A Miami judge on Friday tossed out a criminal case against one of 19 people accused by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election fraud force of voting illegally in the 2020 election.
In the first legal challenge to DeSantis’ arrests, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch rejected the idea that the Office of Statewide Prosecutor could charge Robert Lee Wood, 56, with registering to vote and casting a ballot in the general election.
Wood was convicted of second-degree murder in 1991, making him ineligible to vote.
Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox said in a statement Friday that the judge had an “incorrect analysis” and the decision would be appealed.
Hirsch did not consider whether Wood broke the law. Instead, while quoting Shakespeare, he weighed whether the statewide prosecutor could bring the charges at all.
Wood’s attorney, Larry Davis, argued that the statewide prosecutor did not have jurisdiction. The statewide prosecutor is restricted to prosecuting crimes, including voting, involving two or more judicial circuits. Those crimes are usually “complex, often large scale, organized criminal activity.
In the case of Wood and at least 18 other people DeSantis has accused of voting illegally in 2020, the statewide prosecutor said they committed crimes in multiple jurisdictions when they first registered to vote and then cast a ballot, each third-degree felonies carrying up to five years in prison.
When Wood signed up to vote, his registration form went to the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections, who then forwarded that form to the Secretary of State’s office in Leon County to verify his eligibility — making it two jurisdictions, according to the statewide prosecutor.
The Secretary of State’s office, which reports to DeSantis, verified Wood’s eligibility through a quick search, and he was sent a voter ID card.
When Wood voted on Nov. 3, 2020, he did so in Miami-Dade, but his vote was certified in Leon .
Statewide prosecutors argued that “it would be reasonably foreseeable to anyone” that registering to vote would automatically involve a government agency in Tallahassee.
They compared the situation to a drug dealer transporting drugs across multiple jurisdictions before selling them in a single county, or to an automotive “chop shop” in one county that used parts stolen in another county.
Wood’s attorney argued that the alleged criminal acts occurred in a single county — Miami-Dade — and Wood took no part in transferring the application or ballot somewhere else.