Former Expressway Authority member in court just ahead of corruption trial

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Former Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority board member Scott Batterson was in court Thursday, just two and a half weeks before he goes to trial on corruption charges.
 
Batterson would not talk with Channel 9's Kathi Belich after the hearing, but in court he told the judge he did not use his position as a board member of the Expressway Authority to gain benefit for his friends.
 
If he is convicted on the charges currently filed against him he faces up to three and a half years in prison.
 
"Mr. Batterson, do you understand the final best plea offer?" Judge Jenifer Davis asked Batterson in court.
 
"Yes," he replied.
 
Batterson, indicted on bribery charges in April, is accused of being a corrupt public servant. Prosecutors said he used his position on the Expressway Authority board to broker deals for his friends.
 
In court Thursday state prosecutors said they will insist on prison time for Batterson if he is found guilty, or if he were to accept a plea offer.
 
"The maximum is 30 years in prison, but based on the score sheet that we have on the two counts, it looks like the lowest permissible is 42 months," said prosecutor Rich Wallsh.
 
Davis told Batterson that Thursday would be his last chance to delay his July 28 trial, or accept a plea offer.
 
"Is that a plea offer that your wish is to accept?" Davis asked Batterson.
 
"No, I cannot accept," he responded. "I'm not guilty."
 
Batterson is also charged with violating public meeting laws with fellow board member Marco Pena, former State Rep. Chris Dorworth and Dorworth's girlfriend, Rebekah Hammond, who worked for the Florida Department of Transportation.
 
They are accused of secretly plotting a takeover of the toll agency.
 
Records show Pena told investigators that Batterson helped pressure him from the start to approve a $32 million deal with developer Jim Palmer for land the toll agency said is worth $12 million.
    
Belich learned on Thursday that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said the toll agency is taking Palmer to court over the deal.
 
In June Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that created the Central Florida Expressway Authority, which took over the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority