VIERA, Fla. – A judge from Indian River County who has been on the bench for less than a year will try two of the biggest corruption cases Brevard County has seen in years, which have ruptured the political landscape in Palm Bay and beyond.
Michael J. Linn, of the 19th Judicial Circuit in Vero Beach, has been assigned to preside over the Dave Isnardi and Jose Aguiar Palm Bay corruption cases, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady appointed Linn in an order issued Wednesday.
"I think this was done in the abundance of caution," said Michelle Kennedy, spokeswoman for the 18th Judicial Circuit. "It affects the husband of a county commissioner," Kennedy added. "The County Commission is a partial funder of our courts."
Dave Isnardi, former Palm Bay deputy city manager, is the husband of Brevard County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi.
It's unclear at this point whether the case would be tried outside of Brevard County and the 18th Judicial Circuit. Canady's order assigns Linn "to proceed to the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida to hear, conduct, try, and determine the above cause ..."
Todd Brown, spokesman for the State Attorney's office, said, "There are no plans to move this (trial out of Brevard) at this point."
Investigators allege Dave Isnardi and Aguiar planned to either blackmail or bribe two city councilmen to force them to vote for zoning changes that would bolster their future business endeavors. Isnardi and Aguiar wanted to rezone vacant city-owned land on Wingham Drive Southwest, an area called “the Compound,” to allow for a scrap-metal yard they planned, investigators allege. Aguiar would buy the land, and Isnardi was to be a silent partner, according to the arrest affidavits.
Aguiar, 48, was arrested May 10 on two felony counts: racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, each carrying potential penalties of up to 30 years in prison.
Former Deputy City Manager Dave Isnardi, 59, was arrested the same day on allegations of racketeering, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to possess controlled substances, including Oxycodone. The two first-degree felonies carry potential penalties of up to 30 years in prison. The three third-degree felonies Isnardi also faces each carry a potential five-year prison sentence.
Attorneys for both men have entered written pleas of "not guilty."
According to TCPalm.com, the Treasure Coast news site, then-Gov. Rick Scott appointed Linn to the 19th Circuit in July 2018 for a two-year term. But Linn didn’t take his seat on the bench until January, because he had to wait for Circuit Judge Paul Kanarek to retire, TCPalm reported.
According to the 19th Judicial Circuit website, Linn served the Treasure Coast as an Assistant State Attorney from 2005 to 2018 and attended law school at the University of Florida.