Tampa Bay judge dismisses Anna Paulina Luna stalking injunction against Braddock

In June, the Republican congressional candidate said she received information her then-GOP rival had a plan to kill her.
In this June 22 file photo, Anna Paulina Luna appears via Zoom during a hearing in Clearwater.
In this June 22 file photo, Anna Paulina Luna appears via Zoom during a hearing in Clearwater. [ CHRIS URSO | AP ]
Published Sept. 25, 2021

On Friday, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge Doneene Loar dismissed a temporary stalking injunction filed by congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna against a short-lived opponent, ending a more than three-month-long process.

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

In June, Luna filed a temporary injunction against William Braddock, saying she received information he had a plan to kill her.

Conservative activist Erin Olszewski, who also filed for an injunction against Braddock, secretly recorded a nearly 30-minute-long video of a phone call with Braddock where he talks about having access to a “hit squad” and calls Luna vulgar names.

Loar also dismissed Olszewski’s injunction. In both cases, Loar said she found one instance of harassment. The law requires two instances in order for an injunction to be upheld.

Still, Loar said these instances could be used in future injunctions, and she offered a stern warning to Braddock.

“In no way does me following the law condone anything you have done in this case,” she said during the hearing.

Kevin Hayslett, the attorney representing Braddock, said while the judge did not condone Braddock’s behavior, she concluded that he was not involved in stalking, by the legal definition.

“She found that Mr. Braddock’s conduct and his language was inappropriate, but legally, there was no act of stalking,” he said.

Luna did not return a request for comment on the ruling. Olszewski’s lawyer declined to comment following the judge’s decision.

When describing the video of her phone call with Braddock, and her motivations for recording it, Olszewski became emotional when she said that he specifically brought up Olszewski’s children and warned her not to say anything. She said she sent her children out of the state for the summer out of fear.

“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,” Braddock said in the video.

Luna also became emotional talking about Braddock, saying it had affected not only her career but her personal life and health. She said after being told about the threats he made, including Braddock mentioning that he knew where she lived, she left town.

“I didn’t know how to tell authorities I thought someone was trying to kill me, or how this process goes,” she said in the hearing.

The St. Petersburg Police Department reviewed the video and said it was Braddock talking, but closed its investigation with no action taken because officials said the threats were conditional in nature — Braddock mentions he would take action only if Luna were ahead in the polls. Luna said the conditional nature didn’t give her any reassurance, because she felt he hadn’t obeyed by the temporary injunction in the first place.

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“I think that he is going to try to hurt me and I think he would try to hurt people around me because I think he’s an evil person,” Luna said during the hearing.

Pinellas-Pasco Executive Assistant State Attorney Kendall Davidson said no action was taken because Braddock didn’t have reasonable ability to carry out the threat.

The injunction against Braddock was not the first Luna sought in her adult life, but it was the first as a political figure. In Okaloosa County, Luna filed an injunction against a woman. Luna said the woman had blamed her for a breakup. The woman called her vulgar names and threatened to beat her up, Luna said.

Likewise, this injunction was not the first that Braddock had issued against him. His ex-fiancee filed a petition for temporary protection in Orange County in 2008, but it was later dismissed. Braddock previously had said the case came out of a contentious breakup and the woman’s case had no merit.

In Luna’s injunction, she said that Braddock had said that he was working alongside her opponent for Congress, Amanda Makki, who lost to Luna in the 2020 primary, and Matt Tito, who has been considering jumping into the congressional race. Neither Makki nor Tito were ever served with an injunction.

Makki and Tito have both firmly spoken out against Luna and demanded a public apology for including their names in the injunction filing. Makki has said she hardly knows Braddock, and Tito said if there were any conversations about “taking Luna out,” the sentiment was meant politically. The St. Petersburg police investigation found that Tito was not conspiring to do any harm to Luna.

Tito said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling Friday.

“Justice was served today,” he said in a phone interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

Makki said when she had seen her name in the injunction, she thought it seemed very “contrived,” adding she hadn’t seen Luna in more than a year.

“She tried to use this for political gain,” Makki said. “And it backfired.”

Along with the exhibits Luna’s lawyers said contained threats to her safety, her legal team included screenshots of messages Braddock sent to nearly 500 Americans abroad in China.

When James Sung, a Chinese American, shared a joke about former President Donald Trump in the chat, Braddock became aggressive and asked if his parents had him as an “anchor baby,” and said American-born Chinese individuals were like “cockroaches invading our beautiful country,” according to messages shared with the Times.

Braddock was briefly a congressional candidate for Florida’s 13th district, but he dropped out after news reports of the injunction came out.

Florida’s 13th district is considered a key part of Republicans’ strategy to win back control of the U.S. House. The district’s boundaries are up in the air as Florida heads into redistricting to account for an extra congressional seat.

The seat will be vacated by Rep. Charlie Crist, who defeated Luna in 2020. He is running for governor. Along with Luna and Makki, Audrey Henson, a nonprofit founder, is running in the Republican primary. Reps. Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner, and national security adviser Eric Lynn are running as Democrats. Frank Craft, a business owner, is running as a Libertarian.