After two years, seven continuances and three special prosecutors, a felony embezzlement charge against Williamsburg Planning Commission Chairman Demetrios Florakis was dropped in Williamsburg/James City County Circuit Court on Friday.
The charge was nolle prossed meaning prosecutors agree not to pursue it further unless new evidence is found.
Florakis was accused of fraudulently using cabinets, flooring and household fittings intended for the City Lofts Project for an independent construction project, according to documents from Williamsburg/James City County Circuit Court.
He was indicted by a grand jury on one count of felony embezzlement on Jan. 15, 2014 — nearly nine months after his business partners, Don and Elaine Garber, reported to police that Florakis was using materials that didn’t belong to him for a construction project on Scotland Street, court documents state.
Florakis was also appointed chairman of the Williamsburg Planning commission that day — a role he has continued to serve in even after his arrest on Jan. 30, 2014.
A jury trial was set for Dec. 9, 2015 in Williamsburg/James City County Circuit Court. It was continued for review until Jan. 4 because Florakis’ attorney, Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment was unavailable, according to the Virginia Courts Case Information website.
“The Commonwealth doesn’t think we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt because of what the evidence indicates,” King William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Kite said.
Kite said he was unsure why he thought he was ready for a December trial when pressed by the Gazette about agreeing to the nolle prosse.
Kite was assigned the case after Williamsburg-James City County Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green recused himself on Sept. 29, 2014, court documents state.
Green removed himself from the case after a dispute with Patricia Nagel, defense attorney for Florakis’ co-defendant James Clayton Jenkins. The dispute was over a taped recording between Jenkins and Williamsburg Police Department investigator, according to court documents.
Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell was the case’s second special prosecutor, but he was removed because Sheree Konstantinou, a deputy commonwealth’s attorney in Bell’s office, is married to Florakis’ first cousin, court documents state.
Norment’s position from the beginning of the case was that it was a civil issue between business partners instead of a criminal case.
That position was strengthened after Norment subpoenaed the Garbers and discovered an action item list he believes the couple wrote that stated, “Can we get buyout leverage if we go to the cops?”
The list also included an item that indicated the Garbers planned to “sic” the IRS on Florakis, Norment said.
“It’s absolutely not true,” Elaine Garber said of the action item list during a conversation with the Virginia Gazette on Friday.
Florakis also had a Class A contractor license for the project, meaning he had unilateral authority to make decisions that equaled $10,000 or less, Norment said.
“Mr. Florakis has been an extraordinary citizen in Williamsburg and has been a dedicated public servant as chairman of the Planning Commission,” Norment said. “This frivolous case has been an embarrassment.”
The case against Jenkins, an assistant working on both construction projects, was also nolle prossed in Williamsburg/James City County Circuit Court on Friday.
Jenkins was charged with grand larceny for allegedly transporting the materials from the City Lofts Project to Scotland Street on April 28, 2013, court documents
Jenkins was charged with grand larceny for allegedly transporting the materials from the City Lofts Project to Scotland Street on April 28, 2013.
Mayfield can be reached at 757-298-5828.