Attorney general candidate Ashley Moody is hitting back hard against charges from her opponent in the Republican primary, Frank White, that she was "soft on child predators" as a former prosecutor and judge.
The Moody campaign is releasing a letter signed by eight of the 20 Florida state attorneys – all Moody backers — saying White's attacks show he is "unfit to serve" as attorney general and has "a dangerous inclination to blur the truth in a system that depends on the honor of the leaders that guard it."
The state attorneys, including Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney Bernie McCabe, also say White has "absolutely no understanding of what it means to lead a successful investigation or prosecution."
The response comes after White expanded his attacks on Moody, adding the inflammatory charge that she consented to light sentences as a judge and prosecutor in child pornography cases.
White's political committee is also producing a radio ad summing up his previous accusations that Moody is "a liberal," including attacks over her former lawsuit against Donald Trump.
White is a state House member from Pensacola who's legal counsel and CFO for a chain of car dealerships owned by his wife's family. Moody is a former federal prosecutor and Hillsborough circuit judge.
The accusations over child pornography involve a case she heard as judge in 2016, and one she handled as a federal prosecutor in 2004.
The 2016 case concerned Kyle Henry, a 16-year-old Plant City boy who took a photo of a nude, sleeping 6-year-old girl who was a family member and uploaded it to a web site frequented by pedophiles.
In a sentencing hearing, numerous relatives testified in Henry's favor and evidence was presented that he had no other criminal offenses and was not himself interested in pedophilia.
Prosecutors countered that numerous child pornography images were found hidden on his computer.
Citing his youth, Moody sentenced him to eight years in prison instead of the 15 sought by the prosecutor.
The other case involved Steven Lee Carty, given 6½ years in prison after pleading guilty in 2004 to possessing and distributing child pornography.
White contends that Moody "personally motioned the court to reduce the guilty pornographer's offense level for sentencing."
Under federal sentencing guidelines, if a defendant promptly pleads guilty as charged without seeking a plea deal, the prosecutor must recommend lowering the offense level for sentencing.
The child porn accusations are contained in an image that appears to be a political mailer from United Conservatives, White's political action committee.
"Liberal Judge Ashley Moody is soft on child predators," it states in bold headlines. "That's not just liberal, that's disgraceful."
Asked whether it will be used as a mass mailer, White campaign spokeswoman Erin Isaac said, "You could assume (it) may be part of a statewide media push, including television, radio, digital and mail."
The radio ad is based on White's charge that Moody is a liberal because:
- She initial registered to vote registration as a Democrat at age 18 in 1993. Moody switched to Republican in 1998 as a law student.
- She gave $100 in 2001 to the late Bill McBride, then a Democratic candidate for governor who supported the Roe v. Wade decision, at a time when Moody had been newly hired by McBride’s law firm, Holland & Knight. Moody represented her suing in 2009 for return of deposit money they paid for a condo in the collapsed Trump Tower Tampa project downtown.
- They were among several prospective purchasers who sued and won settlements when the project collapsed. They accused Trump of falsely saying publicly that he owned a share of the project when in fact, he had only licensed his name for use by the developer.
The ad says Moody "used to be a Democrat and still acts like one today," "personally donated money to pro-abortion liberals" and "worked for pro abortion liberals who tried to create a state income tax in Florida."
"Ashley Moody even personally sued President Trump for fraud, helping liberals. … She's a liberal trying to fool all of us."
Here's the ad: http://liberaljudge.com/Clear-Difference.mp3
Trump Tower Tampa collapsed because of the 2008 crash, leaving many investors with heavy losses and feeling like they had been misled.
RELATED COVERAGE: Buyers still feel burned by Donald Trump after Tampa condo tower failure
The Moody campaign responded to the child porn and 'liberal" attacks with a statement from former U.S. Attorney Paul Perez that Moody is "a tough on crime conservative who has an illustrious and proven legal career."
Moody campaign manager Nick Catroppo slammed what he said was White's lack of legal experience.
White "has never put a criminal behind bars nor been in a courtroom," and his "entire career in law consists of a brief stop at a silk-stocking D.C. based law firm before he took a job at his in-law's car dealership, which is now bankrolling his campaign," Catroppo said.
"Ashley Moody has literally put herself in harm's way in service to the safety of Floridians and bringing criminals to justice."
A dozen state attorneys have endorsed Moody in the race, including all the signers of the letter.
Their letter says, "After the recent scurrilous and foolish attacks against Ashley Moody's distinguished career as a prosecutor and judge by Frank White, it has become increasingly clear that … Frank White is uniquely unfit to serve." It said the attacks show "ignorance (of) criminal practice and criminal law."