Former Florida gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, who subsequently came out as bisexual, has been indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements to investigators.
Gillum, a Democrat who had been mayor of Tallahassee, was Florida’s first Black nominee for governor when he ran against Republican Ron DeSantis in 2018. DeSantis won. The charges are related to actions when he was mayor and when he was running for governor. A grand jury filed the charges June 7, and they were made public Wednesday by Jason R. Coody, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
The indictment alleges that from 2016 to 2019, Gillum and two associates raised funds that were ostensibly going to his Forward Florida Political Action Committee and a project called the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, which fought state preemption of regulations imposed by local governments. They solicited money from undercover FBI agents posing as business owners, and the agents were promised government contracts in exchange for their support, according to the document. They also sought funds from organizations.
But some of the funds were diverted to P&P Communications, a company owned by Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Gillum’s longtime friend and political mentor, the indictment alleges. Lettman-Hicks, it says, “then fraudulently provided [the money] to Gillum disguised as payroll payments.” Gillum was hired by Lettman-Hicks’s firm after he resigned from People for the American Way in order to run for governor, and this made up for the salary he had lost.
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks are both charged with 19 counts of wire fraud, and Gillum is also charged with making false statements to FBI agents. Each charge of wire fraud carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, and each charge of making false statements carries up to five years.
Gillum lost narrowly to DeSantis in the 2018 election, with DeSantis prevailing by fewer than 32,000 votes out of 8 million, Florida Politics notes. There was a machine recount before the winner was declared.
Other Tallahassee officials had been investigated for corruption by the FBI when Gillum was mayor, and two were eventually indicted. Gillum had insisted he was not under investigation, but the indictment shows he was.
Gillum ran as an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, while DeSantis has proved to be deeply anti-LGBTQ+, with actions that have included signing Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill into law this year. The legislation restricts classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In March 2020, Gillum was found nude and vomiting in a hotel bathroom in Miami Beach, and another man in the room, identified as Travis Dyson, was in cardiac arrest, possibly due to an overdose of crystal meth. Dyson eventually recovered. Gillum said he himself had never used illicit drugs but had abused alcohol, and he checked into rehab. Gillum came out as bisexual in September of that year.
“I don’t identify as gay,” Gillum said on Tamron Hall’s talk show, “but I do identify as bisexual. And that is something I have never shared publicly before.”
Gillum has denied any wrongdoing in his fundraising. “Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity,” he said in a statement released through his lawyer, Marc Elias. “Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political.”
Elias added, “The government got it wrong today. The evidence in this case is clear and will show Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges.”