Gillum Jury Struggles to Reach Agreement

Gillum Jury Struggles to Reach Agreement

By Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Opening the possibility of a mistrial, jurors in the public-corruption trial of former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said Tuesday they reached a verdict on one count of an indictment but were doubtful they could reach consensus on at least one other count.

Gillum, who also served as Tallahassee mayor, faces charges of lying to federal investigators, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and committing wire fraud. The charges are related to activities between 2016 and 2019, as Gillum rose to national political stardom.

A federal indictment issued last year and later revised accused Gillum and his longtime political mentor, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, of illegally using political contributions to pay Gillum.

Jurors, who began deliberations Friday after two weeks of testimony and arguments, have sent a series of questions to U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor. Winsor has reviewed the questions with prosecutors and lawyers for Gillum and Lettman-Hicks as the jury remained sequestered.

Around noon Tuesday, jurors sent a note essentially saying they had “reached agreement as to one count and not the others” and were “pretty sure they won’t be able to reach agreement to at least one count,” Winsor said.

Mutaqee Akbar, an attorney who represents Lettman-Hicks, asked Winsor to declare a mistrial, suggesting the “hung jury” would not be able to reach a final decision after meeting for “two full days.”

“If they haven’t reached a decision by now …,” Akbar said. David Markus, who represents Gillum, agreed.

But Gary Milligan, an assistant U.S. attorney, disagreed. He pointed out that “a very long trial” had taken place and said the jury should be asked to “continue to deliberate until they reach resolution.”

Winsor raised the possibility of what is known as an “Allen charge,” which involves instructions judges give to hung juries to urge them to reach agreement.

“It’s premature to suggest a mistrial,” the judge said.

According to lawyers associated with the case, the jury has reached a verdict on allegations that Gillum made “false statements” to investigators.

But, the attorneys said, jurors Tuesday morning remained deadlocked about a charge accusing Gillum and Lettman-Hicks of conspiring to commit wire fraud. Because of that, the jury also was unsure how to proceed on 17 counts of committing wire fraud.

The lawyers spoke on the condition that they not be identified while the jury deliberates.

While discussing the jury’s note to the judge, Markus suggested to Winsor that the jury be brought into the courtroom and given answers in person to their question about being unable to reach agreement on charges.

But Winsor, who was appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump, said he would wait to bring the jury back until he gave them an Allen charge, if necessary.

The judge said he would also instruct the jury, “You should take all the time you need.”

The jury left the courthouse at 3:30 p.m. and will begin deliberations again at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The fraud charges stem from payments Gillum received after stepping down from his job at the liberal-advocacy group People for the American Way, where he earned $122,500, in addition to his roughly $70,000 annual salary as mayor.

Allegations of wrongdoing center on contributions from a handful of non-profit organizations to P&P Communications, a company controlled by Lettman-Hicks. The grand-jury indictment issued last year accused Lettman-Hicks of illegally steering campaign-related funds to Gillum for his personal use.

After launching his bid for governor and leaving the People for the American Way job in 2017, Gillum began receiving regular payments from P&P. Federal prosecutors filed a “superseding” indictment last month that dropped two of the initial charges against Gillum and Lettman-Hicks.

The indictment accused the defendants of having “engaged in an ongoing and evolving scheme to defraud by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals through false and fraudulent representations and promises that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose, but instead using third parties to divert a portion of those funds to P&P, which Lettman-Hicks then fraudulently provided to Gillum for his personal use disguised as payroll payments.”

The jury on Monday sent questions to Winsor about the count in the indictment accusing Gillum of making false statements to federal investigators.

The count alleged Gillum made “false, fictitious, and fraudulent” statements to FBI agents when they questioned him at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in a downtown park in 2017. The accusations are related to Gillum’s denial that he took gifts from undercover agents posing as developers during a trip to New York and his assertions about the time he stopped communicating with the undercover agents.

Winsor told lawyers that the jury asked whether they needed to find guilt “as to both” of the false-statement allegations.

“The answer is they do not have to find both,” Winsor said, pointing to instructions given to the jury Friday. The instructions said the jury “must unanimously agree” that at least one statement is false “beyond a reasonable doubt” to find Gillum guilty of that count.

If the jury cannot reach a verdict on the other charges against Gillum and Lettman-Hicks, federal prosecutors have the discretion of seeking a retrial on those charges.

3 Responses to "Gillum Jury Struggles to Reach Agreement"

  1. @ David… agreed. He pulled/played all the right sympathy cards… from the race card to the addict card to the gay card. Add to that what has apparently become SOP in our broken judicial system… Marxicrats and their criminal mobs are not held accountable for their illegal actions.

  2. He will walk. The Student has become the Master, Scott Maddox is sitting in prison wondering: “WTH”?

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