Judge gives Andrew Gillum more time to finalize legal representation in corruption case

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A federal judge has granted a request to give former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum more time to put his legal counsel in place in his public corruption case.

Gillum, who lost the Florida governor's race by a razor thin margin, and close adviser Sharon Lettman-Hicks were arrested June 22 by the FBI in connection with a 21-count federal grand jury indictment accusing them of crimes related to his 2018 run gubernatorial campaign. Among other things, the pair are charged with illegally funneling campaign donations to themselves.

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During their first court appearance, both Gillum and Lettman-Hicks pleaded not guilty to the charges. Gillum was represented by Todd Yoder of Miami firm Markus/Moss while Lettman-Hicks was represented by Federal Public Defender Elizabeth Vallejo.

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Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee mayor and Democratic nominee for governor, exits the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee, Fla. on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 after pleading not-guilty to federal public corruption charges. Gillum was indicted Wednesday and allowed to surrender.
Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee mayor and Democratic nominee for governor, exits the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee, Fla. on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 after pleading not-guilty to federal public corruption charges. Gillum was indicted Wednesday and allowed to surrender.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Stampelos initially gave Gillum and Lettman-Hicks until July 1 to finalize their legal representation, saying he wanted to get proceedings "on the road" by then.

On Wednesday, David Markus, partner in Markus/Moss, filed a motion asking to push the deadline back 10 days.

"Andrew Gillum is taking steps to finalize representation and hire undersigned counsel and Markus/Moss PLLC; however, the logistics of doing so are taking slightly longer than the parties envisioned on June 22. Mr. Gillum and counsel are working hard to get this done as soon as possible," Markus wrote.

In the court filing, Markus said his firm learned of the charges the day before Gillum's arrest and that Yoder "immediately flew" to Tallahassee "in order to work with the government and the court to make sure the surrender and first appearance went smoothly."

More: Former mayor, candidate for governor Andrew Gillum and adviser arrested on federal charges

Markus added that Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kunz indicated the government is "concerned with the length of time that it is taking Mr. Gillum to retain counsel."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Fitzpatrick granted Markus' request in a short order issued Thursday. He gave Gillum until July 11 to have an attorney file a notice of appearance on his behalf.

Meanwhile, Lettman-Hicks has hired Tallahassee defense lawyers Mutaqee Akbar and Robert Morris. Akbar serves as president of the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP. Morris represented fired Department of Health employee Rebekah Jones for a time but withdrew after learning a family member with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was assigned to the case.

Related: Sharon Lettman-Hicks suspends Florida House campaign amid federal corruption charges

Markus is a well-known attorney who handles white-collar crime and other complicated cases. He briefly represented Charles Adelson after his arrest April 20 in the murder of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel. He withdrew as Adelson's lawyer a couple of weeks later.

It was not immediately clear what role if any noted Democratic elections lawyer Marc Elias would play in the defense. Elias, partner with Elias Law Group in Washington, D.C., and Markus issued a joint statement the day of Gillum's arrest saying he was "innocent of all charges."

More: Charlie Adelson ordered to be held without bond on murder charges in Dan Markel case

Contact Jeff Burlew at jburlew@tallahassee.com or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Andrew Gillum granted time to assemble law team in corruption case