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No criminal charges for candidate threatening Anna Paulina Luna

William Braddock appears to be captured on a secret video recording talking about Anna Paulina Luna and a “hit squad.”
Congressional candidates William Braddock, left, and Anna Paulina Luna.
Congressional candidates William Braddock, left, and Anna Paulina Luna. [ Times ]
Published Jul. 1
Updated Jul. 2

The St. Petersburg Police Department has closed its investigation into what congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna said were threats made against her by political rival William Braddock and will take no action in the case.

The 14-page police file reports that Braddock repeatedly talked about Luna, a fellow Republican in the closely watched 13th Congressional District, getting “taken out,” and includes a link to a 30-minute video in which Braddock appears to be secretly recorded saying he has access to a “hit squad” of Ukrainians and Russians.

“If the poll says Luna’s gonna win, she’s gonna be gone, she’s gonna disappear,” a video that appears to capture Braddock’s voice says. “For the good of our country, we have to sacrifice the few.”

The police report details the threatening parts of the audio recording and says it was Braddock’s voice. But investigators determined that the comments were “conditional in nature as Braddock mentions the ‘hit squad’ scenario will only happen if Luna polls ahead of him,” the report says. “Due to the conditional nature of the threats made by Braddock, it was determined that no probable cause exists at this time.”

Braddock is still the subject of two temporary stalking injunctions in relation to this case. Luna filed one injunction after she said she got word that Braddock had a plan to kill her.

Related: Anna Paulina Luna says potential political opponents conspired to kill her

Erin Olszewski, a nurse and conservative speaker who made the June 9 recording of Braddock, also obtained a temporary injunction against Braddock.

A judge will determine whether to uphold the temporary injunctions or dismiss them at a July 9 hearing.

Pinellas-Pasco Executive Assistant State Attorney Kendall Davidson said probable cause doesn’t exist to file charges in the case because Braddock didn’t make the threat directly to Luna or her family and doesn’t have the reasonable ability to carry out the threat.

In Florida, it’s a third-degree felony to record someone without their consent. Because of case law, Davidson said, the recording will not be admissible into evidence and the injunction hearing will not be able to rely on the audio.

Braddock, 37, of St. Petersburg, said Thursday that he was happy the police investigation was closed and said he hoped a parallel investigation by the FBI will have the same result. He said he could not comment on statements in the video because he hasn’t heard the entire clip.

“It sounds like my voice, but I’m not admitting it’s me,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s been edited or altered so I can’t comment on this at that point.”

A spokesperson for Luna said the end of the police investigation should have no bearing on her injunction case.

“The local law enforcement decision whether to prosecute Mr. Braddock under state law for his threats (against) Ms. Luna is very different from whether he should be prevented from getting close enough to her to carry through on those threats,” spokesperson James Blair said in a text. “We are pleased that he remains enjoined from getting near her.”

When reached for comment, Olszewski referred to her lawyer, who did not respond to two emails and a message left at her law office.

In the video recording, Braddock says he has connections to Freemasons and access to billions from overseas.

“I really don’t want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America, because that would break my heart but if it needs to be done it needs to be done,” he said in the video.

Politico first reported on the existence of the recording last month.

In Luna’s petition for a temporary injunction, she said that she’d gotten word that Braddock had said he was working alongside other political rivals Matt Tito and Amanda Makki. Tito has said he is considering a run for the 13th Congressional District. Makki lost to Luna in the 2020 primary for that seat.

The police report says investigators determined Tito was not conspiring to kill Luna or do physical harm. Makki is mentioned as saying she barely knows Braddock and never heard him make a threat. She said she would never harm anyone physically.

Tito said he knows Braddock because of Braddock’s campaign. He said he never heard Braddock make threats, and is upset his name was included in Luna’s injunction petition.

“I think that what she did was irresponsible and reckless to include my name on a police report linked to a plot to kill her,” he said.

“Ms. Makki has demonstrated nothing but the highest ethical standards throughout this ‘charade’ and in her career,” said her attorney, Robert Eckard. “We are keeping all legal options open to defend and restore her reputation that Ms. Luna has maliciously attacked with no legitimate purpose other than to try and gain a political advantage over Ms. Makki in the court of public opinion.”

Braddock has a history of name-calling and inappropriate comments, according to people who know him from a mass group chat for Americans abroad in China. Braddock said he spent some time living and working in China but moved back to Florida in 2019.

In a WeChat group of nearly 500 people called “American Bros in China,” ex-pats are able to connect.

James Sung, a Chinese American, said Braddock began to attack him in the forum after Sung sent a joke about former President Donald Trump.

Sung said Braddock accused him of being a communist and demanded to see his passport to prove he was American.

“Bro you’re so goddamned lucky you don’t live near me or I’d f--king make your retarded ass disappear,” Braddock reportedly said in a 2019 message that Sung shared with the Tampa Bay Times.

He asked if Sung’s parents had him as an “anchor baby,” and said people needed to stop ABCs — American Born Chinese.

“They’re like leeches and cockroaches invading our beautiful country,” he said.

Braddock said he couldn’t comment on the texts because he had not seen the screenshots.

“I’m not racist, I’ve got nothing against anybody,” Braddock said.

Another member of the WeChat group, Anthony Underwood, 49, had Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant with Braddock in 2017. The two bonded over their service in the Marines.

Underwood said Braddock made derogatory comments about non-Americans and about Jewish people, even though he knew the mother of Underwood’s children was Jewish.

“If you’re not white and male he constantly belittles you like crazy,” Underwood said.

Davy Williams, a friend of Braddock’s when the two were in China, said he doesn’t think Braddock is racist. The two bonded over their mutual patriotism living away from home, Williams said.

“I think he’s a good person at heart and I hope that he’s successful in whatever he chooses to do,” Williams said. “And I hope he’s careful about the things he says in the future.”