Florida voter cases resulting in wildly different outcomes | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey


If you’re charged with voting illegally in Florida, it’s becoming harder to predict how your case will end. Conviction? Dismissal? Plea bargain? It’s anyone’s bet. WESH 2 Investigates has been digging into cases of alleged voter fraud following the arrests of dozens of people across the state. 24 were arrested last year by the state’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security under the Florida Division of Elections. Those cases are being handled by the office of the statewide prosecutor. Michelle Stribling of Orange County was among 20 arrested last August. On Thursday, Ninth Circuit Judge Diego Madrigal denied her motion to dismiss. Her attorney had unsuccessfully argued the statewide prosecutor’s office had no jurisdiction in a case that occurred in just one county. The assistant statewide prosecutor argued a voter registration and the casting of a ballot in one county is further processed in Leon County at the State Division of Elections and therefore meets the legal standard. Stribling’s case is the most recent example of how inconsistent the administration of justice is being handled by different judges in different courts. A different circuit judge did dismiss the case against Orange County’s Peter Washington on Feb. 13, but the state filed an appeal after state lawmakers and the governor changed the law governing the statewide prosecutor’s legal authority to bring such cases. Stribling was convicted decades ago of second-degree murder and served her time. Washington is a registered sex offender listed in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s sexual predator database.Murderers and felony sex offenders are not eligible to vote under Amendment 4, passed in 2018, which can restore voting rights to most Florida offenders.In another of the state’s cases under the Office of Election Crimes and Security, Nathan Hart became the first person arrested by that office to be convicted of violating election law. In a split verdict on Feb. 7, he was acquitted of voting illegally but found guilty of lying on his voter registration form. He received two years probation. In half a dozen cases brought by the Office of Statewide Prosecutor, some have resulted in lesser pleas, while others dismissed by judges are being appealed. One key fact in common with the defendants: they were issued valid voter ID cards by the state of Florida. Public defenders who talked with WESH 2 Investigates say few, if any, of these alleged illegal voters should be charged. “I think what the average person absolutely needs to know is that the Division of State told the elections supervisors that these people were allowed to vote. So the state is authorizing the vote, and then the elections supervisors issued them valid voter ID cards, and they voted in compliance with the law,” said assistant public defender in Seminole County Circuit 18 Michael Schoenberg. Schoenberg’s office is defending Solomon Webb and Louis Rosario, who were charged last July by the Office of Circuit 18 State Attorney Phil Archer. The evidence was provided by Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Chris Anderson. Also charged were James Tolison and Christopher Moye. Moye died last fall. The state attorney’s office has repeatedly declined to comment on these cases since WESH 2 Investigates began reporting on the arrests last summer. Adding to the inconsistencies in these voter fraud cases, Webb and Tolison recently accepted plea deals. They entered pleas of no contest to disorderly conduct and were ordered to pay court costs. Rosario insists he is innocent, and his trial is set for August. Schoenberg points out that when you register to vote, it asks if you have been “convicted of a felony without having your right to vote restored.” He stresses that nowhere on the form does it ask if you are a felony sex offender or had a prior murder conviction, and he says you might well believe Amendment 4 restored your rights. “And we do believe that our clients and the majority of these people had no intent on defrauding the state or voting illegally. They believed they could vote. So absolutely, I believe they did not intend on violating any law,” he said. In Lake County last year, prosecutors declined to charge six people for alleged illegal voting, saying there was no willful intent to break the law.According to records obtained from the Florida Division of Elections, there could be more than a thousand of these cases of alleged illegality. How many of them will be prosecuted is unclear. The State Department sent us a statement that read, “the Office of Elections Crimes and Security has the authority… to investigate alleged election law violations. (The Office) does not have the authority to make prosecutorial or judicial decisions.”

If you’re charged with voting illegally in Florida, it’s becoming harder to predict how your case will end. Conviction? Dismissal? Plea bargain? It’s anyone’s bet.

WESH 2 Investigates has been digging into cases of alleged voter fraud following the arrests of dozens of people across the state. 24 were arrested last year by the state’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security under the Florida Division of Elections. Those cases are being handled by the office of the statewide prosecutor.

Michelle Stribling of Orange County was among 20 arrested last August. On Thursday, Ninth Circuit Judge Diego Madrigal denied her motion to dismiss. Her attorney had unsuccessfully argued the statewide prosecutor’s office had no jurisdiction in a case that occurred in just one county. The assistant statewide prosecutor argued a voter registration and the casting of a ballot in one county is further processed in Leon County at the State Division of Elections and therefore meets the legal standard.

Stribling’s case is the most recent example of how inconsistent the administration of justice is being handled by different judges in different courts.

A different circuit judge did dismiss the case against Orange County’s Peter Washington on Feb. 13, but the state filed an appeal after state lawmakers and the governor changed the law governing the statewide prosecutor’s legal authority to bring such cases.

Stribling was convicted decades ago of second-degree murder and served her time. Washington is a registered sex offender listed in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s sexual predator database.

Murderers and felony sex offenders are not eligible to vote under Amendment 4, passed in 2018, which can restore voting rights to most Florida offenders.

In another of the state’s cases under the Office of Election Crimes and Security, Nathan Hart became the first person arrested by that office to be convicted of violating election law. In a split verdict on Feb. 7, he was acquitted of voting illegally but found guilty of lying on his voter registration form.

He received two years probation. In half a dozen cases brought by the Office of Statewide Prosecutor, some have resulted in lesser pleas, while others dismissed by judges are being appealed.

One key fact in common with the defendants: they were issued valid voter ID cards by the state of Florida.

Public defenders who talked with WESH 2 Investigates say few, if any, of these alleged illegal voters should be charged.

“I think what the average person absolutely needs to know is that the Division of State told the elections supervisors that these people were allowed to vote. So the state is authorizing the vote, and then the elections supervisors issued them valid voter ID cards, and they voted in compliance with the law,” said assistant public defender in Seminole County Circuit 18 Michael Schoenberg.

Schoenberg’s office is defending Solomon Webb and Louis Rosario, who were charged last July by the Office of Circuit 18 State Attorney Phil Archer. The evidence was provided by Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Chris Anderson. Also charged were James Tolison and Christopher Moye. Moye died last fall. The state attorney’s office has repeatedly declined to comment on these cases since WESH 2 Investigates began reporting on the arrests last summer.

Adding to the inconsistencies in these voter fraud cases, Webb and Tolison recently accepted plea deals. They entered pleas of no contest to disorderly conduct and were ordered to pay court costs. Rosario insists he is innocent, and his trial is set for August.

Schoenberg points out that when you register to vote, it asks if you have been “convicted of a felony without having your right to vote restored.” He stresses that nowhere on the form does it ask if you are a felony sex offender or had a prior murder conviction, and he says you might well believe Amendment 4 restored your rights.

“And we do believe that our clients and the majority of these people had no intent on defrauding the state or voting illegally. They believed they could vote. So absolutely, I believe they did not intend on violating any law,” he said.

In Lake County last year, prosecutors declined to charge six people for alleged illegal voting, saying there was no willful intent to break the law.

According to records obtained from the Florida Division of Elections, there could be more than a thousand of these cases of alleged illegality. How many of them will be prosecuted is unclear.

The State Department sent us a statement that read, “the Office of Elections Crimes and Security has the authority… to investigate alleged election law violations. (The Office) does not have the authority to make prosecutorial or judicial decisions.”



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