NATIONAL NEWS

What to know about the Gillum corruption trial in Florida

Apr 18, 2023, 8:32 AM

FILE - Andrew Gillum, Democratic candidate for Florida governor, speaks at a news conference in Tal...

FILE - Andrew Gillum, Democratic candidate for Florida governor, speaks at a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., Nov. 10, 2018. The former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate is on trial in federal court on charges of corruption and lying to the FBI, facing a potentially long prison sentence if convicted of multiple wire fraud counts and a conspiracy charge. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is on trial in federal court on charges of corruption and lying to the FBI, facing a potentially long prison sentence if convicted of multiple wire fraud counts and conspiracy.

Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee, came within less than a percentage point of being elected the first Black governor of Florida, losing by fewer than 34,000 votes to Republican Ron DeSantis in 2018.

WHAT IS THE CASE ABOUT?

Gillum, 43, is accused of accepting about $57,000 in political contributions that were secretly funneled through a co-defendant’s company to his personal accounts. The co-defendant is Sharon Lettman-Hicks, a longtime political adviser to Gillum and former executive with the People for the American Way Foundation, a progressive group. She ran unsuccessfully in 2022 for the state House.

Prosecutors also say Gillum lied about his interactions with undercover FBI agents posing as developers who paid for a 2016 trip he and his brother took to New York, which included a ticket to the hit Broadway show “Hamilton.” Gillum is accused of falsely telling the FBI later that he never received anything from these undercover “developers” and that his brother provided the Broadway ticket.

Gillum and Lettman-Hicks have pleaded not guilty. Gillum said after he was indicted that he had “a target on my back” since he was the state capital’s mayor, and predicted he will be vindicated.

HAS GILLUM HAD OTHER TROUBLES?

In 2020, Gillum was found in a Miami Beach hotel room with a man who had apparently overdosed on drugs. Police said Gillum himself was too inebriated to talk about what happened.

No one was ever charged with any crime involving the incident, but Gillum withdrew from public life for months afterward while seeking treatment for alcohol abuse and depression. He told a television interviewer some months later that he had to come to grips with what he had done.

“So much of my recovery has been about trying to get over shame,” Gillum said on the Tamron Hall talk show in September 2020.

WHAT IS GILLUM’S POTENTIAL PRISON SENTENCE?

Each of the 17 counts of wire fraud and the wire fraud conspiracy count in the Gillum indictment carries a maximum of 20 years behind bars. The charge of lying to the FBI has a five-year maximum sentence.

Although that technically adds up to a possible prison term of 365 years, if Gillum is convicted it’s more likely the multiple sentences would be served concurrently rather than consecutively under federal sentencing guidelines.

And with no prior convictions, generally those guidelines would favor a more minimal prison sentence for Gillum.

WHO IS THE JUDGE IN GILLUM’S TRIAL?

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor is presiding over the case in Tallahassee federal court. He was appointed in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump.

Previously, Winsor was Florida’s solicitor general, overseeing civil and criminal appellate work for the state. His boss then was former Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican.

Gillum argued that the indictment was politically motivated, but Winsor refused last year to dismiss it, and ruled that Gillum and Lettman-Hicks had to be tried together because their actions are so closely intertwined.

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What to know about the Gillum corruption trial in Florida