Tag Archives: election

Governor DeSantis may have to Testify in Naples Election Hacking Case

Anthony Steven Guevara was arrested and charged with two felonies for allegedly hacking into the voter registration system, and changing the address information for Governor Ron DeSantis back in October, shortly before the election. DeSantis found out when he showed up at the poll to vote, and was initially turned away (though he was eventually permitted to vote). Guevara is being prosecuted in Collier County, where he lives.

Anthony Steven Guevara

It was revealed this week that Mr. Guevara’s attorney Mike Carr has sought to subpoena Governor DeSantis to testify. At a pretrial conference this week, he sought to have the judge order the Governor to appear, anticipating that he would not. The judge declined to do in advance, but indicated he may order him to comply with the subpoena at trial. The prosecutor countered that service by certified mail may not be sufficient or verifiable, which may mean that the Governor is not compelled to testify.

The Defense had sought to resolve the case by putting Mr. Guevara into the diversion program, also known as deferred prosecution. Some great reporting by Stefany Matat reveals that the prosecutor told the defense that they were not offering diversion because Governor DeSantis would not agree to it. The Florida Constitution requires that prosecutors take the victim’s wishes into account, so it is not unusual that they would decline to offer diversion where a victim did not consent. The State did make a probation plea offer for 24 months, but that offer was set to expire earlier this week. (The details of the plea negotiations are a little bit of a peek behind the curtains that is not usually available on a criminal case, which ups the interest level, here.) The case has been set for a possible trial the week of April 26, though trials are very restricted right now due to Covid, and could end up being pushed back. It remains to be seen if the Governor will be in attendance, as sought by Guevara’s defense.

Amira Fox Cleared by Ethics Commission

State Attorney Amira Fox, who won election handily to the office vacated by retiring State Attorney Steve Russell, received some good news this afternoon. The Florida Commission on Ethics released a statement about their findings from the hearing on Monday, and found no probable cause regarding the complaint that had been filed against her in 2017, prior to the campaign for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit.

The complaint was filed by a friend of Ms. Fox’s opponent in the race, Chris Crowley. While the Ethics Commission would not confirm that a complaint had been filed, Crowley and his friends discussed it in the media, and tried to use it as a campaign issue. The complaint alleged Ms. Fox had misused her position at the State while running for office, basically claiming she was improperly campaigning during work hours. This ruling should put any concerns to rest, as the Commission finding of no probable cause means there were not sufficient grounds to proceed.

Congrats to Amira Fox on her Primary Vicgtory

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Amira Fox

Amira Fox won the Republican primary in the race for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit. That effectively means she will win the seat. This is a relief for everyone working in the criminal justice system in Southwest Florida, as things tend to run pretty well at the State here, and the kind of wholesale changes her opponent planned could have started chaos in our justice system. Ms. Fox was clearly the best candidate, and has the smarts and experience to do the job well.

I hope that when Ms. Fox takes over, she does look to improve some of the things about the State Attorney’s office: it would be nice to see more consistency from county to county, a reduction in jail time for non-violent crimes, especially misdemeanors like marijuana possession, and being willing to admit when a case is bad. Generally, the office has been pretty well run since Ms. Fox took over as chief assistant, and it probably will continue to be so. Ms. Fox ran a good, honest campaign and did not stoop to the dishonesty and mudslinging of her opponent. Hopefully this will show that races can be won the right way, by the best candidate. I wish her luck.

Amira Fox is the Clear Choice for State Attorney

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Chris Crowley and Amira Fox

The primary election is tomorrow, and Republican voters will be presented a clear choice for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit. The standout choice is Amira Fox, currently the chief assistant State Attorney under current State Attorney Stephen Russell. Ms. Fox is a smart, talented prosecutor whose experience clearly makes her the most qualified candidate for the job. She has the support of law enforcement, including outgoing prosecutor Russell, and the sheriffs of all five counties in the 20th Judicial Circuit. Moreover, she has the overwhelming support of the attorneys who practice in Lee County, who are in the best position to evaluate the qualifications of the chief law enforcement officer for Southwest Florida.

The campaign leading up to the primary, which will be dispositive as there is only a token write-in candidate remaining in the general election, has been extremely heated. Her opponent, Christopher Crowley has attacked her with deceit and obfuscation because his actual qualifications are woefully lacking. Crowley is a twice-failed prosecutor who cannot gain the support of law enforcement.

Crowley was asked to resign from the office of the Statewide Prosecutor after detectives informed his supervisor that they did not have faith in his abilities as a prosecutor. He returned the the State Attorney’s office, where he was soon fired for incompetence. Crowley then demonstrated his stunningly poor judgment by illegally promoting a raffle at a campaign fund raising event. He then posted video of the criminal act on his Facebook page, which ultimately resulted in his felony arrest for the illegal lottery and illegal campaign fundraising. Crowley had to get a retired democrat attorney to represent him, because he has so much trouble finding a defense attorney. His attorney did a great job by getting him into the felony diversion program after he admitted to his wrongdoing. While the charge may have been an inadvertent infraction that did not involve much money, the lack of oversight and judgment demonstrate that Crowley cannot be trusted run the State Attorney’s Office.

Crowley has tried to mislead the electorate to distract from his lack of qualifications. One of his favorite claims is that the office is corrupt- basically accusing Ms. Fox of ordering his arrest. This is patently false, as the local State Attorney’s office notified the governor of the possible conflict, and the State Attorney for the 10th Circuit handled the case. If Crowley is suggesting corruption, he is accusing Governor Scott and multiple law enforcement agencies. This is not a case of corruption: incompetent Crowley committed a felony, published the evidence, and got charged by an independent prosecutor. He does not deserve to be the chief law enforcement officer for our circuit.

Another of his other favorite claims is that the conviction rate in our circuit is only 39%. He fabricated this number based on raw arrest numbers and actual adjudications. However, this number does not take into account charges that are not filed, nor does it take into account cases that are resolved in drug court, mental health court, or other positive dispositions. Ironically, Crowley’s own arrest and diversion program would count against his calculation of a conviction rate. The more appropriate number is calculated by the Office of the State Courts Administrator, and it’s 88% for this circuit, in line with other circuits. And the more important number, the crime rate, is the lowest of all the circuits in Florida. Some of the other claims being promoted by Crowley’s supporters, and often shared by him on social media, are unsupported, untrue, and not worth repeating.

Finally, as a criminal law attorney in town, I have had the opportunity to work with both candidates, and I can say without hesitation that Ms. Fox is more competent, better prepared, and a better attorney that Mr. Crowley. I do not have a dog in the fight and I have not donated to either candidate, but I can say experience has demonstrated that Ms. Fox is the best candidate for the job, and Mr. Crowley could be a train wreck if he were to win.

The choice for voters tomorrow is between an extremely experienced, qualified, and highly recommended candidate in Amira Fox, or a failed prosecutor in Chris Crowley. Crowley failed to lawfully conduct his campaign, and now wants to oversee law enforcement across Southwest Florida. And to do so, he is running a deceitful campaign. He is unqualified, he does not have the support of law enforcement, nor does he have the the competence for the job. The choice is clear, Amira Fox is the best candidate for State Attorney.

Candidate who Faked her Diploma Dropped Out of Congressional Race

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Melissa Howard

Melissa Howard, who was embarrassingly caught in a series of lies about her education after the diploma she posed with turned out to be fabricated, dropped out of her congressional race in Sarasota. After getting caught in her lie, she doubled down, only to relent and admit that she did not graduate from Miami University in Oxford, OH. However, last Tuesday she changed course and withdrew from the race. It would have been interesting has she stayed in the primary, as many absentee ballots would have already been mailed in. Zac Anderson provides a good top-to-bottom rundown of the bizarre saga, and it sounds like political pressure finally convinced Howard to drop out. Ironically, it probably would not have mattered much if she had just fessed up in the beginning. The cover-up is almost always worse than the original crime.

James Chandler is the Choice for Circuit Judge

james chandler

James Chandler

As early voting gets underway in the 5 county 20th judicial circuit, which includes Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties, I though I’d take an opportunity to weigh in on a local race that I feel strongly about. I am writing to endorse James Chandler, who is running for Circuit Judge. I have gotten to know Mr. Chandler well over the last several years, and think he would be an excellent choice for the circuit judge position. Mr. Chandler and I both worked at the State Attorney’s office when we moved to Southwest Florida. After I went into private practice, I had cases against Mr. Chandler and found him to be fair as a prosecutor.

Chandler later went into private practice, where he handles not only criminal defense, but also civil matters such as family law. That’s important, as our circuit judges can end up handling both criminal and civil cases: Mr. Chandler has the background to handle both. Mr. Chandler is someone that I would frequently discuss my criminal cases with, for strategies and legal insight, and I feel Mr. Chandler understands the and will protect the rights and fairly adjudicate the cases of all who would appear before him. He has shown himself to be a skilled courtroom attorney, including a high-profile case we covered here in Crimcourts. Mr. Chandler has the experience, temperament, and the intangibles to be an excellent judge, and I fully endorse him for Circuit Judge.

A Sarasota Congressional Candidate Apparently Fabricated her College Degree

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Melissa Howard

In a contentious Republican primary in Sarasota, there have been several accusations of dishonesty against candidate Melissa Howard. The latest was that she had not graduated with a degree from her undergrad, Miami University in Ohio. [Full disclosure, that’s where I went to undergrad.] Howard disputed the claim, and called it false news, and provided an alleged photo from graduation. Of note, her campaign changed the date of her supposed graduation from 1994 to 1996. She proceeded to claim a few days later that she had flown to her parents home to collect her diploma that she says her mother had been keeping in a storage unit. To finally convince everyone that she had graduated, she posted a picture of herself with a Miami University diploma from 1996, declaring that Melissa Marie Fox, her maiden name, had received a degree in marketing. FlaNews took down their report, and she called on her opponent to ‘stop the lies‘. But the story didn’t stop there.

 

howardThe Howard campaign took some of the graduation claims down from her web page on Friday, and FlaNews continued to dig. The University confirmed that Howard had not received a degree in ’94 or ’96, and that the diploma did not appear legitimate. FlaNews reposted their story with more… Miami University does not have a degree in marketing: had she majored in marketing, it would have been a bachelor’s of science in business. Also, the dean whose signature appears on the diploma is not the correct dean, suggesting that the diploma had been fabricated.

Howard has been silent since the latest story was posted, and her campaign adviser says she is dealing with a medical issue with her husband. At this point, it’s hard to even take her word for that. I did not know her from my time at Miami, but I was several years behind, and it’s a bigger school than most realize. Her time there also likely overlapped with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who graduated in 1992. Fortunately for her party, this all came out before the primary, and the other candidate will likely get to ride the truth into the general election.

***UPDATE***

I found a LinkedIn profile that appears to be hers, where she indicates she studied at Miami from 1990-94, and then took a job in Chicago after 1994. It’s possible she was just a credit short, and earned a credit to fix it up while she was working as a merchandiser in Chicago… but, it’s suspicious to say the least. I bet she comes out with a statement this week withdrawing, and apologizing saying she was really close but never finished the graduation requirements…

melissa howard

More Complaints About and Lies by Chris Crowley

Wink News ran a story today after pulling Chris Crowley’s personnel file from his time at the State Attorney’s office. We’ve already discussed how he was fired for his incompetence, but Wink dug deeper and pulled his file to see there were complaints that he made other prosecutors feel uncomfortable. Much of what they found was previously disclosed on the “This is Chris” website, which we have also linked before.

Crowley also says that there are several prosecutors that have left the office because they did not like working for Amira Fox as a supervisor, but he provided no names, and none have come forward. There is no evidence to support this claim.

Crowley also says there “is corruption at the state attorney’s office…” Crowley is lying. Not only is there no evidence of corruption at the State Attorney’s office, there is evidence demonstrating otherwise. When it came to light that Crowley committed a felony by running a raffle at his fundraiser, the State Attorney’s office referred the case away to FDLE, and asked for another State Attorney’s office to be appointed. And they were, the charges were filed by the 10th Circuit SAO. As stated by former prosecutor Ian Mann, “Crowley claims there is a conspiracy against him,” Mann said, adding that if that was true the conspiracy would have to include Fox, Russell, the governor, Haas, Hill and others. “All of those people would have to be involved in a conspiracy against him.”

Crowley claims it is not a coincidence that a month ago he said remove the corrupt official and a month later he was booked in jail. However, the correlation is not what he claims. It’s not a coincidence because a month ago he broke the law and that’s why he went to jail. He has admitted he broke the law, (it was on tape,) and he is lying when he claims corruption put him in jail. He broke the law. He admitted to it. That’s why he went to jail.

Chris Crowley committed a felony. He now keeps lying about corruption. He is dishonest. He is not qualified to be the chief law enforcement officer for the 20th Judicial Circuit.

What to know about the Chris Crowley Arrest

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Crowley: in flagrante delicto

State Attorney Candidate Chris Crowley was arrested and charged with two felonies yesterday. He’s trying to mislead on what that means. Here’s what you need to know:

Crowley committed a crime… two, actually. His offenses were on tape. He has admitted guilt for his crimes. One charge was for holding a raffle: only registered non-profits can hold raffles. The other was for illegally soliciting campaign funds. That’s why Crowley went to jail.

There is no law enforcement corruption here, quite the opposite. The local State Attorney did not handle the case, so there would be no conflict. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) handled the investigation, and the State Attorney’s office for the 10th Judicial Circuit (out of Bartow), handled the prosecution decisions and the negotiations. When Crowley claims corruption, he is lying.

The amount of money does not matter. The crime was not how much money he raised, but that he solicited it and raised it illegally.

It is also irrelevant that he gave the money back. The robber is not exonerated if he gives back the purse when he is caught. This is a mitigating factor, but it does not excuse the fact that he committed two felonies. Nor is it a defense that the illegal raffle was done ‘in good faith.’ It is the duty of the candidate to follow the campaign laws.

Crowley says “Amira Fox had me arrested.” That is also a lie. He was arrested because he committed felonies. The office that Ms. Fox works for, the State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit, did not handle the case. Crowley has provided zero evidence that Ms. Fox had anything to do with his arrest. Crowley says he wants to be tough on crime, but he does not want to be truthful about his own crime that put him in jail today.

Finally, the case has not already been ‘effectively dismissed’ with just a fine. Crowley has signed a pretrial diversion contract. That means that when he completes certain requirements, the charges will be dropped… but it hasn’t happened yet. He likely will be supervised by the State Probation department for at least six months, in addition to fines and other financial obligations. This is a common resolution for a first time offender. It does not suggest that the charges are not appropriate, but that Crowley is getting a break since he doesn’t have any history. He’s lucky that the 10th Circuit prosecutors did not try to make a “tough on crime” example out of him.

Reports: Chris Crowley was an Incompetent Prosecutor

  • Crowley was fired for poor performance at the State Attorney’s Office.
  • Crowley was also asked to resign from the Statewide Prosecutor’s Office when he lost the confidence of law enforcement.
  • Now Crowley is running to lead the State Attorney’s Office.

The Naples Daily news and News-Press have obtained public record information about State Attorney Candidate Chris Crowley from his time at that agency, and at the Statewide Prosecutor’s office, and the records do not paint a good picture. Crowley was asked to leave Statewide after numerous complaints, including concerns from experienced detectives about his competence on the job. Office head George Richards, who is now a circuit judge, expressed concern to his supervisor in Tampa that Crowley’s poor performance on the job would harm the office’s good working relationship with local law enforcement. He said the general consensus among law enforcement was that “Crowley did not inspire a lot of confidence as a prosecutor.”

The paper also obtained documents from his personnel file from his days working for current State Attorney Stephen Russell. According to a note in his personnel file, he was dismissed for poor performance. Another website has anonymously published additional information purporting to be from Crowley’s personnel file that his supervisor found that his trial preparation was poor, his understanding of the law deficient, even in the specific area he was assigned, and that he was difficult to work with, prior to his being let go for failing to meet the expectation and standards of the office for an attorney of his tenure.

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Crowley selling raffle tickets

The “This is Chris” website, was anonymously published, but Patrick Riley’s reporting has verified much of it. Further, the court documentation referred to is verifiable, and the other documents appear to be legitimate copies from public record inquiries. There growing line of serious questions about Crowley’s competence as a prosecutor. The new complaints follow the concerns about his judgment that we have previously covered, when he may have committed a felony and campaign violations at a fund raiser. These are all red flags that indicate Crowley is not a good candidate to be the top law enforcement officer for Southwest Florida.