Andrew Gillum not guilty of lying to FBI, jury deadlocks on other charges

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After five days of behind-the-scenes drama and deliberations, jurors found former Tallahassee, Florida, Mayor Andrew Gillum not guilty of lying to the FBI about a “Hamilton” ticket and other gifts he got from undercover FBI agents in New York.

They deadlocked on the most serious charges against Gillum, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor, and his co-defendant, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, involving the misuse of campaign funds. The 12-person jury, which rendered its decision Thursday, was unable to reach consensus on one count of conspiracy and 17 counts of wire fraud against both defendants.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor declared a mistrial on the counts that ended with no verdict reached.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Milligan II said the government will retry Gillum and Lettman-Hicks on the conspiracy and wire fraud charges. Outside the courthouse later, defense attorneys urged the government to reconsider.

Gillum's wife, R. Jai, immediately began to cry as the verdict was announced. Once the jury was dismissed, Andrew Gillum hugged and kissed her and whispered into her ear.

"Call my mama," he said at one point.

Gillum walked out of the courtroom surrounded by his family and lawyers, whom he thanked. He said that the government tried to take everything away from his family over the course of the FBI investigation.

"I think about what it has felt like to, in my opinion, to be hunted for seven years, to have people who you’ve known forever to doubt you, to read things about you that not only don’t resemble the truth but don’t resemble who you are," Gillum said.

Gillum, who narrowly lost the governor’s race to Ron DeSantis, could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison for making false statements. Both defendants also faced up to 20 years in prison on the conspiracy and wire fraud charges.

The acquittal and partial mistrial marked major setbacks for the government and its long-running and costly Operation Capital Currency investigation, which saw undercover FBI agents posing as crooked developers descend on Tallahassee starting in 2015.

The investigation led to guilty pleas in 2019 from former Mayor and City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his aide, Paige Carter-Smith, and guilty verdicts against their co-defendant, developer John “J.T.” Burnette, at the end of his 2021 trial.

Jurors signaled on Tuesday and Thursday that they were struggling to reach consensus on all but the false statements charge, prompting Winsor to send back notes encouraging them to keep trying. But at least one holdout on the jury, and maybe more, didn’t budge as a result. Seven women and five men served on the jury; five of the jurors are Black.

Gillum, 43, and Lettman-Hicks, 54, were charged in June 2022 in a 21-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Tallahassee. The pair was accused of funneling donations from big donors and progressive grant-making organizations to Lettman-Hicks’ firm, P&P Communications, and ultimately Gillum to offset income he lost when he left his job with the People for the American Way Foundation to run for governor.

The government alleged that Gillum and Lettman-Hicks illegally routed $50,000 from the then-mayor’s Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, an initiative to fight state encroachment of home rule; $60,000 from Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort; and $132,000 from a $250,000 check from billionaire Donald Sussman.

There were signs of cracks in the government's case even before the trial began on April 17. Prosecutors raced to file charges ahead of the statute of limitations. Less than a week before jury selection, prosecutors dropped two wire fraud counts against both defendants in a superseding indictment.

Prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence, from wiretapped conversations and transcripts to internal Gillum campaign emails, contracts, grant agreements and financial records. But the defense turned the tables on some of that during cross-examination of government witnesses, telling jurors the evidence showed no crimes were committed.

Two undercover FBI agents, “Mike Miller” and “Brian Butler,” who posed as "seedy" investors in the phony Southern Pines Development company, testified about comments Gillum’s brother, Markus Gillum, made that the mayor would deliver approvals for their projects in exchange for campaign donations. But witnesses for the prosecution acknowledged that Andrew Gillum himself never took a bribe.

During the two-week trial, the government called representatives from grant-making organizations that were allegedly ripped off by the pair. But they offered up nothing in the way of tearful testimony or even that they were victimized.

A lawyer for the Foundation to Promote Open Society, a George Soros-founded organization, testified she did not have any evidence that funds were misused. A senior program officer for the New World Foundation told jurors he was not aware of any “missing” money. A representative from the Opportunity to Learn Action Fund, an offshoot of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, said he trusted Gillum’s “moral values” and considered him an “honest person.”

In his own words: Here's what Gillum has said about ethics allegations, FBI probe

Gillum was still a student at Florida A&M University when he was first elected in 2003 to the City Commission, where he spent years honing his skills as a politician and positioning himself for higher office. In 2014, he easily won the mayor’s race, which he used as a springboard to run for governor a few years later.

He scored an improbable victory in the 2018 Democratic primary against better-funded candidates but lost the general election by fewer than 33,000 votes. Gillum, who would have been Florida’s first Black governor had he won, was criticized for leaving several million dollars of donations on the table that could have put him over the finish line. He later tapped into his political committee, Forward Florida, to help pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills.

Gillum’s political career took a steep nose dive in May 2020, when he was found passed out in a Miami Beach hotel room with a male escort. Even some of his closest supporters walked away from him after the scandal broke and made international headlines.

But Winsor’s courtroom was full through much of the trial with family and old friends of the defendants, including Gillum’s wife, his mom and sister and Lettman-Hicks’ husband.

Contact Jeff Burlew at and follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Andrew Gillum, Florida governor candidate, trial verdict: Not guilty