CORAL GABLES, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A Florida mother and local politician who spent more than a year in a federal prison has finally found justice after a federal court nullified her conviction.
Vicki Lopez Lukis, a former Lee County Commissioner served 15 months in prison after she was convicted in 1997 under the federal “honest services” fraud statute. In a rare decision, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida vacated her conviction last week ruling the trial court acted without legal authority.
"This has been a long and painful journey, and I am relieved to finally restore honor and dignity to my good name, to my family and to my friends who always stood with me," Lukis said.
Lukis, then Vicki Lopez Wolfe, was elected to the Lee County Commission in November 1990. During her tenure, she dated Sylvester Lukis, a prominent Washington D.C. lobbyist who represented clients before the county board. Lukis resigned from office in 1993 and the two married in 1994.
A year later, Vicki and Sylvester Lukis were each charged with one count of honest services mail fraud, one count of bribery and eight counts of using a facility in interstate commerce to commit bribery.
During their trial, jurors cleared Sylvester Lukis of all counts and found Vicki Lukis not guilty of all counts except one: honest services mail fraud. Vicki Lukis had denied her relationship in a written response to a reporter’s question in an attempt to keep her personal life private.
Sentenced to 27 months in federal prison, the ex-commissioner served more than 15 months before President Clinton commuted her sentence in November 2000.
"Mrs. Lukis' conviction and her subsequent time in federal prison is the most unfortunate and unfair outcome I have ever experienced in my 44 years of criminal defense work throughout the United States," said Lukis’ lawyer Thomas Green, of the Sidley Austin law firm.
The U. S. Supreme Court recently ruled in an unrelated case that honest services fraud applies only in cases where bribery or kickbacks are involved, confirming Lukis' long-argued interpretation. That ruling, in turn, prompted the District Court in Fort Myers to review Lukis' case, and to conclude that her actions were not a crime under the law and that she was wrongfully accused and convicted for a non-existent crime.
"I am very pleased with the court's decision and feel totally vindicated," Lukis said.
Legal documents relating to Lukis’ case can be found at vickilukis.com.
Following her release from prison, Vicki Lukis has dedicated herself to criminal justice reform. She serves as a consultant to The Pew Charitable Trusts specifically the Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project. She also serves as the vice chairman of the Florida Department of Corrections' Reentry Advisory Council and is a board member of Florida's Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE). She also served as the chairman of then-Governor Jeb Bush's Ex-Offender Task Force and is the former executive director of Miami-based Girls Advocacy Project (GAP), Inc. Her extensive work with female offenders has drawn international attention. Lukis is a frequent speaker and lecturer on topics involving criminal and juvenile justice. For more, read Vicki Lukis' blog at vickilukis.com.