Schools officials, past and present, have made up all of Clarence “Shahid” Freeman’s defense so far Thursday in a trial where he is accused of trying to extort former Palm Beach County Schools Chief Wayne Gent of nearly $1 million to keep quiet an anonymous letter full of sexual misconduct claims against him.
Freeman, a Democratic Party operative and community leader at the time of the alleged 2013 extortion, faces up to 30 years in prison if jurors convict him of one count each of extortion or threats and unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior.
Prosecutors rested their case earlier than expected Wednesday after just two days of testimony.
Defense Attorney Charles White on Thursday morning called to the witness stand former schools Superintendent Art Johnson and current school board member Marcia Andrews. After the lunch break, jurors are expected to hear from several more defense witnesses, including Brantley Sisnett, the schools employee for which Freeman asked Gent for a $895,000 settlement in exchange for making the sexual misconduct claims go away. Part of the money, Freeman later told Gent, was to go to Gent’s accuser.
Neither investigators nor prosecutors have ever been able to track down the identity of the alleged accuser, whose name Freeman has never revealed.
In a series of recorded conversations, Freeman also asked Gent to move a charter school and implement a reading program Freeman developed in exchange for making the allegations go away.
Follow the Palm Beach Post’s live coverage of the trial at http://www.palmbeachpost.com/freemantrial