Jun 2, 2023 - Politics

Miami commissioner loses free-speech lawsuit, ordered to pay $63M

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 30: Joe Carollo speaks as Armando Christian Perez AKA Pitbull was named the 'Honorary Mayor' pf Little Havana Miami at Domino Park on November 30, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images)

Joe Carollo. Photo: John Parra/Getty Images

Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo was ordered to pay $63.5 million by a Broward County jury in a lawsuit brought by the owners of Little Havana nightclub Ball & Chain, who alleged Carollo harassed them for supporting his political rival.

Why it matters: Taxpayers could be on the hook for the bill.

  • Business owners William Fuller and Martin Pinilla said their case can have "national significance" for others defending themselves from government retaliation, WLRN reported.

Catch up fast: Fuller and Pinilla, who own several popular clubs and restaurants, argued that Carollo "weaponized" city resources to try shutting down their businesses, the Miami Herald reports.

  • They said it was retaliation for organizing a rally for Carollo's opponent during the commissioner's 2017 re-election campaign.

The other side: Carollo's attorneys have argued Fuller and Pinilla did unpermitted work and that the commissioner never directed anyone to target them.

What we're watching: Will Carollo appeal the verdict?

  • City attorney Victoria Méndez told WLRN that he "should exercise" his appellate rights. She declined to say whether the city would cover the damages.

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