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No-party candidate in Miami election fraud case will testify against Artiles

Alex Rodriguez will officially enter into a plea on Tuesday.
Frank Artiles leaves the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
Frank Artiles leaves the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
Published Aug. 20

MIAMI — Alexis Rodriguez, the no-party candidate involved in an alleged vote-siphoning scheme, will enter into a plea with prosecutors and serve as a witness in the state’s case against former Miami state senator Frank Artiles, a dramatic move that distances himself from his former friend and delays the process by another 60 days.

Rodriguez, an auto parts salesman and acquaintance of the former state senator, originally pleaded not guilty on charges related to the scheme, including taking donations that exceed the legal limit and lying on sworn campaign documents.

“Alex Rodriguez remains profoundly remorseful for his actions and considers his decision to enter into a plea agreement, which includes his cooperation with the state attorney, as a necessary and proper act of contrition,” his lawyer, William Barzee, wrote in a text Thursday.

Rodriguez will officially enter into a plea on Tuesday.

It will be a while longer before Artiles, who pleaded not guilty, faces trial on charges related to his involvement.

Related: Artiles worked with GOP firm Data Targeting on Senate races

A Miami circuit court judge Thursday set a check-in hearing date for Oct. 19, after Artiles’ lawyers asked for more time to interview witnesses and review evidence.

“Obviously, we are not ready for trial,” attorney Frank Quintero told Judge Andrea Ricker Wolfson during the hybrid hearing, which was held both virtually and in person at Miami’s criminal courthouse downtown. “We cannot commence taking depositions in this case until the issue with Mr. Rodriguez is resolved.”

The trial was originally set to begin Aug, 30.

Quintero said Thursday that the state did the “smart and correct thing” by entering into a plea agreement with Rodriguez. For months, Quintero has expressed his desire for Rodriguez to be separated into his own case, noting that his account of what happened in the case was used heavily in the arrest affidavit and that he is a “co-defendant in name only.”

“Finally the state realized that it must remove Rodriguez from the case and allow him to be deposed as a state witness,” Quintero wrote in an email. “Otherwise, they risk having the Artiles case dismissed for having a state witness inside the defense camp. ... We are looking forward to deposing Mr. Rodriguez.”

Investigators say Artiles, a Republican, funneled about $45,000 to Rodriguez in exchange for him changing his party affiliation from Republican to no party and qualifying for the ballot as a candidate in Senate District 37. They also say Rodriguez submitted false information on his sworn candidate documents, marking that he lived in a Palmetto Bay home when he was actually renting a house in Boca Raton at the time of the election. Knowingly filing an incorrect address with the state — or assisting someone to do so — is a third-degree felony.

Related: Records provide more details in sham 2020 Florida candidate probe

Under state law, those charges carry sentences of up to five years in prison.

Discovery records released so far in the case against Artiles and Rodriguez, who were arrested in March, reveal the underpinnings of a scheme that may have involved not only the former senator, but also a young Tallahassee consultant, Artiles’ brother-in-law, a pollster and former vice president of the Associated Industries of Florida, and one of the most prominent GOP operatives in the state.

The records show that Miami investigators are looking beyond Artiles and Rodriguez, who so far are the only ones facing criminal charges, to find the source of the money and understand the breadth of the alleged scheme.