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Andrew Gillum released until trial after pleading not guilty to charges of fraud, lying to FBI

Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum leaves the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 after he was released until his trial on charges of fraud and lying to the FBI.
Lydell Rawls
Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum leaves the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 after he was released until his trial on charges of fraud and lying to the FBI.

Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum sitting in a federal courtroom in handcuffs on Wednesday presented an image in stark contrast to the one painted on the night he won the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in 2018.

Nearly four years ago, Gillum gave a fiery speech to his supporters after defeating Gwen Graham in the party’s primary election. He campaigned on a progressive platform that put public education, climate change and the environment at the forefront. Long considered a future leader of Florida’s Democratic Party, Gillum appeared to have a bright future in politics ahead of him.

Fast forward to June 2022. Gillum is now facing federal charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and lying to the FBI. If convicted on all charges, he could spend up to 45 years in prison. The charges come from a 21-page federal grand jury indictment that details an alleged scheme in which he’s accused of pocketing thousands of dollars in campaign contributions with the help of a business associate who used their firm to funnel him the cash.

As Gillum left the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee on Wednesday, he didn’t say much. Reporters waiting outside the federal courthouse asked him for comment as soon as he exited the front doors. “I, I, I, excuse me,” Gillum stammered as he walked swiftly to his car. When asked if he had any comments, he replied: “I don’t. Thank you.” His attorney also declined to comment on the case. Within about a minute after exiting the front doors of the courthouse, a white Chevy Tahoe had whisked Gillum away.

The indictment accuses Gillum and his associate Sharon Lettman-Hicks, who’s also facing charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, of defrauding donors who gave to Gillum’s campaign and one of the organization’s that he founded.

In 2016, Gillum allegedly defrauded two organizations of $50,000 in grant monies to support the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, a national coalition aimed at fighting laws that strip power from local governments. Lettman-Hicks is accused of using her firm P&P Communications, Inc. to transfer the funds to Gillum’s account in the form of salary payments.

Gillum was listed as vice president of P&P in the firm’s annual report filed in March of 2017. His salary was listed at $10,000 a month. The primary revenues for the communications firm were from lease payments from tenants in the company’s office building downtown.

The defendants are also accused of defrauding one individual out of $150,000 of his $250,000 contribution to Gillum’s campaign for governor in 2018, according to the indictment.

Of the remaining dollars, $132,500 were allegedly paid to P&P through the unidentified organization for a voter education program, services defendants are accused of knowingly not providing. Lettman-Hicks is accused of directing $100,000 of that contribution to Gillum’s Forward Florida PAC account, with the remaining going into the account of an unidentified organization that Gillum and Lettman-Hicks could influence.

The defendants were released without bail, as long as they abide by the court’s conditions.

For them to remain out of jail before the trial, they may not exchange phone calls, emails, direct messages or face-to-face conversations with anyone who is a witness in the case. “Nothing can be communicated about this case,” said Magistrate Judge Charles A Stampelos.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.