It can be hard to think of Florida politics without Ron DeSantis right at the top. He’s a man regularly mentioned as a strong candidate for president. Just a short while ago, however, he was just a maybe for the office of Florida governor. His main competition was Andrew Gillum, who was anointed by Barack Obama and who fell from political grace in a tawdry story of drugs and prostitution. Now Gillum has been indicted by a federal grand jury for 21 counts of wire fraud and other federal crimes.
The indictment was announced by Jason R. Coody, United States attorney for the Northern District of Florida, on Wednesday, June 22. Mr. Gillum pleaded not guilty during a brief appearance at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee.
Oh, What A Tangled Web
Per Mr. Coody’s press release, Mr. Gillum faces the following terms of imprisonment for his crimes:
- 5 years: Making False Statements.
- 20 years: Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud.
- 20 years: Wire Fraud.
The indictment alleges Gillum, as well as a long-time associate and political ally, Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks, engaged in a years-long scheme to turn political donations and grant funds into personal income. The charges date to Gillum’s time as mayor of Tallahassee, where the politician developed his support base in the Sunshine State. He was elected to the Tallahassee Board of Commissioners while he was still an undergraduate student at Florida A&M University. After eleven years as a commissioner, Gillum won the mayor’s office for the state capitol.
Before his first term as mayor concluded, Gillum announced his campaign for governor. He was a star of Democrat politics in Florida and nationally by the time he won the nomination. Then he lost the governor’s race to DeSantis by about 33,000 people in the state of over 21 million. It wasn’t for lack of hype, however. Gillum was pushed and endorsed by seemingly every Democrat power broker looking to get next to a new young black politician.
Lettman-Hicks is listed as the CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBTQ advocacy group, and is a Democrat candidate for state representative. Reports describe her as a mentor to Gillum since his first campaign for Tallahassee city commissioner.
Didn’t Do It…
In a statement, Gillum denied any wrongdoing and said that the case against him was politically motivated. “I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” he said. “Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal; it is political.” Mr. Coody, the U.S. attorney who brought the charges, was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland. US attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president.
After his defeat by DeSantis and until this indictment, Mr. Gillum became infamous due to a March 2020 incident where he was found in a hotel room with suspected methamphetamine and two other men, one of whom was a reported prostitute. Police were called to attend to one of the men who had overdosed, and Gillum was so drugged/intoxicated that he could not communicate with law enforcement.
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks pleaded not guilty to all charges. A trial date was set for August 16. Both were released with no bail, and were instructed not to leave the Northern District of Florida without permission.