1st Florida voter fraud case goes to trial in Tampa, ends with split verdict
Published in News & Features
TAMPA, Fla. — The trial of the first of about 20 people to be arrested in Florida on charges that they committed voter fraud by casting a ballot in the 2020 presidential election ended with a split verdict in a Tampa courtroom Tuesday night.
Nathan Hart, 49, was arrested in August as part of a sweep announced by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. It was the first such move since DeSantis had established a unit to investigate voter fraud after the 2020 election despite little evidence that widespread fraud at the ballot had been occurring in Florida.
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.
Hart was charged with two third-degree felonies, which carry a penalty of up to five years in prison, in the voter fraud case. On Tuesday night, a jury found him guilty of false affirmation, but not guilty of voting by an unqualified electorate.
Hart had been offered a plea deal in which he would get two years of probation. He turned it down.
A judge last week offered Hart an even better deal: If he pleaded guilty, he would receive no punishment beyond the time he’d already served in jail. Hart turned down that offer, too.
”I don’t think that I willingly did, or knowingly did, anything wrong,” he said last week. “So I would like to fight to get it dismissed.”
A jury was picked Monday, opening statements began Tuesday morning and the prosecution rested its case by early Tuesday afternoon.
Hart then 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 eligible.
The man told him that the worst thing that could happen is that he wouldn’t be qualified to vote, Hart told the jury.
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