Florida’s former Democratic “rising star”, Andrew Gillum, is indicted

MIAMI — Florida’s former Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum, narrowly defeated four years ago by Republican Ron DeSantis, now faces indictment on campaign fraud charges.

The U.S. Attorney in Florida’s Northern District says a federal grand jury has returned a 21-count indictment against Gillum and a former campaign advisor, Sharon Lettman-Hicks. The indictment says between 2016 and 2019, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks unlawfully channeled campaign funds to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks. It says she then forwarded the funds, disguised as payroll payments to Gillum for his personal use.

Lawyers for Gillum, Marc Elias and David Oscar Markus released a statement, saying, “The government got it wrong today. The evidence in this case is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges.”

It’s another low point for Gillum, who just four years ago was a rising star in the Democratic party. The former mayor of Tallahassee, he was popular and charismatic, but had long been connected with federal investigations. While mayor, he faced scrutiny for trips paid for by lobbyists and special interests, but Gillum was never charged.

Following his narrow loss to DeSantis, by less than a half percentage point, in March 2020 he was caught up in a scandal involving drugs and sex. Paramedics were called to a Miami Beach hotel room to treat a male sex worker for a drug overdose. Police said Gillum was incapacitated and that they found suspected drugs but no charges were filed. Gillum later said he suffered from alcohol abuse and entered a rehab center.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.