Subpoenas issued in Fla. casino deal

Cordish lawyers seek Trump data

April 11, 2006|By JOHN HOLLAND | JOHN HOLLAND,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL.

Former Seminole Chairman James Billie and two top allies are being subpoenaed for information that could link them to Donald Trump and his ill-fated attempts to build a casino on tribal land.

Lawyers for the Baltimore-based Cordish Co., which built the booming Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Florida Road 7 after Trump passed on the project, have filed court papers seeking Billie's e-mails, address books and records of any payments he may have received from Trump or his representatives between 1996 and 2001.

They hope the documents will help them quash a lawsuit by Trump that could be worth billions of dollars before it ever gets to trial.

In December 2004, Trump sued Cordish and his former employee, Richard Fields, claiming Fields stole Trump's idea for what became the $420 million complex and brought it to Cordish.

Trump said he pulled out of the casino deal only because Fields, a close confidant, convinced him it was not financially viable.

Trump filed the lawsuit in Fort Lauderdale civil court just days before the statute of limitations would have run out, according to his lawyers.

Cordish's lawyers argue that the three-year window actually had expired and the lawsuit should be tossed out. In court filings, they seek e-mails and personal calendars from Trump, Billie and about a dozen employees to prove their point.

Billie's lawyer, Robert Saunooke, called the subpoenas groundless, irrelevant and harassing. He said they are improperly probing more than the time element.

Cordish attorney Scott Marder could not be reached yesterday for comment.

The lawyers want to know whether Billie or former Seminole CEO Tim Cox ever received any money from Trump, something Saunooke said never happened.

Former tribal employee Daniel Wisher has also been subpoenaed.

The lawyers also want any documents Billie has relating to the tribe's controversial Coconut Creek casino deal with Illinois businessman Gary Fears. That contract was ruled illegal by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the tribe eventually stopped honoring the contract and reached a settlement with Fears and his partners.

"Gary Fears had absolutely nothing to do with Hard Rock," Saunooke said.

John Holland writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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