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‘This Case Is Not Legal’: Former Florida Candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum Calls His Campaign Finance Indictment Political Persecution

Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and his adviser are facing a string of federal fraud charges for misusing campaign funds, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Federal prosecutors said the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor and chief executive of the National Black Justice Coalition Sharon Lettman-Hicks have been charged with 19 counts of wire fraud. Gillum was also indicted for making false statements to the FBI.

Gillum said the charges are part of a political scheme against him. Both he and Lettman-Hicks pleaded not guilty to the federal indictment on Wednesday, June 22, and could face up to 20 years in prison.

“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said. “Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal; it is political.”

Andrew Gillum
Democratic candidate for Florida governor Andrew Gillum speaks to students and supporters at Bethune-Cookman University on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

“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.”

The former Tallahassee mayor, who lost the gubernatorial race to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by 0.4 percent in the 2018 election, was once lauded for his presidential potential. Gillum has kept a low public profile, however, since he was found in a meth-filled Miami Beach hotel in 2020 with a male escort and another man who was treated for an overdose. The married father of three later apologized and checked himself into a rehabilitation center for alcoholism.

Federal prosecutors allege that from 2016 to 2019, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks conspired to solicit funds for his political campaign from organizations and coalitions and redirected them for Gillum’s personal use.

The investigation was launched into Gillum in 2015, while he was the mayor of the state’s capital city.

The indictment accuses Gillum of soliciting political contributions, hotel rooms, dinners and tickets to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” from an undercover FBI agent posing as a Florida developer in exchange for his approval for various projects in Tallahassee in 2016. He later lied to the FBI about his relationship with the developer.

Prosecutors allege that Lettman-Hicks made Gillum an “independent contractor” of her communications firm so that they could funnel the money. In one instance, Gillum received $250,000 for his campaign from an unnamed person that was supposed to be allocated to a political action committee. Instead, the pair allegedly diverted $132,000 for their personal use and labeled it as a fee for services rendered by Lettmann-Hicks’ firm. Prosecutors said only $100,000 of the donation was directed to the political action committee.

The indictment also accuses Gillum and his adviser of misusing $60,000 of “Get Out the Vote” money after he lost the election, including dishing $30,000 in “End of Year” bonuses for Gillum.

Gillum’s legal team also claimed his innocence and plans to fight the charges against him.

“The government got it wrong today. The evidence, in this case, is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges,” they said. “We look forward to putting this case to rest and giving Andrew and his family peace of mind once and for all.”

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