STUART — Many of those following this week’s trial in a lawsuit brought by developer Lake Point against famed environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla are wondering who leads Martin County.
The board of county commissioners?
If you believe the Lake Point lawyers, it appears to be Hurchalla.
Through a video montage of scenes from three county commission meetings from 2013, the Lake Point lawyers suggested Commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Fielding and then-Commissioner Anne Scott were blindly following Hurchalla’s advice on how to stop a collaborative deal between Lake Point and the county, a deal that the politicians admitted in a previous lawsuit that they didn’t know much about.
Lake Point lawyer Ethan Loeb showed the jury how Heard even used some of the same verbiage as Hurchalla used in emails sent to Heard’s private address.
Loeb demonstrated through today’s testimony of former National Security Agency contractor John Jorgensen, a digital forensics expert, how Heard copied and pasted parts of Hurchala’s emails to her on Lake Point’s alleged destruction of wetlands, then sent the information to county staff as if it were her own.
The trial is in its fourth day with Lake Point’s witnesses wrapping up their testimonies.
Lake Point’s claim is that Hurchalla conspired with commissioners to sour a lucrative deal for the developer. Hurchalla lobbied the commissioners with claims that the company was destroying wetlands in the western confines of the county, something Lake Point says never happened.
But so far, even Circuit Court Judge William Roby reportedly expressed to Hurchalla and her lawyers his worries that the jury, mostly through demeanor and body language, is siding early with Lake Point.
In a private meeting with the environmentalist yesterday, Roby advised Hurchalla to write an apology to Lake Point in the hope the developer would allow the case to be dismissed.
Huchalla refused and unsuccessfully attempted to have the judge recuse himself.
The trial stems from a larger breach of contract action Lake Point brought against the county and the South Florida Water Management District after losing $22 million when its deal to exploit a rock mine near Lake Okeechobee then use the land to store and purify water for local governments went south.
Lake Point sued the county for violation of public records laws after Heard and Fielding, who are still on the commission, and Scott failed to produce email exchanges with Hurchalla.
The developer won its lawsuit against the county, and Heard, Fielding and Scott were arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of failing to produce public records. Their trials are scheduled for later this year.
Hurchalla was the only defendant who wouldn’t settle.
Lake Point believe she is liable for $4 million of the total it lost.