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Federal civil trial begins for Joe Carollo, accused of targeting business owners who opposed him

A federal civil trial pitting two business partners against Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo got underway in Fort Lauderdale Monday.

Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla, of popular Little Havana nightclub Ball & Chain, are accusing Carollo of abusing his power to target and harass business owners who opposed him.

Ball & Chain faced numerous police raids and code enforcement violations, its owners said.

The federal lawsuit alleges years of harassment and retaliation, starting with their support of a candidate who ran against him.

Until that 2018 elective dysfunction, the Ball & Chain owners were popular with Miami officials for their city investments, even put on city boards, according to the lawsuit.

After years of increasingly-public ugliness between Fuller, Pinilla and Carollo, jurors will be seeing evidence like text messages from city employees, forwarding Carollo’s requests to check their business addresses for blaring music and illegally parked cars.

The witness list is a who’s who from the city — and on that list are the city’s more recent former police chiefs.

That includes Art Acevedo, who was terminated in a clash with Carollo.

It also features a former city manager who had called it all “a circus.”

In their opening statements, Carollo’s attorney said that it was the business owners who were doing work without permits, and violating codes and that Carollo was doing the right thing by bringing it to the city’s attention.

Carollo himself declined to comment following Monday’s proceedings.

“Once it’s finished, I’ll be happy to,” he said.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

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