Report: Rick Scott reassigns case involving Keith Perry
Keith Perry

Keith Perry SD 8 (Large)

Gov. Rick Scott has assigned a new State Attorney to a battery and trespassing case involving Rep. Keith Perry.

Scott issued an executive order Tuesday, reassigning the case to the State Attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit. The decision, which was first reported by POLITICO Florida, comes about a week after the victim withdrew his complaint with Gainesville police.

According to police reports, Perry struck a man on the side of his face after a dispute over a yard sign. Surveillance video released by the Gainesville Police Department showed Perry and a man, identified by police as 46-year-old Norman Leppla, were involved in a verbal disagreement before the incident. Surveillance video also showed Leppla bumping Perry.

Perry apologized for the incident, and Leppla withdrew his complaint on Sept. 15. The Gainesville Police Department had already referred the case to the State Attorney’s Office, and said it would forward the complaint withdrawal to prosecutors.

According to the executive order, State Attorney William Cervone notified Scott of the compliant, and informed him it involved a member of the Florida House and a state Senate candidate. Cervone also informed Scott that he has “publicly endorsed Representative Perry’s opponent in the upcoming election.”

In order to “avoid a conflict of interest or any appearance of impropriety,” Cervone “voluntarily disqualified himself” and requested Scott appoint another State Attorney.

Scott assigned R.J. Larizza, the State Attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit, to the case. The assignment, according to the executive order, is good for one year. The request, and Scott’s decision to assign a new State Attorney, is largely viewed as a procedural move.

Perry faces Democrat Rod Smith in the Senate District 8 race. A recent poll showed a tight match between the two men, with Smith leading Perry 43 percent to 38 percent.

**Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster


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