Alleged extortionist Shahid Freeman wants prosecutor off his case

MBOYNTON BEACH-050703 NPB F[2]A hearing will continue Wednesday in the case of a self-proclaimed community activist accused of trying to extort a former Palm Beach County schools chief.

Jury selection is expected for begin Friday in Clarence Shahid Freeman’s case, but that will only happen if Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley rejects Freeman’s quest to get the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office disqualified from the case.

Freeman says that the county’s top prosecutor, Dave Aronberg, has pursued the case against him for political reasons tied to a prior Florida Bar complaint filed against him in a case where he worked with a group of Brazilian immigrants.

After that complaint was dismissed, defense attorney Charles White said, Freeman went to then-Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Wayne Gent and showed him an anonymous letter whose writer accused Gent of having sexual liasons with subordinates at the school district.

Freeman allegedly told Gent he would keep the letter private if Gent would push a settlement of a dispute with a schools employee and use $895,000 in district dollar for a reading program Freeman created.

“There were ulterior motives for this prosecution,” White told Kelley Wednesday. “I believe investigating Mr. Freeman was optional…there were a number of ways that they could handle it, but they chose quite frankly and unprecedented step.”

That step, White said, was for investigators to outfit Gent with a recording device, which prosecutors say caught the entire alleged crime on audio.


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