Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Gillum

Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Gillum

By Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Less than two weeks after a mistrial, federal prosecutors on Monday filed a motion to dismiss conspiracy and fraud charges against former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

The move to drop the charges against Gillum, a former Tallahassee mayor, comes after jurors on May 4 acquitted him of lying to federal investigators but were unable to reach a verdict on charges that he and his political mentor, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, bilked political contributors out of money and illegally steered it to Gillum for his personal use.

Monday’s one-sentence motion by prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor to “dismiss the indictment against” Gillum and Lettman-Hicks, as allowed under federal rules.

Gillum’s legal team hailed the move.

“Andrew Gillum had the courage to stand up and say I am innocent. And that is finally being recognized. We want to thank the hard working jury who did their job and explained to the government why it should drop the case. Andrew has endured a lot over the past few years and now can resume his life and public service,” attorneys David Oscar Markus, Margot Moss, Katie Miller and Todd Yoder said in a text message Monday afternoon.

Gillum, a onetime rising star in Democratic politics who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, on Monday tweeted an emoji of two hands clapping, adding, “But God …”

The charges against Gillum came after a lengthy FBI public-corruption probe that also snared Scott Maddox, a former Tallahassee city commissioner and former Florida Democratic Party chairman. Maddox pleaded guilty in 2019 and is serving time in a federal prison. The investigation also netted Maddox’s long-serving aide, Paige Carter-Smith, and prominent businessman J.T. Burnette.

U.S. Attorney Jason Coody’s office did not elaborate on the decision to drop the charges against Gillum and Lettman-Hicks.

But The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported this month that jurors were deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal on 19 charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and committing wire fraud.

Gillum and Lettman-Hicks were indicted last year on charges related to activities that took place between 2016 and 2019, as Gillum’s political stature blossomed.

Gillum catapulted into the national spotlight after winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2018. Gov. Ron DeSantis defeated Gillum by less than 33,000 votes in the general election.

Gillum, who at age 23 was elected in 2003 as Tallahassee’s youngest city commissioner, served on the commission for a decade before getting elected mayor in 2014.

Gillum and Lettman-Hicks were on trial for two weeks before the jury cleared Gillum of lying to investigators and deadlocked on the other charges. During opening arguments April 18, prosecutors laid out a complex set of transactions involving contributions from a handful of non-profit organizations to P&P Communications, a company controlled by Lettman-Hicks. The indictment accused her of illegally steering campaign-related funds to Gillum for his personal use.

Gary Milligan, an assistant U.S. attorney, repeatedly accused Gillum of “attempting to distance himself” from the alleged wrongdoing. “He wants something to happen but doesn’t want to take responsibility for it and he’s separating himself from it,” Milligan argued.

But Gillum’s lawyers argued that prosecutors “put a target” on the Democrat, who was Florida’s first Black gubernatorial nominee.

The charges stemmed 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. After launching his bid for governor and leaving the job in 2017, Gillum began receiving regular payments from P&P, according to the indictment. Prosecutors filed a “superseding” indictment in April 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.”

For about a year after his narrow defeat to DeSantis, Gillum continued to enjoy national fame, working briefly for CNN as a political commentator in 2019.

But he dropped out of the spotlight after a 2020 incident in a South Beach hotel room, where a man reportedly overdosed. Gillum was in the room, and a police report said he was “unable to communicate with officers due to his inebriated state.”

Speaking to reporters outside the federal courthouse after the trial ended May 4, Gillum said he and his family have been “under attack on all sides” for the past seven years.

“They’ve quite literally tried to take everything from us. And the beauty is that in our system, the powers that be don’t always get to decide,” said Gillum, accompanied by his wife R. Jai. “Everyday people like you and me sometimes get our swing at the ball and today the jury took it.”

Gillum has asserted that he was the victim of a political witch hunt, in part because he is Black.

“I just got to believe that, through this all, maybe one of the things that needed to be revealed to me is that this system is in desperate need of reform. And I’ll just say, ‘to be continued,’” he said.

13 Responses to "Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Gillum"

  1. Nicholas Weed AKA DeSantis:

    First, I don’t care about Gillum. I haven’t voted for him. What I care about is that the law enforcement became a big noise producer instead of a substance producer recently. Clinton’s email investigation with nothing at the end. Trump’s Russia probe with nothing at the end. Gillum case with nothing to show for it. I see a trend and it worries me.

    Second, I prefer to be convinced by the facts. For example, the same way I was convinced that Scott Maddox is a crook. Your statement “he is guilty and everyone knows it” is not a fact. It’s only your belief. Which is clearly incorrect because “everybody” (thanks God!) is not equivalent to “everybody in the fanatical MAGA crowd”. The facts were presented at the trial. Here is what I learned:

    1. All payments in question came after Gillum had resigned as a mayor to run for another office in accordance with the law (compare this to a recent one-man exception to the same law for a current Emperor of Florida). At that time, Gillum was a private citizen employed by P&P and getting paid by P&P. Where is a crime?

    2. His P&P payments were reported in his income for IRS as there were no tax charges against him. Where is a crime?

    3. All payments in question came from a single source – billionaire Donald Sussman. There were no taxpayer money, no defrauded old lady who gave her last $20 to a campaign fund. Nothing of this sort. Gillum has met Sussman who knowingly and willfully gave his own money to Gillum’s non-profits as grants. I may be zealous that he gave his money to him and not me but where is a crime?

    4. All non-profits – progressive, conservative or neutral – are about getting money from their donors and spending money on their cause. Including payments to their employees and vendors. Only unicorn believers think they use non-paid volunteers only. Gillum got grants from Sussman and spent part of them on his salary as agreed with the donor. I can relate to this because I also bring multi-million federal grants to Tallahassee, and part of these grants cover a fraction of my salary. Where is a crime?

    I followed the trial closely because of the last point. My disappointment in FBI is not due to a Gillum persona. I don’t like it when they single out somebody for whatever sinister purpose to bring charges for doing what is apparently perfectly legal and done everywhere.

  2. I love how everyone on this site knows better than the jurors who sat through two weeks of testimony. This wasn’t a 6-6 hung jury or anything close; it was 10-2 to acquit. I could care less about Gillum, but what a complete waste of time and money.

  3. Not surprised in the least and saw this coming a mile away. Between the fed prosecution, FBI and fed courts taking so long to bring this thing to trial it was either incompetence or foot dragging to ensure this was the outcome.

    Having personally served on an openly biased jury, I’d like to know what was the racial makeup of the jurors and especially the eight jurors who wrote that letter for the Tallahassee Democrat? I was one of those jurors who had to draw the line in the trial I served. It’s an extremely relevant question in our super charged racial culture of today.

    The prosecution presented a very weak case after all these years. Was that intentional?

    In a sane world, and at a minimum, Gillum would have been arrested, tried and convicted for illegal drug use and solicitation of prostitution. But that’s a badge of honor nowadays in our insane world.

  4. Socrates AKA Gillum

    Only because the nonprofits who gave the money and don’t care that Gillium misused the funds on himself and not his campaign doesn’t mean he’s innocent, he is guilty and everyone knows. He was able to get away with it. They should go back and audit the nonprofits, prosecute them, and shut them down. Just because you have jurors who won’t do the right thing doesn’t mean you’re innocent.

    The next gubernatorial primary there will be Gillum and DAILEY (and neither one will be able to secure the nomination). When it comes down to it they both take campaign contributions meant for taxpayers. DAILEY misuses them on the front end and Gillum misuses them on the back end.

  5. The Prosecutors need to be Dropped. I am shocked that Scott Mattox wasn’t called as a witness for the Prosecutor.

  6. Quoting the indictment “…to defraud by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds … through false and fraudulent representations…”. But FBI was unable to find even a single witness, a single donor to testify that Gillum had defrauded them by “unlawfully soliciting” and “falsely representing”. Not one! Whom did he defraud if there was nobody defrauded? It looks like they realized now that they have nothing for a re-trial.

  7. @Snidely:
    If he runs for Governor, who would be his running mate?
    Hey, maybe Mark Foley could switch parties?

    That story would be a page-turner…so to speak.

  8. By the way, Andy, that God you referred to in your tweet once commanded: “Thou shall not lay down with another man.”

    Just sayin’.

  9. To my friends, everything. To my enemies…the law. This illustrates how f’d up the Country is. I’m old enough to remember when getting bombed on drugs then having group sex with a couple of guys would ruin your political career. Today, it is a prerequisite. Don’t blame me for the shity country you inherit when I am gone. You deserve it.

  10. “only the people of lighter color were found guilty and went to jail”? What planet are you living on? But then you guys think the January 6 insurrectionists were “tourists” and that BLM protesters are the real terrorists. Video evidence says otherwise. Anyway, Gillum was acquitted because they had no case, not because of the color of his skin. When your idol Trump is convicted you will wail like him that he is the victim. Good luck with that.

  11. So.. only the people of lighter color were found guilty and went to jail…. hmmmmmm. Most of this article reads like an “About” page of praise on his soon-to-be campaign website. I hope Dara got paid a consultant fee at least.

    He will announce another gubernatorial run shortly after DeSantis announces his presidential run… write it down

  12. Still playing the victim card and failing to see that he was bestowed grace and mercy so be grateful. I know this is a long shot, but an apology would go a long way. If he truly repents, asks for forgiveness, is thankful for mercy, and looks to the higher power to guide his path maybe there is hope.

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