TALLAHASSEE — A Miami judge has tossed out another voter fraud case brought by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ elections police, the third case to fall apart since the governor announced the arrests.
On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Laura Anne Stuzin reached the same conclusion as another Miami judge did in a different voter’s case, saying that statewide prosecutors didn’t have the ability to bring charges against Ronald Lee Miller.
Because he was convicted of second-degree murder in 1990, Miller, 58, was ineligible to vote. But after his voter registration application was cleared by the Florida Department of State, Miami-Dade’s supervisor of elections issued him a voter ID card, and he voted in November 2020.
DeSantis held a high-profile news conference in August to tout the arrests of Miller and 19 others who were all ineligible to vote because of past murder or felony sex offense convictions, but who had all voted after applying for and receiving voter ID cards. DeSantis oversees the Department of State.
Statewide prosecutors charged Miller with felony counts of giving a false affirmation in connection with an election and unlawfully voting.
Miller’s attorney, Robert Barrar, challenged the prosecution using the same argument that was successful in front of another judge: Statewide prosecutors didn’t have the ability to bring the charges.
Under state law, statewide prosecutors are restricted to prosecuting crimes in multiple jurisdictions, such as a drug trafficker who sells drugs in multiple counties.
Statewide prosecutors said Miller’s alleged crimes happened in multiple jurisdictions because he registered to vote through a third-party voter registration organization, which sent the application to Broward County’s election supervisor, which was then sent to Tallahassee.
Stuzin flatly rejected that argument in a brief three-page order, writing that state law governing the statewide prosecutor “is clear on its face and unambiguous.”
Miller “never physically entered” Broward or Leon counties and “never mailed or electronically transferred anything” to either of those counties, she ruled.
The Office of Statewide Prosecution “does not have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the Defendant as part of a related transaction in two or more judicial circuits,” she wrote.
Barrar added, “Let this be a lesson to all not to use the legal system for political gain and waste taxpayer’s hard earned money.”
Statewide prosecutor Nick Cox said in a statement that the state would appeal the decision.
DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin said they disagreed with the ruling.
“Given that elections violations of this nature impact all Florida voters, elections officials, state government, and the integrity of our republic, we continue to view the Florida Office of Statewide Prosecution as the appropriate agency to prosecute these crimes,” Griffin said.
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The decision marks another loss for DeSantis’ new Office of Election Crimes and Security, which he pushed the Legislature to create this year.
In November, prosecutors dropped identical charges against Tony Patterson, 44, after he was sentenced to a year and a day in prison in an unrelated case.
Last week, 56-year-old Romona Oliver took a plea deal that allowed her to avoid any punishment.