Jurors will begin deliberating Thursday morning over the fate of former Broward School Board member Stephanie Kraft, who is accused of using her position to help win approval for a Tamarac housing project that hired her husband as a consultant in 2007.
Kraft, who served on the board from 1998 until 2010, knew that the development, pitched by developers Bruce and Shawn Chait, posed a conflict of interest for her, prosecutor Catherine Maus told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday. But instead of notifying fellow board members and keeping a safe distance from the issue, she made sure it was fast tracked for approval and conveniently left the dais while other members approved it without debate, Maus said.
According to trial testimony, the Chaits hired Mitchell Kraft as a consultant specifically because he was married to a School Board member. The Chaits wanted and won a $500,000 break on fees they would have had to pay the district to offset their development’s impact on local schools.
In return, Mitchell Kraft was paid $10,000, according to prosecutors.
The fee break was later rescinded, and the development was never built.
Stephanie Kraft was charged with unlawful compensation, bribery, conspiracy and official misconduct. Her husband, who is facing related charges, will be tried separately.
Defensel lawyer Ken Padowitz said prosecutors are relying too heavily on the Chaits, who he said should have been charged with more than 100 criminal acts but instead entered into a plea deal with prosecutors that encouraged them to lie about his client. “Bruce and Shawn Chait are the stench in this courtroom, and I know I’m not the only one who smelled it,” Padowitz said.
Bruce Chait was convicted of one count of unlawful compensation and was sentenced to four years of probation. Shawn Chait, his son, also served a probation sentence and will emerge without a criminal record if he continues cooperating with prosecutors.
Accusations from the Chaits led to the political downfall of former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion and former Tamarac City Commissioner Patricia Atkins-Grad. Former Tamarac Mayor Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco is also facing charges stemming from accusations leveled by the Chaits.