Florida prosecutors have dropped charges against one of the people arrested by Governor Ron DeSantis’ voter roundup scam, which saw 20 people arrested for exercising their right to vote.
Tony Patterson is the second person to go to court, accused of illegally voting in the 2020 election, because of a previous felony conviction – despite being told by the state their rights had been restored.
Convicted of a sexual offense, Florida law prohibits Patterson from voting, but state officials – who report to Gov. DeSantis – gave the unaware voter the green light to receive a Voter ID and said nothing when he cast his ballot two years ago.
Facing up to five years each in prison if convicted of charges of both registering and voting illegally, defense attorneys argued for complete dismissal after a Miami judge rejected the Office of Statewide Prosecutors’ case against 56-year-old Robert Lee Wood – convicted of murder in 1991 – for registering and voting in the general election.
The defense argued that state prosecutors lack the authority to prosecute the case. According to The Times:
Wood’s attorney, Larry Davis, argued that the statewide prosecutor did not have jurisdiction. The statewide prosecutor is restricted by law to prosecuting crimes, including voting, involving two or more judicial circuits. Those crimes are usually “complex, often large scale, organized criminal activity,” according to its website.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Milton Hirsch agreed.
Read the order below.
Two conditions must be met when the OSP brings a case – it must have been committed in at least two or more judicial circuits, or “connected with an organized criminal conspiracy affecting two or more judicial districts,” – which defense attorneys refute. While Wood’s ballot was processed in another jurisdiction, it was cast in Miami-Dade.
“Robert Lee Woods’ misconduct, if misconduct it was, consisted in registering to vote, and voting, in his county of residence,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
“Yes, his voter application and his ballot to another Florida jurisdiction. But they were not transported by him, nor by any putatively criminal co-perpetrator,” adding, “They were not transported by someone whose role in Mr. Wood’s crime was to transport them.”
In a performative stunt, DeSantis announced the creation of an election security police force to combat “voter fraud,” unleashing a shocking and confusing early morning mass arrests of and sting on convicted felons who’d been mistakenly told they were eligible to vote after serving their time, issuing Voter IDs, and allowing them to vote in the 2020 election .
The stunt sparked outrage and criticism from voting rights groups and democracy advocates critical of the state’s actions.
Patterson’s attorney quickly seized the opportunity to seek dismissal based on Judge Hirsch’s ruling – but prosecutors dropped the charges before responding.
Mr. Patterson maintains he didn’t know that he was doing anything wrong. Asking the arresting officer, “Why would you let me vote if I wasn’t able to vote?” I’m not sure, buddy,” the officer replied. “I don’t know.”
Read Judge Hirsch’s order here.
Original reporting by Lawrence Mower at the Tampa Bay Times.
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