Lawyers in a high-profile South Florida election case had their first skirmish before a judge Tuesday morning.
Earlier this year, prosecutors charged former state senator Frank Artiles and former senate candidate Alex Rodriguez with several felonies related to a scheme to swing a competitive election.
Artiles is accused of recruiting Rodriguez to run for Senate District 37 in 2020, promising to pay him $50,000, but keeping it off required state records.
They both pleaded not guilty.
Artiles’ legal team asked the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami to limit which court records will be publicly available, claiming a lot of the records have nothing to do with the criminal charges.
The discovery documents come from March when law enforcement raided Artiles’ house and issued subpoenas.
"Not only is my client fighting criminal charges, but I’m fighting a narrative to basically effect a jury pool,” said Frank Quintero, Artiles’s attorney, in the Tuesday hearing.
Quintero filed a motion claiming the discovery documents include photos, medical records, and private communications with family and other people who are not connected to the case. All of which may soon be open to the public.
“We have no issue with relevant evidence being submitted or produced,” Quintero said. “But irrelevant material is not evidence as we all know.”
Rodriguez’ attorney William Barzee agreed in front of the court to not release documents until the judge rules on the issue. Barzee had no additional comment to NBC 6.
The state has until Monday to file a written response.
“We are bound by the laws that require us to disclose public information,” prosecutor Tim VanderGiesen told the judge during the hearing. “I don’t know if I really have a dog in that fight so to speak. This is really between the defense and the public. I have the information.”
When asked to respond to Quintero’s specific claims in court, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said they would present their case in the next court hearing.
“As this is an ongoing criminal case, it would be inappropriate to address these matters anywhere but before the presiding court judge. At next Monday’s scheduled hearing, these matters should be fully addressed,” wrote Ed Griffith, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
Rodriguez and Artiles are charged with false swearing, making or accepting political donations over the legal limit, and conspiracy to make a donation over the limit. They could face up to five years in prison.
Alex Rodriguez received more than 6,000 votes in the race for Senate District 37. He shares the last name of the democrat in that race, Jose Javier Rodriguez, who lost reelection to Republican challenger Sen. Ileana Garcia. The race was decided by fewer than 40 votes.
Rodriguez is accused of being one of three candidates recruited to run across the state to siphon votes away from Democratic candidates.
NBC 6 requested the discovery when it becomes available. The judge Tuesday allowed the state to have more time to respond in writing. There is another hearing set next Monday at 9 a.m.