Grant charged with fraud
Eatonville Mayor Anthony Grant and two co-conspirators were arrested this week after they were indicted by an Orange County grand jury on Monday for voter fraud in connection with the 2015 mayoral election in Eatonville.
The town’s mayor and campaign workers James Randolph and Mia Antoinette Nowells have been charged with 22 third-degree felonies related to voter fraud, including conspiracy to violate the election code, corruptly influencing voting – intimidation, unlawfully marking or designating a ballot choice, and violating the voter protection act.
Grant has since been released from jail and was suspended by Gov. Rick Scott from public office on Tuesday.
“The basic accusation in the conspiracy count is that these three people conspired together to essentially present votes as if they were legitimate…when in fact they were not,” said Florida State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Jeffrey Ashton, adding that multiple counts involved a voter being told who to vote for, as well as submitting an absentee ballot filled out by a non-resident of Eatonville.
Grant and Randolph also face three misdemeanors related to absentee ballot voting violations, while Nowells faces two. The third degree felonies could result in a maximum sentence of five years per count, Ashton said.
The grand jury’s investigation and decision followed a yearlong investigation by the State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, triggered by a lawsuit filed by former Eatonville Mayor Bruce Mount. Grant, who had served as mayor before Mount’s tenure, was voted back into office in March 2015 after earning 41.56 percent of the vote, defeating candidates Alvin Moore, Charles Bargaineer and Mount, regaining the mayor’s seat he had lost to Mount six years ago.
Mount had garnered more support at the polls on Election Day with 80 votes to Grant’s 70, but Grant’s 196 absentee votes were enough to earn him back his seat.
FDLE Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said the indictments were the first step toward bringing stability to Eatonville’s government.
“Today’s action by the grand jury I will say has been a very long time coming in our community and certainly for the town of Eatonville,” Banks said.
“Today the town of Eatonville has retaken control of their government and they have set the stage for future growth and opportunity within their own community…. Corruption in politics does exist and it exists in Central Florida, however, it’s important that we continually strive to weed out those corrupt officials who are the bare few within our community.”
Ashton said that the alleged criminal acts affected at least five voters within the town of Eatonville. A trial date has yet to be set.