Lawyers for Andrew Gillum have asked for a hearing on whether the former Tallahassee mayor and Democratic nominee for Florida governor was targeted by the federal government because of his race.
The request was among a flurry of motions filed in federal court on Election Day, exactly four years after Gillum narrowly lost his gubernatorial bid to Ron DeSantis, who was just re-elected in a landslide.
Gillum’s Miami lawyers, David Markus and Katherine Miller, also asked the court to dismiss charges in the indictment because of a nearly five-year delay in prosecuting him and other grounds, including that he didn’t lie to the FBI during a 2017 interview.
They wrote that Gillum was the target of an “unprecedented” and “aggressive” FBI probe during his bid for governor but the agency did not similarly investigate DeSantis or Sen. Rick Scott during their gubernatorial campaigns.
“The only difference between Gillum and these other candidates is that Gillum is Black,” the defense wrote. “By targeting the Gillum campaign, the FBI caused fear and mistrust in the first viable campaign by an African American to become governor of the state of Florida.”
Defense calls 'Hamilton' and Statue of Liberty outings with undercover agents 'relatively minor matters'
Gillum and his longtime advisor, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, were indicted in June on charges that they schemed to solicit and ultimately pocket donations to his 2018 campaign. Both were charged with one count of conspiracy and 19 counts of wire fraud, with Gillum facing an additional charge of lying to the government.
The FBI began investigating Gillum and others in late 2015, dispatching undercover agents posing as developers who were willing to pay off local officials in return for favors. The probe included a trip to New York in which agents allegedly treated Gillum and others to a performance of “Hamilton,” a boat ride to the Statue of Liberty and hotel rooms.
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Gillum’s lawyers denied that he lied about his interactions with the agents in New York in an interview with the bureau in June 2017, after the covert phase of the probe had apparently ended. They also said the investigation itself became campaign fodder that dimmed Gillum’s chances.
“Ron DeSantis used the FBI probe surrounding the 'Hamilton' ticket as a smear campaign during press interviews and during the gubernatorial debate, which likely cost Gillum votes in an election with razor-thin margins,” his lawyers wrote.
The same FBI investigation led to bribery convictions against City Commissioner and Mayor Scott Maddox, his aide Paige Carter-Smith and businessman John “J.T.” Burnette. Maddox and Carter-Smith were indicted in 2018 and Burnette in 2019, with all three getting federal prison sentences last year.
Gillum’s lawyers said the federal government took far longer to bring charges against their client — a move they called “deliberate and tactical” that puts him at an unfair disadvantage in court. They noted some of the charges were nearing the statute of limitations, something first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat in July.
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“Gillum’s defense now must rely on his ability to reach back five years to recall exactly what transpired between him and the undercover agents, and what he knew, did and said at that time about relatively minor matters like what he knew about who paid for theater tickets,” his lawyers wrote.
Federal prosecutors oppose the motions, though they have not yet filed their responses in court. The motions and others, including requests by Gillum and Lettman-Hicks for separate trials, await rulings from U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor.
Contact Jeff Burlew at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Lawyers for Andrew Gillum say feds targeted him because of race