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Hopes Pleads "Not Guilty"

Through his attorney, the former administrator waived arraignment and requested a jury trial.


BRADENTON — Scott Hopes, a former Manatee County administrator charged with three third-degree felonies, has entered a plea of “not guilty.”

Public records filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller show that through his attorney, Hopes waived his right to a formal arraignment and entered his plea.

Hopes is charged with grand theft greater than $10,000 but less than $20,000, notary fraud, and fraudulent use of public records. He was arrested on Feb. 8.

A waiver of arraignment is a written pleading filed by an attorney on behalf of a criminal defendant. Once entered, the pleading provides that a defendant is not required to physically show up to court for arraignment. Such a pleading signifies that a defendant is aware of the charges against them, pleads not guilty, and requests a jury trial.

The Office of State Attorney Ed Brodsky brought the felony charges against Hopes on Feb. 7, and a probable cause affidavit filed in the case alleges the crimes were committed during Hopes’ time serving as Manatee County Government’s county administrator between 2021 and 2023.

Assistant State Attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit Justin Foster has been assigned as prosecutor in the case.

Hopes has retained attorney Lisa Chittaro to lead his defense. Chittaro spent 15 years as a prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office under Ed Brodsky. In 2020, Chittaro unsuccessfully challenged her former boss in the Republican primary.

On Feb. 16, a motion was filed by the defense requesting Circuit Court Judge Stephen Whyte recuse himself from presiding over the case. According to the motion, Whyte worked in the clerk's Human Resources Department and as general counsel for the county clerk’s office prior to becoming a judge. 

The motion argued that there is an existing conflict of interest because two of the charges Hopes faces "are premised upon an audit conducted by the Manatee County Clerk's Inspector General" and because "high-level employees of the county clerk's office will be testifying" in the case. 

"I have a reasonable and well-founded fear that I cannot receive fair and impartial pretrial hearings or a trial while the Honorable Judge Whyte presides over my case," the motion says. 

Whyte became a judge in 2019 and the crimes Hopes is alleged to have committed took place between 2021 and 2023. Judge Whyte has yet to respond to Hopes' request. 

Chittaro has also filed a “notice of discovery” in the case, seeking records and evidence of the state’s against her client. According to court filings, upcoming hearings or a trial date have not yet been scheduled. 


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  • WTF

    “not guilty.” ... to what?

    In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught.

    In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.

    Hunter S. Thompson

    Thursday, February 22 Report this