Orange County judge dismisses voter fraud case from DeSantis-touted arrest

Orange County judge dismisses voter fraud case from DeSantis-touted arrest

An Orange County judge on Monday dismissed a voter fraud case brought by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new Election Crimes Office, finding statewide prosecutors lacked jurisdiction to charge the Orlando defendant.

“If the Legislature desires a centralized prosecutor with the power to pursue any perceived illegality throughout the state of Florida, the Florida Legislature has the power to create a centralized system,” Orange County Circuit Judge Jennifer Harris wrote in her ruling. “This Court will not grant such a centralized power without legislative authority.”

But last week, The Florida Legislature passed a bill That would give prosecutors statewide jurisdiction in all of those cases, excluding the current standard that led Harris to dismiss the case against 59-year-old Peter Washington.

The bill was sent to the governor’s office on Friday and will take effect once signed into law. According to the Florida Senate website.

It’s unclear whether Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office plans to refile the case against Washington after the law takes effect. “It is our position that we currently have jurisdiction and we will review our options,” Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox wrote in a statement to the Orlando Sentinel.

Monday’s decision comes nearly two weeks after Washington and his lawyer filed a motion to dismissClaims that the case was led by the statewide Office of Prosecutions — which, until the recently passed bill was implemented, could only charge defendants with crimes committed in two or more judicial circuits.

Washington, who was convicted of attempted sexual battery in 1996, was sent a voter card from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections before he and his wife cast their ballots in the 2020 election.

After his arrest, Washington told investigators he was surprised he was being arrested for voter fraud and that he didn’t think it was illegal. He said he showed his photo ID and voter card to poll workers on the day he voted and was not returned.

Washington was One of 20 across the state Accused of illegally casting ballots in 2020 election despite permission to do so by state officials.

The other two defendants are from Orange County.

His case was dismissed on the same grounds as that of Robert Wood, a Miami man whose case has been dismissed When a judge ruled that the statewide prosecution office lacked jurisdiction to charge him.

Last week, the trial of Nathan Hart, a Tampa man who was the first to be arrested in a voter fraud case, ended in a split verdict.

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