A former member of the Florida House of Representatives faces significant time behind bars after being found guilty of wire fraud related to his violations of campaign finance laws. Dwayne Taylor was elected in 2008 and spent eight years in Tallahassee before stepping down because of term limits. He was charged with nine counts of wire fraud in March, and he was found guilty in a federal court on Aug. 31. The 49-year-old former legislator faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 16.
Prosecutors claimed during the trial that Taylor submitted phony expense information and used ATM machines to withdraw campaign funds and deposit them into his personal accounts. He is alleged to have stolen more than $60,000 in this manner. The jurors hearing the case were told that Taylor used the money to finance an extravagant lifestyle that featured expensive cars and exclusive restaurants.
Some legal observers believe that Taylor’s conviction will be appealed. Cases involving this type of fraud are often complex and difficult for members of the public to follow, and court records show that a juror was dismissed when the judge noticed that he had fallen asleep during deliberations. The incident has raised questions about possible racial bias in the case as both Taylor and the dismissed juror are black.
This case shows how severe the penalties can be for crimes like fraud, embezzlement and bribery even when the dollar amounts involved are not significant. However, proving such charges beyond all reasonable doubt can be both challenging and expensive for prosecutors. When the evidence against their clients is compelling, experienced criminal defense attorneys may urge prosecutors to avoid the risks and costs of jury trials and possible appeals by entering into plea agreements.