Charges filed against Miami antigay petitioners

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com August 20 2002 11:00 PM ET

Miami special prosecutor John Aguero filed formal charges Monday against three men accused of fraudulent practices in a petition drive to repeal Miami-Dade County, Fla.'s 1998 pro-gay nondiscrimination ordinance. Christian Montoya, 17; notary public Ralph Patterson, 76; and Anthony Verdugo, 40, leader of the local Christian Coalition and a board member of antigay group Take Back Miami-Dade, were arrested last week and released from jail. A fourth person, not yet identified, was expected to turn himself in Tuesday.

The documents filed Monday allege that Montoya falsely claimed to have witnessed the signatures of up to 19 people on seven petition forms. He is charged with seven counts of false swearing, a third-degree felony. He is scheduled for trial October 2.

Verdugo, who is charged with one count of false swearing, is accused of wrongly claiming to have seen at least one person sign a petition. Patterson is accused of illegally notarizing his own signature, a third-degree felony.

Rosa Armesto de Gonzalez, an attorney representing the three, said the arrests are politically motivated. "I find it outrageous that in a democracy they try to silence political opposition with bogus charges," Armesto said. "This is the work of the homosexual, bisexual, and transsexual mafia that wants to destroy our families and take away the right of every Dade County citizen to vote," Armesto told reporters outside the juvenile justice center in Miami, where she had entered a not guilty plea for Montoya. "There is no proof that anything wrong was done."