After being convicted in August on corruption charges, John “JT” Burnette was sentenced to three years in federal prison and fined $1.25 million last week, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
The Florida businessman, who is married to Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, was convicted of conducting a longtime bribery scheme with former Mayor and City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his business partner, Paige Carter-Smith. Additionally, prosecutors said Burnette used his “power and wealth to corrupt the political process.” During the investigation, Burnette told undercover agents that he had influenced Florida House Rep. Halsey Beshears (R) to insert language into Florida‘s medical cannabis bill containing a controversial barrier to entry “that would benefit both Burnette and the Beshears family,” federal prosecutors said.
That barrier to entry was a rule requiring nurseries to be in business for 30 years before they could apply for a medical cannabis license, which locked out many Black-owned and other small nurseries from participating in Florida’s lucrative medical cannabis market.
Prosecutors had asked for eight years due to the seriousness of the charges, according to the report.
On the witness stand, Burnette distanced himself from the comments, claiming he said what the agents wanted to hear and that they were pushing him to claim responsibility for the 30-year requirement, the Democrat reports.
Trulieve’s board released a statement after the sentencing: “Our thoughts are with [CEO Kim Rivers] at this time. She has done and is doing an outstanding job leading Trulieve and she continues to have our full support.”
Company spokesperson Steve Vancore also maintained that Burnette “had no formal involvement or participation in the formation of Trulieve, Inc.”
Burnette’s attorneys say they will appeal his conviction.
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