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Andrew Gillum, former Florida gubernatorial candidate, indicted on wire fraud charges

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Gillum pleaded not responsible throughout a short look at america Courthouse in Tallahassee. A trial date was set for August 16.

A 26-page grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday alleges Gillum and a longtime affiliate, Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks, engaged in a years-long scheme to show political donations and grant funds into private revenue. In keeping with a Division of Justice information launch, the 2 obtained funds via “false and fraudulent guarantees and representations that the funds can be used for a reputable function.”

Gillum can be accused of mendacity to the FBI throughout an investigation into corruption inside Tallahassee Metropolis Corridor, the place Gillum served as mayor, and is accused of promising political favors to those that financially supported him.

Gillum, 42, and Lettman-Hicks, 53, face 21 expenses, based on the information launch. Making a false assertion carries a jail sentence of as much as 5 years, whereas the utmost jail time period for wire fraud and conspiracy expenses are every 20 years.

In a press release launched earlier than the federal government introduced the costs, Gillum declared his innocence and recommended the case towards him was political.

“I’ve spent the final 20 years of my life in public service and proceed to struggle for the folks,” Gillum mentioned. “Each marketing campaign I’ve run has been completed with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is just not authorized, it’s political. All through my profession I’ve all the time stood up for the folks of Florida and have spoken reality to energy.”

Gillum is a former CNN political commentator.

A joint assertion from Marc Elias, a distinguished elections legal professional, and David Oscar Markus, a Miami legal protection lawyer, mentioned, “The federal government bought it unsuitable as we speak.”

The indictment is the newest downturn within the descent of somebody who was as soon as one of many Democratic Social gathering’s quickest rising politicians. Gillum rose to nationwide prominence in 2018 as the primary Black nominee for governor in Florida historical past, however spiraled after shedding to Republican Ron DeSantis that November by lower than 33,000 votes. His star crashed in March 2020, when police responding to a potential overdose name said they found Gillum in a Miami lodge room with a baggie of crystal meth and a collapsed companion. Gillum later entered rehab.
DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw wrote on Twitter Tuesday: “Thirty thousand votes… In a state of greater than 21 million folks. DeSantis gained by 0.4% That is what saved Florida. Your vote issues.”

The allegations within the indictment span Gillum’s rise as Tallahassee mayor via his marketing campaign for governor and his political work after his defeat. In keeping with the indictment, beginning in 2016, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks repeatedly used entities one or the opposite managed to solicit donations that may later go towards private use.

On a number of events, cash donated to these entities discovered its solution to a media consulting firm owned by Lettman-Hicks, which she “then fraudulently supplied to Gillum for his private use disguised as payroll funds,” based on the indictment.

In a single instance, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks allegedly steered a $250,000 marketing campaign contribution right into a separate 501(c)4 group “managed by an acquaintance whom Gillum and Lettman-Hicks might management.” They then tried to hide the fraud, together with by submitting fraudulent paperwork, the indictment says.

“It is like a Greek tragedy,” mentioned John Morgan, an Orlando trial lawyer who donated to Gillum’s 2018 marketing campaign. “Andrew Gillum has single handedly destroyed the Democratic Social gathering in Florida for the foreseeable future. And that is his legacy.”

Lettman-Hicks is listed because the CEO of the Nationwide Black Justice Coalition, a LGBTQ advocacy group, and is a candidate for state consultant. She has been described as a mentor to Gillum and the 2 have labored intently collectively since Gillum’s first marketing campaign for Tallahassee metropolis commissioner 20 years in the past. In 2019, Gillum began a brand new enterprise, CJD Group, LLC. Lettman-Hicks was listed on the corporate’s registration paperwork filed with the state.

Questions on their working relationship first sprung up throughout his marketing campaign for governor. Gillum listed work for Lettman-Hicks on state monetary disclosure paperwork however declined to explain his function along with her firm. On the identical time, Gillum’s marketing campaign rented workplace house from Lettman-Hicks’ group.

After Gillum’s defeat, as he grew to become the face of Florida Democrats and led a brand new effort to register voters within the state, Lettman-Hicks gained a distinguished place within the state Democratic Social gathering. At one level, she was the social gathering’s highest-paid worker this yr, based on marketing campaign finance information.

In 2019, a leaked federal grand jury subpoena first recommended investigators had been reviewing the ties between Gillum and Lettman-Hicks. The subpoena, first reported by the Tampa Bay Occasions, requested an affiliate to show over paperwork associated to Lettman-Hicks, Gillum, his gubernatorial marketing campaign and different organizations tied to each people. By the top of the yr, a political committee that was imagined to fund Gillum’s future political endeavors had spent a whole bunch of 1000’s of {dollars} on authorized bills.

On the time, Lettman-Hicks wrote on Fb that she was a “pawn being utilized by the oppressor” to take down Gillum.

Gillum has for years confronted rumors that the FBI was encircling his political exercise. His marketing campaign for governor was dogged by a sprawling federal probe into Tallahassee Metropolis Corridor that exposed Gillum had accepted Broadway tickets to the musical “Hamilton” and different perks from an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer. The investigation led to the conviction of a Tallahassee commissioner and two businessmen, however Gillum by no means confronted expenses. He finally settled a state ethics investigation by paying a $5,000 superb.

In keeping with the indictment unsealed Wednesday, he lied to federal investigators when interviewed about Tallahassee public corruption. Gillum, prosecutors mentioned, falsely instructed FBI brokers he was by no means provided or given something by the developer and had stopped communications with the developer after they tried to hyperlink political contributions to help for potential initiatives in Tallahassee.

Even amid his authorized troubles, Gillum had for a time maintained his newfound nationwide standing after his defeat. CNN employed him as a political commentator and Harvard College plucked him to be a visitor lecturer. He grew to become a sounding board for 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, who had been desirous to earn the endorsement of the younger Black chief.

After his 2020 run-in with police in South Florida, Gillum disappeared for a time. He introduced that he would enter rehab, saying in a press release, “I will probably be stepping down from all public going through roles for the foreseeable future.”

However his exit from the highlight was temporary. In a revealing interview later in 2020 with tv host Tamron Corridor, Gillum shard his substance abuse troubles after shedding to DeSantis. He additionally mentioned that he identifies as bisexual.

Currently, Gillum hosted a podcast during which he interviewed distinguished progressives and Black thought leaders. He not too long ago posted a dialogue with Laphonza Butler, the president of the abortion rights group EMILY’s Record.

CNN’s Evan Perez, Lizzie Jury and Hayley Wilson contributed to this report.