- Associated Press - Monday, February 11, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Jim Greer, former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering just before jury selection in his criminal trial got under way on Monday.

Jury selection was set to begin in the morning, but neither Greer nor prosecutors appeared in the courtroom. The only sign of Greer’s presence in the Orange County Courthouse was his wife and infant daughter.

Greer earlier pleaded not guilty to allegations that he funneled almost $200,000 of party money into a company he had formed with his right-hand man.

Greer says that party leaders were aware of the company and that his prosecution was political payback. Sentencing is March 27, and he faces up to 35 years in prison.