Thursday, July 28, 2005

Tragic End for Art Teele

From the Miami Herald:

Former Miami City Commissioner Arthur E. Teele Jr. fatally shot himself in the head in the lobby of The Miami Herald building this evening, four days after being arraigned on 26 counts of federal mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

Teele walked into The Herald lobby shortly before 6 p.m., pulled a gun from a book bag, shook the security guard’s hand and asked him to relay a message.

“He said to tell [Herald columnist Jim] DeFede to tell his wife he loves her,” said Felix Nazco, 35, the security guard.

He then stood with the gun to his head until Miami police arrived, when he shot himself. A Miami fire-rescue spokesman said Teele had two bullet holes in the back of his head, and a police source told The Herald he was declared dead at 7:50 p.m. at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.

No one else was injured.

[…]

Teele, 59, faced federal charges of defrauding Miami-Dade County by helping a major electrical contractor use a small Miami front company to win airport contracts worth about $20 million. He received more than $59,000 for helping to organize the scheme, according to the federal indictment.

If convicted, he faced possible prison terms of 10 to 20 years on each of the 26 federal counts. He pleaded not guilty at Friday’s arraignment, and his lawyer, David Garvin, called the charges “a joke.”

Teele, removed last year from his City Commission seat by Gov. Jeb Bush, was convicted in March of threatening a police officer. He had been freed on bond and was on probation.

Teele walked into The Herald dressed in dark suit, light blue shirt and crimson tie.

Once a powerhouse politician in Miami and Miami-Dade, Teele was already facing corruption charges in state court for allegedly taking kickbacks from a contractor in Overtown neighborhoods targeted for revitalization.

A lengthy cover story that consumes much of tomorrow’s edition of Miami New Times accuses Teele of being involved with drug traffic, bribery, extortion and sex with multiple mistresses and male prostitutes.

Reporter Francisco Alvarado, who wrote the story, said it was primarily a compilation of prior media reports and new information revealed during discovery for Teele’s trial.

“It’s just a surreal coincidence that he did this on the day my article came out,” said Alvarado. “I really feel bad; I would never want anyone to harm themselves over something I wrote, but at the end of the day, I was just doing my job.”

I hold him and his family in the Light.