A judge has set the date — May 9 — for suspended Boynton Beach mayor José Rodriguez’ trial on three political corruption charges.
Rodriguez, 50, was suspended from office Jan. 27, 2012, one day after his arrest on charges he pressured the city’s police chief and interim manager to stop an investigation into allegations he abused his then-11-year-old stepdaughter.
Investigators declared the abuse allegations unfounded, but Rodriguez was charged with misusing his power as mayor.
Rodriguez’s trial was set for July 2012, then delayed to October.
On Oct. 2, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Charles E. Burton tossed out one of four corruption counts, the one that alleged Rodriguez resisted, obstructed or opposed a law enforcement officer.
But Burton refused to dismiss the other three counts, including the one that accuses Rodriguez of breaking the county ethics ordinance’s ban on “corrupt misuse of official position.”
Rodriguez’s lawyers had challenged the ethics ordinance as unconstitutionally vague. They argued the ordinance could not carry criminal penalties and so a criminal court did not have jurisdiction over it.
The lawyers then turned to the 4th District Court of Appeal to order Burton to dismiss the ethics charge, the first ever filed against someone under Palm Beach County’s ethics ordinance.
On Oct. 19, just six days before trial was about to start, the court agreed to consider the appeal, thus freezing the case.
In January, the three-judge appeals court panel said Burton could rule on the charge and that Rodriguez lawyers always had the option, in a conviction, of appealing.
At a status hearing on Tuesday, Burton said the first case would take a week or more. He also reminded lawyers for both Rodriguez — who did not attend — and the state to have questionnaires ready to ask potential jurors if they’ve heard of the case.
Rodriguez also was arrested July 16, 2012, in a separate case in which prosecutors charged he defrauded a bank when he did a “short sale” of a Palm Beach condominium but actually sold it to a relative and, in effect, back to himself. That case has been on hold while the corruption case is resolved.
Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty in both cases.
On Tuesday, assistant state Attorney Daniel Funk asked that the bank fraud case be tried first. But Rodriguez attorney Jason Weiss said he wasn’t ready. Burton said the date for second case will be set after the first case is resolved.