INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Fourth District Court of Appeal last Friday denied Damien Gilliams’ request to have Circuit Court Judge Michael Linn removed from his criminal case, court records show.
Gilliams, a former Sebastian City Councilmember convicted on charges of violation of the Sunshine Law and perjury, filed a motion on June 14 requesting Linn be removed from his case. Gilliams said he feared he did not receive a fair trial because of prejudice or bias from Linn, noting that Linn’s wife previously worked at the state attorney’s office.
Gilliams and another former councilmember, Pamela Rapp Parris, were both convicted last month on charges stemming from an April 22, 2020 meeting described by prosecutors as illegal. Prosecutors said the public was not notified of the meeting.
City officials said Gilliams, Parris and former Vice-Mayor Charles Mauti met in the chambers and locked the doors behind them before holding the meeting. Mauti later pled no contest and was issued a non-criminal violation of the Sunshine Law after he agreed to work with the state attorney’s office.
A six-person jury found Gilliams guilty on three counts of violation of the Sunshine Law and one count of perjury. Parris was convicted on one count of violation of the Sunshine Law and two counts of perjury.
Gilliams later filed the motion to disqualify Linn, claiming Linn did not reveal that his wife worked at the state attorney’s office, records show. This caused the sentencing for Gilliams and Parris – originally set for June 21 – to be postponed to a date yet to be determined.
Linn denied Gilliams’ request, while prosecutors said Linn’s wife had no connection to the case.
Then, Gilliams submitted a writ appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, court records show. Court officials denied Gilliams’ request with prejudice.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal officials said Gilliams did not allege any basis for Linn to be disqualified from the case. But, court officials also said Linn should have disclosed that his spouse worked as a paralegal specialist at the state attorney’s office from January 2007 through April 2021, which includes a part of the time when charges were pending against Gilliams.
“The fact that the judge conveys this information does not automatically require the judge to be disqualified upon a request by either party, but the issue should be resolved on a case-by-case basis,” the court filing reads.
Linn submitted a court filing on Tuesday notifying the public that his wife worked at the state attorney’s office. In the filing, Linn said his wife had nothing to do with Gilliams’ and Parris’ criminal case.
“She did not work on this case or had knowledge of this case, nor influenced me in any way regarding (Gilliams) in this case,” Linn said in the document. “Had she had anything to do with this case, I would have recused myself.”
Gilliams and Parris both were released May 27 from the Indian River County Jail. Gilliams was released on $225,000 bond while Parris was released on $25,000 bond.
The maximum penalty for each count of violation of the Sunshine Law is 60 days, prosecutors said. The maximum penalty for the perjury charges are one year.
Gilliams and Parris were both due in court July 19 for a motion hearing.