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Former Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, Andrew Gillum, was found not guilty of lying to the FBI in a case involving the alleged diversion of campaign donations for his personal use. However, jurors could not come to a verdict on the other charges facing Gillum and his co-defendant. Even though they may be tried again, the not guilty verdict was a shocking win for Gillum, whose fall from grace has been swift and embarrassing given his prominence as an up-and-coming Democratic politician.
Charges of corruption and deceit
Gillum and an associate, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, were charged with diverting funds from Gillum’s campaign to their personal use through a company owned by Lettman-Hicks. Gillum was also accused of lying to the FBI about a lavish trip to New York for himself and his brother, paid for by FBI agents pretending to be developers. According to the charge, Gillum told the FBI he had not received anything from the fake developers, including tickets to the Broadway musical Hamilton. On Thursday, the jury in his case found Gillum not guilty of the charges of lying to the FBI; they could not reach a verdict on the charges of financial crimes against Gillum or Lettman-Hicks.
Gillum had been a rising star in the Democratic Party
Gillum worked his way up the political ladder in Tallahassee, where he served as a city commissioner from 2006-2014 and as mayor from 2014-2018. In 2018, he ran as the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, losing to Republican Ron Desantis by only 36,000 votes. After the very narrow election loss, Gillum became a Senior Fellow at People for the American Way, an organization he had previously worked for and where Lettman-Hicks has also held a high-ranking position. Prosecutors had alleged that when Gillum left his previous, high-paying job with the organization to run for governor, he became desperate for money and had diverted campaign funds through Lettman-Hicks’ company.
Scandals and corruption allegations
Gillum’s position as a rising star in the Democratic Party took a big hit in 2020 when news broke that Gillum, who is married, was found inebriated in a hotel room with another man who suffered from a drug overdose. Despite not being charged with a crime for the incident, Gillum’s sexuality and substance abuse problems became fodder for tabloid speculation and social media ridicule. Meanwhile, after several more minor accusations of misusing funds or accepting inappropriate gifts over the years, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks were hit with various federal felony charges for the alleged scheme to divert campaign funds, with Gillum facing additional charges of lying to the FBI.
Legal woes may continue
Gillum reacted to the news of his partial acquittal with relief and applauded the jury for reaching the decision.
“I want to thank them for their commitment,” Gillum said to the jury via comments to reporters after the verdict was announced. Lettman-Hicks also reacted to the trial and the judgment. “Freedom isn’t free,” she said, declaring, “If you don’t stand up for yourself nobody else will. That was a lesson learned in this process.”
Federal prosecutors have indicated they intend to retry Gillum and Lettman-Hicks on the deadlocked charges. Only time will tell how his outstanding charges will be resolved and if his political career will be salvaged. But even with another case pending, however, Thursday’s acquittal likely represents the best news that Gillum has received in some time.