarceration in attempting to impeach Mr. Rodriguez,” Reynolds wrote.
Rodriguez’ plea hearing on April 26, at which he was sentenced to 49 days of house arrest, was prominently reported by print and broadcast media.
In February 2012, Reynolds had cited an “extensive media blitz” after Rodriguez’ arrest a few weeks earlier and asked for a change of venue, arguing there was no way to find enough potential jurors who hadn’t been exposed. The motion was denied.
Bright’s current attorney, Christina Kitterman, declined to comment. Reynolds has a long-standing policy of not commenting on the Bright case.
This month, the sides announced that a fifth attempt at mediation had failed. Trial is set for the fall.
Bright’s lawsuit, filed in 2011, alleges then-Commissioner Rodriguez orchestrated her departure partly in retaliation for her rejecting his sexual advances and for contacting police after, she said, he manhandled her and shouted at her during a 2008 workshop. It also says after Rodriguez was elected mayor in March 2010, he wanted Bright out so he could control the CRA.
Jail records show Rodriguez’ house arrest, reduced by standard state formulas, ended at 7:30 a.m. Sunday