Andrew Gillum, the once-rising Florida Democrat who narrowly lost the 2018 governor’s race to Ron DeSantis, was indicted Wednesday on wire fraud, conspiracy charges and making false statements charges, NBC News reports.
Gillum rose to national prominence in 2018 after an exceptionally tight race against DeSantis and was also allegedly even shortlisted as a potential VP prospect by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
When the FBI initiated an investigation into Tallahassee politicians beginning in 2015, it appeared that Gillum had escaped charges. Now, seven years later, Gillum is joining former City Commissioner Scott Maddox and other prominent Tallahassee officials who have faced criminal charges.
Gillum and one of his close advisors, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, were both charged in the indictment and arrested by the FBI. However, “they were allowed to surrender.” Gillum was forced to walk “into the courtroom wearing leg shackles and handcuffs with a chain around his waist.” Both pled non-guilty and were “ordered pretrial release with conditions.”
The U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Northern District issued the indictment, which says that “between 2016 and 2019, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks unlawfully channeled campaign funds to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks. It says she then forwarded the funds, disguised as payroll payments to Gillum for his personal use.”
According to prosecutors, both Gillum and Lettman-Hicks “conspired to commit wire fraud, by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose.”
Attorneys for Gillum said, “The government got it wrong today. The evidence, in this case, is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges.”
In a prepared statement, Gillum has categorically denied any wrongdoing on his part. “I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people…Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal. It is political, ” he said.
“Throughout my career, I have always stood up for the people of Florida and have spoken truth to power. There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee. They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now,” Gillum’s statement continued.
This indictment marks the latest scandal involving Gillum. In March of 2020, paramedics were called to a Miami Beach hotel room to assist a male sex worker who had overdosed on drugs. Although Gillum was reportedly unconscious and police discovered drugs, they brought no charges against him. After that, Gillum admitted to abusing alcohol and entered rehab.
It remains to be seen what’s next for Gillum’s political career and whether he will be able to recover. His trial date is August 16, but legal experts predict it will most likely be postponed.