A Hillsborough County man who was the first person in Florida to face trial on charges of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election was sentenced Monday to two years of probation.
Nathan Hart, 49, was arrested in August as part of a sweep announced by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in which about 20 people were arrested on voter fraud charges related to the 2020 election.
Hart rejected plea deals and instead headed to trial earlier this month. A jury returned with a split verdict, finding him guilty of false affirmation, but not guilty of voting as an unqualified elector. Both are third-degree felonies that carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
After the jury’s verdict, prosecutors asked that Hart receive five years of probation, while the defense asked that his only punishment be the time he served in jail after his arrest. Jail records show there were about 13 hours between the time Hart was booked and he was released on bail.
In court Monday, Judge Laura Ward denied a motion from the defense for a new trial and said she believed that some level of supervision was appropriate for Hart. The defense again asked for Hart to be sentenced to only time served.
“The state at some point before trial ... they were offering six months’ probation, after trial they had requested I think five years’ probation, today they want some jail time followed by probation,” Ward said. “And quite frankly, I’d be more than willing to work with the state on that, had the jury come back guilty to both counts.”
Ward also said: “Quite frankly, Mr. Hart, if the jury had returned a guilty verdict as to both charges, I think jail time would be more than appropriate in this case.”
Hart had voted in the 2020 election despite a previous felony conviction in relation to a charge of lewd or lascivious molestation, which made him ineligible to vote.
During the trial, Hart took the stand and explained that he was approached by a man outside a Hillsborough County driver’s license office in 2020. Hart said the man told him he would be able to vote after Amendment 4, a 2018 constitutional amendment approved by voters, restored that right to felons. Hart said he didn’t think he was eligible to vote, but the man said if he received a voter ID, he would be able to. So he did.
DeSantis had established a unit to investigate voter fraud after the 2020 election despite little evidence that widespread fraud had been occurring in Florida.
Ward also sentenced Hart to complete 100 hours of community service and to pay court costs.
“Obviously no voting,” Ward added. Hart has 30 days to appeal the sentence.