One of the Floridians arrested this summer on charges of allegedly illegally voting in 2020 had his charges squandered by a judge in Miami on Friday, dealing a major blow to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ much-hyped but increasingly shaky crusade.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that the prosecution’s office had no authority to indict Robert Lee Wood, 56, and his voter fraud charges of two felonies were dropped.
The state attorney general who issued the warrant for Wood’s arrest is limited to prosecuting crimes involving two or more jurisdictions. Wood’s attorney, Larry Davis, insisted on those guidelines, arguing that the agency couldn’t charge his client because Wood’s alleged crimes — registering to vote and casting a vote despite not being eligible — both took place in Miami-Dade County.
Prosecutors countered that Wood committed the crimes in Miami-Dade and Leon County, home of the state capital, because his voter registration form and ballot were notarized in Tallahassee, a second judicial district.
However, a judge dismissed that argument on Friday, saying Wood did not participate in the transmission of his ballot application or ballot to another location and therefore does not qualify for prosecution charges.
“Here, the crime, if there was one, occurred exclusively in Miami,” Hirsch wrote in a dismissal motion. “The ‘related transaction’ – the mere ministerial submission of completed forms to Tallahassee – was not a crime.”
Friday’s ruling raises the possibility that others charged with Florida voter fraud could soon have their charges dropped as well, just months after DeSantis cheerfully announced her arrest.
DeSantis has since come under fire for his so-called crackdown on voter fraud, with media outlets finding that most – if not all – of the 20 arrested in August said they had no idea they were ineligible to vote. Some said they were even given voter IDs.
Body camera footage of three of the arrests released this week by the Tampa Bay TimesIt showed apologetic cops handcuffing “suspects” who were equally hysterical and confused.
“I thought criminals could vote,” Tony Patterson told an officer during his arrest. “That’s why I signed a petition, I remember that. Why did you let me vote if I couldn’t vote?”
The officer replied: “I’m not sure, mate. I do not know.”
Both Patterson and Wood were ineligible to vote in 2020 because they were convicted of murder or a sex crime — the only exceptions to a 2018 Florida resolution restoring all other felons the right to vote.
However, Florida has done little to protect ineligible criminals from voting.
While in custody, Patterson told police he was given a voter’s card and was never told he wasn’t allowed to vote. He registered, voted 2020 and then lived on for two years before police showed up at his home to arrest him in August, he said.
Even some Republicans have acknowledged that Florida hasn’t done enough to make certain felons aware of their inadmissibility.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican who sponsored legislation to stop certain criminals from regaining the right to vote, pointed out that the arrests DeSantis touted may not stand up in court because the law requires suspects to “willfully” engage in voter fraud have committed in order to be convicted .
“As more comes out about the arrests, I believe the individuals involved had no knowledge or intent to break the law,” Brandes said tweeted Aug. “Have these people ever been informed that they are not eligible to vote? And can we prove that they did it voluntarily?”
Friday’s firing raises more questions about the effectiveness of Florida’s newly formed Voting Crimes and Security Bureau, which has cost the state $1.2 million and so far arrested a whopping 20 people – including Wood – in a state of 21 million.
The DeSantis office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday’s ruling. On Wednesday, however, the state redoubled its desire to prosecute those arrested – 12 of whom were registered as Democrats.
“These people lied when they registered to vote,” the statement from the Florida Secretary of State’s office, said. “We are confident that if all the facts and evidence are uncovered through the trial, these arrests will be maintained in accordance with the law.”
Prosecutors said Friday that they intend to appeal Hirsch’s decision. Neither Wood nor his attorney responded to requests for comment from The Daily Beast on Friday.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/first-of-ron-desantis-much-hyped-2020-voter-fraud-prosecutions-is-a-massive-flop?source=articles&via=rss The first of Ron DeSantis’ much-touted 2020 voters Fraud Prosecutions is a massive flop