Saturday, May 26, 2018

Prosecutor in Casey Anthony trial runs for office

ORLANDO — A retired prosecutor from the Casey Anthony murder trial has announced that he is running for the state attorney's office in Central Florida.

In a video and interview posted Sunday on the Orlando Sentinel's website, Jeff Ashton said he would challenge his former boss, Lawson Lamar, to be the Orange-Osceola state attorney.

Lamar has served as state attorney since 1989, and before that he was the Orange County sheriff. Lamar's chief assistant and campaign treasurer, Bill Vose, told the newspaper that the campaign had no immediate response to Ashton's announcement but expected a formal response later this week.

"As a prosecutor I am offering to the voters a chance to say, 'Do we want a person whose primary focus is as a prosecutor or whose primary focus is as a politician?' " Ashton said.

Ashton, 54, worked for 30 years for the state attorney's office that handles cases for Orange and Osceola counties.

He retired, as planned, days after Anthony's trial ended in July with an acquittal in the killing of her daughter, Caylee.

Ashton said he hoped that the Anthony case would not overshadow the election or the roughly 300 other cases he has tried in his career.

"I hope people will look beyond the one case and look at a 30-year career, because no one should vote for me because of one case. That's just crazy," he said.

Ashton suggested that people should read his book about the Anthony trial, Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony, if they want to know more about him.

In the book, which has been a bestseller, Ashton called Anthony's lead attorney, Jose Baez, "smarmy" and careless with the facts. He also said Baez encouraged Anthony to be uncooperative with investigators. Baez said Ashton's accusations were false.

Anthony, 25, was released from prison, but remains in hiding somewhere in Florida on probation for an unrelated check fraud case.

Ashton has a news conference scheduled Tuesday morning to formally announce his campaign.

Another former prosecutor from Lamar's office, Ryan Williams, also has announced a bid for the state attorney's office. Ashton, Lamar and Williams are all Democrats, and no Republican has announced a candidacy.

The primary election is scheduled Aug. 14.

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