Politics Uncategorized

Andrew Gillum In Fight For His Life

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Andrew Gillum the first Black candidate for governor in Florida history, who came within a hair of beating Ron DeSantis in 2018, now faces the fight of his life after appearing before a federal judge last week in handcuffs following his arrest by the FBI. He’ll be in court next on August 16.

Gillum and his campaign associate, Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks, were indicted on 20-counts that include conspiracyn and wire fraud, according to a news release from the Department of Justice. Specifically, the two are accused of an alleged scheme to pocket thousands of dollars in campaign contributions that were funneled to Gillum through Lettman-Hicks’ company, P&P Communications.

Gillum faces an additional charge for making false statements to FBI agents. The charges cover alleged crimes that took place during his time as Tallahassee mayor and his run for governor. If convicted on all charges, he could spend up to 45 years in prison.

Andrew Gillum exiting the U.S. courthouse in Tallahassee, Fla., June 22, 2022, after he was released to await his trial on charges of fraud and providing false statements to the FBI.

Pleading not guilty to all charges against him, Gillum was released from jail under the condition that he would report to a probation officer and receive approval before leaving the Northern District of Florida.

The case will be prosecuted by U.S. Assistant Attorneys Stephen Kunz and Andrew Grogan.

“The evidence in this case is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges,” said attorneys Marc Elias and David Oscar Markus in a joint statement. “We look forward to putting this case to rest and giving Andrew and his family peace of mind once and for all.”

Lettman-Hicks, a candidate for Florida’s House District 8, also pleaded not guilty to all 20 charges against her. She filed to run at the beginning of this month and has not yet spoken publicly on how the indictment will impact her candidacy to replace Rep. Ramon Alexander.

In a preemptive strike by Gillum’s attorneys before the indictment was even unsealed, a statement was released in which Gillum stuck by his previous claims of a political witch hunt.

Andrew Gillum during a campaign stop in 2018.

(Instagram @andrewgillum)

“Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity.” Gillum wrote. “Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political. Throughout my career I have always stood up for the people of Florida and have spoken truth to power. There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee. They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”

Gillum may have run away with the 2018 election had his campaign not been hammered with allegations of ethics violations in its final months. They stemmed from his time as mayor for allegedly accepting gifts from Tallahassee entrepreneur Adam Corey and undercover FBI agents posing as developers as part of a federal investigation into corruption.

The former mayor won a surprise victory that year over former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Miami Mayor Phil Levine and others in a crowded primary. Then he lost to DeSantis by just 0.4%, or about 30,000 votes.

Federal prosecutors allege in the indictment that, between 2016 and 2019, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks – one of his closest advisors – solicited and obtained money from people “through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose,” according to a news release. Instead, that money was diverted to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks, and passed on to Gillum “disguised as payroll payments … for his personal use.”

Three of the counts involve Lettman-Hicks sending text messages including needing “to move 250K … ASAP” and that the contributor was “breathing down [her] neck and may demand his money back.”

Orlando attorney John Morgan, who along with his firm gave Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign more than $3 million, had threatened to sue the candidate for the way campaign money was spent.

“At this point nothing about him would surprise me,” Morgan said in an email to the South Florida Sun Sentinel last Wednesday. “He kept my money and others. Millions. He didn’t spend it on the campaign and lost by a whisker. He destroyed the Democratic Party forever in Florida.”

Nearly four years ago, Gillum defeated Graham in the party’s primary election. He campaigned on a progressive platform that prioritized public education, climate change and the environment. He was considered a shining star of the party with a bright future in politics ahead of him