Updated:ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —
A jury is being chosen Monday for the bribery trial of former Expressway Authority board member Scott Batterson.
Batterson is accused of offering a $5 million toll agency contract to a vendor as long as the vendor hired subcontractors Batterson wanted. He was indicted earlier this year by a grand jury.
Channel 9 was the first to uncover emails, where Batterson arranged secret business meetings.
Publicity is going to be a major issue in seating a jury. The defense has already talked about its concerns in court; about how people in central Florida have an anti-government sentiment and could just assume Batterson is guilty based on the agency's history of corruption.
Several potential jurors said they had heard of Batterson, and several said they had heard specifically about the case.
Batterson started out the day looking relaxed and even managed to smile with his attorney but his mood likely changed when he heard what two prospective jurors had to say about him, according to Channel 9's Kathi Belich.
One potential juror said he would demand that Batterson prove he didn't bribe a toll agency vendor.
"I have to be honest with you. Right now, in my mind, he's guilty to be proven innocent," said the potential juror.
Another potential juror said he's lived in central Florida for 30 years and his opinion of the Expressway Authority isn’t good.
"I wouldn't say it's a clean organization from what I've seen," the man said.
"Would that affect you hear in this case with the charges against Mr. Batterson?" asled Judge Jenifer Davis.
"I'd like to say it wouldn't but it probably would," the potential juror said.
The defense was concerned going into trial about people having strong opinions against the
Expressway Authority and against Batterson but the majority of people called on Monday said they didn't know much, if anything, about the case and said they had no opinion about Batterson's innocence or guilt.
Batterson has maintained that he's not guilty. The trial is expected to last all week.
If convicted, Batterson could face 15 years in state prison for each count. The state has said it would push for prison time.