On Thursday, a federal jury in Florida granted $63.5 million to two businessmen who claimed that a Miami city commissioner had used his office against them because they had supported the commissioner’s opponent.
Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo has been found civilly responsible in Fort Lauderdale Federal Court for violating the First Amendment Rights of Little Havana Business Owners William Fuller, and Martin Pinilla. Fuller received $8.6 Million in damages , and $25.7 Million in punitive damage from the six-member jury . Pinilla also received $7.3M in damages as well as $21.9M in punitive damage.
Benedict Kuehne said that Carollo and himself were disappointed by the verdict. They plan to appeal. Carollo was not named in the suit, but Miami paid for his legal fees.
Fuller and Pinilla’s attorneys claimed that Carollo violated their right to free speech by using police and code enforcement against them in order to harass and damage their reputations, after they supported a different candidate in Carollo’s 2017 city commission race.
Carollo’s lawyer said that the commissioner was not specifically targeting Fuller or Pinilla, but rather working to improve his district. Carollo was also a two-term Miami mayor.