| Florida Times-Union
Lake City’s former state attorney has been indicted for conspiracy, extortion, bribery, fraud and tax crimes involving deals to settle court cases in Florida’s 3rd Judicial Circuit.
Jeff Siegmeister, 52, was arrested Friday in Arizona on charges mostly rooted in his conduct as the elected prosecutor from 2013 to 2019 for the sprawling rural district covering Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties.
M. Michael O’Steen, 41, a Dixie County attorney, was also indicted on conspiracy and extortion charges and pleaded not guilty Friday in Jacksonville’s federal court.
The two were accused of a set of crimes that included arranging payments in 2017 and 2018 to close criminal cases, including an attempted murder prosecution.
“I need $75,000 and everything goes away and you pay the money,” the indictment quotes O’Steen telling an unnamed client whom Siegmeister’s office charged with keeping a gambling house, a felony.
The client ultimately paid $60,000, the indictment said.
The attorneys were charged in a 12-count indictment, with Seigmeister named in 11 counts and O’Steen in four. Both could face prison sentences lasting decades.
The indictment charges that Siegmeister, who raised bulls as a side pursuit, discussed selling some of his herd when O’Steen contacted him on behalf of a man charged with attempted murder, arson and violating a domestic violence injunction.
“When Are you and [V.] and [S.] and [M.] and everybody else going to buy one of my registered bulls?” it said the prosecutor texted the defense lawyer the morning after O’Steen texted Siegmeister, seeking lenience for his client.
When the two attorneys negotiated a plea several months later that dropped the attempted murder charge, Siegmeister texted the defense lawyer a photo of four of his bulls later that day, the indictment said.
The indictment also charges that Siegmeister agreed with another attorney representing the manager of a tractor dealership charged in two drunk-driving cases that he’d reduce both charges in exchange for a $20,000 discount on a tractor and accessories Siegmeister’s wife bought.
That attorney, Ernest Maloney Page IV, pled guilty in September to conspiracy to commit bribery and agreed to have his law license permanently revoked.
Page’s plea agreement recounted that he told FBI agents his client “obviously bribed a damn official,” identified in the agreement as J.S.
The indictment also accused Siegmeister of three counts of wire fraud for orders he issued after a wealthy octogenarian’s death that, prosecutors said, were meant to “divert the assets of L.T.’s estate to himself and his relative.” L.T. has been identified elsewhere as Leonard Whitman Thomas, who died in 2015, several years after Siegmeister completed an application to become the guardian of the old man with shares of Coca-Cola stock valued at $664,751.
The indictment says Siegmeister bought things for himself with Thomas’s assets and put false asset and expense information in filings to probate court about the estate.
Siegmeister was also charged with three counts of filing false tax returns for 2015 through 2017.
He’s scheduled to make a first appearance Monday in federal court in Flagstaff, Ariz., the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.