UPDATED, April 10, 4:10 p.m.: The latest allegations in a decade-long war between two of Miami’s top developers over a shared private jet didn’t fly with a Miami judge.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman ruled that the standard of evidence was not met in a claim by Craig Robins’ Dacra Development that Ugo Colombo and his CMC Group bribed a member of a jury — including promising a luxury condo — tied to their dispute over the $22 million private jet.
In a 20-page ruling following a three-day trial, Judge Hanzman called the allegations of jury tampering and bribery “bereft of evidence” and “completely implausible.”
Hanzman said the case was “an ill-fated (and very expensive) voyage taken as part of an ongoing war that will likely continue to be waged for years, if not decades, to come. While the court has no ability to end that war, it can (and will) bring this particular battle ‘in for a landing.’”
The ruling is tied to a suit filed in December. Five years after losing a case over the private jet, Dacra sued Colombo and CMC Group, alleging the 2014 jury verdicts in favor of Colombo were “corruptly secured.” The suit claimed that Colombo and CMC tampered with and bribed one of the jurors, constituting fraud. Dacra was ordered to pay a total of $3 million, including $1.5 million for Colombo’s attorney’s fees. Robins’ CL36 Leasing LLC also was ordered to pay about $28,000.
The suit alleged that the juror was contacted by Colombo or CMC employees during the 2014 trial, and accepted the bribe. According to the suit, the juror was offered an unspecified cash payment and the promise of a condo in a high-rise project Columbo was building — valued as high as $1 million — if he guaranteed that Colombo and CMC would win the case. At the time, Colombo was developing Brickell Flatiron, a 64-story, 549-unit condo tower at 1001 South Miami Avenue, which has since been completed.
The lawsuit claimed the juror needed a loan to purchase a $6,000 car before the trial, but three weeks after it ended, paid nearly $27,000 in cash to purchase a used truck. The suit asked the court to vacate the $3 million in judgments against Dacra and require Colombo and CMC to repay any money received, as well as require them to pay attorney fees and award Dacra damages, fees, and costs.
In January, a few weeks after that suit was filed, Colombo sued Robins for defamation. He alleged that Dacra’s suit against Colombo and CMC Group claiming jury tampering and bribery caused “serious damage to Colombo.” That lawsuit was tossed out by a judge.
The litigation dates back to 2010, when Dacra and CL36 Leasing filed suit against Colombo and CMC Group, alleging that Colombo had agreed to buy half of his $22 million Bombardier Challenger corporate jet, but failed to do so. Colombo countersued, alleging Dacra failed to pay its share of the plane’s maintenance and purposely caused a default on a loan used to buy the aircraft.
In 2014, a Miami-Dade jury awarded Colombo $2 million stemming from his legal fight with Dacra. That amount was reduced to $1.5 million later that year. Dacra appealed the jury verdict to the Third District Court of Appeals, but the court affirmed the verdict in 2016. Colombo and CMC then filed motions for attorney’s fees, resulting in the additional $1.5 million judgment in 2017.
In Hanzman’s ruling issued last week, he said the allegations that Colombo would bribe or attempt to bribe a jury “defies logic and common sense.” He added, “the claim that Colombo would risk his reputation, his family’s well-being, and his liberty by bribing (or attempting to bribe) a juror strains credulity.”
“Time is precious, these combatants are not getting any younger, and while both Robins and Colombo are men of substantial means who can certainly afford to litigate to their heart’s content, it appears that the only ones benefiting from this ‘Hatfield-McCoy’ feud are their lawyers,” Hanzman wrote. ”The court strongly encourages these gentlemen to put their personal animus aside and amicably resolve their remaining grievances. But if they want to continue to waste their time and money, and enrich their counsel, so be it. People have a constitutional right of ‘access to courts’ — a right both Robins and Colombo have clearly ‘over-exercised.’”