Defense attorneys in JEA fraud case want more time to review discovery material

Aaron Zahn and Ryan Wannemacher (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Attorneys for former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn and former JEA CFO Ryan Wannemacher filed a motion asking the judge to extend the deadline for motions related to discovery 60 days from August 15 to October 14.

According to the filing, defense attorneys are waiting on a one terabyte hard drive from prosecutors, with an additional 300,000 pages of emails.  These were emails that were inadvertently left out from the batches of emails that were initially handed over to the defense.

READ: Zahn Wannemacher amended motion to extend deadlines

When prosecutors provided the first batch of discovery in March – which included more than 80,000 files – they didn’t include a metadata file that was needed for the defense attorneys to load the files into their discovery software.  They asked for it – and the government provided it.

When defense attorneys got the reports from FBI witness interviews, not all of them included attachments or exhibits referred to in the reports – they asked prosecutors for it, and they gave it to them. 

Prosecutors turned over 2.73 terabytes of data from employee devices that JEA turned over to the government during its investigation – the defense has been trying to figure out what devices this came from and whether they may have to subpoena for additional devices.  Also, the sheer volume of material has required defense attorneys to use a separate discovery system to go through this evidence.

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The court allowed defense attorneys to subpoena three law firms, plus the city’s general counsel and council auditor for evidence. The defense attorneys are now discussing the subpoenas with the law firms – but everything has not yet been handed over, so they may need to file follow-up motions.

Zahn and former JEA Chief Financial Officer Ryan Wannemacher were indicted March 7 on federal charges of conspiracy and wire fraud. They pleaded not guilty.

Lawyers for two former JEA executives said they plan to push for a change of venue and asked for a trial date next year. The lawyers said they would prefer a trial in May 2023 because they have an enormous amount of evidence to comb through. One of the lawyers for Wannemacher said the charges should be dismissed because immunity was granted to him by the city council committee that investigated the JEA sale process.

The case stems from a proposed sale of the city-owned utility and allegations of an attempt to take millions in personal profits through a controversial bonus plan, which would have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.