Andrew Gillum, who took Gov. Ron DeSantis head-on in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election, is now facing a 21-count indictment by a federal grand jury for wire fraud.
According to a United States Department of Justice report, the alleged wire fraud occurred between 2016 to 2019, during Gillum’s campaign for Governor and tenure as Tallahassee mayor. National Black Justice Coalition CEO Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks was also indicted.
“Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political. … 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,” Gillum said in response to the charges.
The indictment alleged that Gillum and Lettman-Hicks both solicited funds through fraudulent means. Furthermore, the defendants allegedly used third parties to divert those funds to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks, who later disguised the money as payroll payments and handed the amount to Gillum for personal use. The pair received 19 counts for the years-long incident, with Gillum earning an additional two for making false statements to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.
Andrew Gillum’s political career started in 2003 as a Tallahassee city commissioner. In 2014, he ran for mayor and won the local Democratic primary with 76% of the vote. After a write-in candidate dropped out of the race, Gillum became the mayor of Tallahassee.
A timeline of Andrew Gillum’s political career. (Maria Varas, Florida Political Review)
In March 2017, Gillum announced his run for Florida governor. In an upset victory, he beat four other Democratic candidates in the primary election, becoming the first Black nominee for Florida governor. Despite the positive reception, concerns were raised over an ongoing FBI corruption investigation in Tallahassee’s City Hall.
Republicans at the time like DeSantis didn’t miss an opportunity to launch criticism against Gillum — one such incident being dubbed the “Hamilton scandal.” The incident occurred when an undercover agent offered Gillum a free New York Harbor boat ride and tickets to see the Hamilton musical. The event was not left unnoticed by Gillum’s campaign rival, DeSantis.
“Andrew’s running on impeaching Trump. OK, I mean, I don’t know what for… Trump did not receive a free Hamilton ticket from an undercover FBI agent,” DeSantis remarked. The current governor later brought up the issue again during a debate with Gillum, asking him whether the tickets were bought by the agent or Gillum himself.
Ultimately, Gillum was not charged for the Hamilton ticket incident, but he did agree to pay a $5,000 state ethics fine. However, incidents like the Hamilton scandal likely hurt Gillum’s chances of being elected. After a recount, Gillum conceded to DeSantis after losing by a 0.4% margin — roughly 36,000 votes.
After the election, things appeared to be bright for Gillum after accepting a job as a CNN commentator, a Harvard University guest lecturer role and frequent appearances on “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO. In addition, Gillum converted his political committee into a voter-registration group, pledging to register one million voters to help turn Florida blue.
In 2019, Gillum’s life took a turn for the worse after the FBI issued a subpoena for records connected to his 2018 campaign for governor. About a year later, Gillum was found intoxicated by police in a Miami hotel room with two men and three bags of presumed crystal methamphetamine. No arrests were made.
“Since my race for governor ended, I fell into a depression that has led to alcohol abuse,” Gillum said in a statement. “I witnessed my father suffer from alcoholism and I know the damaging effects it can have when untreated. I also know that alcoholism is often a symptom of deeper struggles.”
The Miami incident prompted Gillum to withdraw from his CNN political commentator gig and withdraw from politics completely. Now, Gillum is facing a 21-count indictment. Terms of imprisonment for false statements and wire fraud are 5 years and 20 years respectively.
Andrew Gillum and Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks both pleaded not guilty and will be facing trial in a federal courthouse.
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Featured image: Andrew Gillum campaigning in 2018. Modified photo by The Circus used under a Creative Commons License. https://bit.ly/3NGxOyb