Andrew Gillum, a former contender for governor of Florida, has been charged on federal charges.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has charged Andrew Gillum with soliciting illicit campaign donations between 2016 and 2019 and promising political privileges in exchange for the funds.
He’s accused of breaking the law at the time he ran against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018.
The 26-page indictment, which was made public on Wednesday, says that two undercover FBI agents posed as developers for a company called Southern Pines Development, which was interested in contracts with the City of Tallahassee, where Gillum was mayor before running for governor, and had a series of conversations with them.
According to the indictment, Gillum promised the undercover agents something “extremely important” in exchange for their donations. Adviser Sharon Lettman-Hicks, who is accused of funnelling some of Gillum’s campaign funds to a different firm she owns, P&P Communications, is also charged with 19 charges.
Prior to the federal accusations were made public, a well-known Democrat attorney defending Gillum, Marc Elias, issued a statement disputing the claims.
The administration made a mistake today, Elias said. According to a statement from the prosecutor, “The evidence will reveal that Mr. Gillum is completely innocent of all accusations.”
Gillum, who was hauled into jail early on Wednesday morning, said in a statement released via Elias that he was the target of political persecution.
“Every campaign I’ve run has been done with honesty,” said Gillum. This is not a legal issue; it is a political one, the attorney said.
On Wednesday in Tallahassee federal court, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks both pled not guilty to all allegations.
Two U.S. Marshals with a huge metallic chain were escorting Gillum in a blue business suit and handcuffs. Lettman-Hicks entered and exited the courtroom in a wheelchair while wearing a patterned outfit. A U.S. Magistrate Charles A. Stampelos set a trial date of Aug. 16 for both defendants, who refused to address the accusations throughout the hearing, only responding to procedural pre-trial inquiries.
Daryl Parks, one of Gillum’s closest friends, was among those who showed up for the hearing but refused to speak afterward.
Gillum left the courtroom an hour after the session had completed. As he made his way to a waiting white Chevy Tahoe, he refused to answer any questions.
When he ran for office, Gillum was considered a rising star among Florida’s Democratic politicians. However, he was dogged by allegations of corruption and ultimately lost the election to DeSantis by around 40,000 votes.
Jason Coody, the Joe Biden-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, was first mentioned in an article by NBC News as having been charged in the case.
“Individual B” met with two undercover FBI agents in Nashville in January of 2017, according to the indictment. Specifically, the person requested $25,000 from one undercover agent “in respect to three projects Individual B had suggested” in the City of Tallahassee, while the individual requested $75,000 from the second undercover agent “in relation to three distinct projects.”
During a meeting in Jacksonville, an undercover agent and Gillum agreed to pay the $100,000 campaign contribution request in two $50,000 payments. “Separate in his mind the campaign donations and the Tallahassee projects,” Gillum told an undercover FBI agent during a meeting.
Gillum reportedly offered municipal contracts in exchange for political donations during a meeting with FBI agents that summer, months after Gillum had already launched his gubernatorial run.
According to the indictment, which was obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, “Gillum falsely asserted over the phone that Southern Pines representatives never offered or gave Gillum anything and that Gillum stopped communicating with Southern Pines representatives about the campaign contributions after they tried to link the campaign contributions with support for potential projects in Tallahassee.
Several former Gillum campaign staffers have been examined by the FBI since at least November, according to a former assistant who was interviewed by the FBI on Wednesday. Inquiries into the contributions made by Connecticut-based hedge fund founder and chief investment officer Donald Sussman, a key national Democratic fundraiser, were among the topics covered by the FBI investigation.
An unnamed source said that Sussman was not under investigation for any crime, but rather to demonstrate how his assistance to Gillum was the subject of the investigation. A POLITICO request for comment from a Sussman aide went unanswered.
When authorities discovered him in a Miami Beach hotel room too intoxicated to converse with a man who was suspected of overdosing, Gillum was compelled to resign from politics and the public eye for six months in March 2020. Gillum admitted to drinking too much beer but denied using narcotics, despite the discovery of three suspected crystal meth packages in his vehicle. Gillum was seen lying on the floor, covered in vomit, in the days after the incident.
When asked about his sexual orientation in a six-month follow-up interview on national television, Gillum, a father of three, said he was bisexual and apologised.
The conduct mentioned in the unsealed indictment have been the subject of a federal investigation since at least 2015.
It was Gillum’s acceptance of lobbyist gifts, including a 2016 trip to New York that was included in the indictment, that became the focal point of the inquiry. On the trip, the FBI agents masquerading as developers paid for his hotel stay at the Millennium, as well as dinner, beverages, a boat excursion around New York Harbor, and tickets to the show “Hamilton.”
The Florida Commission on Ethics had issued a $5,000 punishment against Gillum for accepting gifts improperly, but he pleaded guilty to no criminal charges and agreed to pay the fee.
During Gillum’s first court appearance on Wednesday, details of their connection were revealed. Allegedly, Gillum continued to receive a paycheck from Lettman-Hicks, a public relations firm controlled by Lettman-Hicks, even after he notified state election authorities that he had quit in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Lettman-Hicks’ office in Tallahassee served as the first home of Gillum’s campaign headquarters.
Attorney Elizabeth Vallejo, a public defender, defended Lettman-Hicks and claimed that she and Gillum worked for an unnamed charity on behalf of Lettman-Hicks.