ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Following the dismissal of one of the 20 election fraud cases trumpeted by Gov. Ron DeSantis back in August, the attorney for one of the three Orange County defendants says he’ll ask a judge to do the same next week.
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Roger Weeden, who represents both Peter Washington and Michelle Stribling, says he had pre-drafted a motion for dismissal for Washington’s case and was waiting to see how the Miami judge would rule.
On Friday, Judge Milton Hirsch dismissed the case against Robert Lee Wood, ruling that the state did not have jurisdiction to prosecute the case because Wood registered to vote and voted in Miami-Dade County. For the state to have jurisdiction, he said, crimes would have to be committed in more than one judicial circuit.
Prosecutors had argued the case was within their jurisdiction because government workers in Tallahassee had reviewed Wood’s registration, an argument the judge rejected.
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“Neither he, nor anyone on his behalf, traveled out of Miami-Dade County,” Hirsch wrote.
State officials have already sworn they’ll appeal the ruling, but the opening was created. Weeden said the defense attorneys, many of whom were representing their clients pro bono, were already emailing each other documents.
“As soon as I saw this case, I thought, ‘Well, this is way out of the ordinary,’” he said. “I mean, how are they going to allege that there’s two counties involved?”
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Weeden said if the ruling stands, it will largely remove the teeth from DeSantis’ election police force since the state will no longer have the authority to prosecute the cases.
Local prosecutors could choose to take the suspects to trial instead but are more hesitant to do so. Casting a ballot alone isn’t a crime. Per Florida law, the person must know their actions were illegal.
In the statewide case, all 20 convicted felons said they thought they were eligible to vote, with many reporting that election or law enforcement officials encouraged them to register.
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Earlier this year, prosecutors in Lake County decided that six sex offenders who voted in 2020 did not know their actions were illegal and declined to prosecute them. Meanwhile, several people in The Villages pleaded guilty to knowingly voting twice.
Weeden said he believes he can get a hearing on his motion to dismiss within 10 days. Washington’s trial is currently set for February, while Stribling doesn’t have an assigned date.
The attorney for the third local defendant, Jerry Foster, declined to comment about his case.
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