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Former Judge Belvin Perry files for State Attorney contest

The former judge who presided over Casey Anthony’s trial is now running for State Attorney.

Former Chief Judge Belvin Perry has filed as a Democrat to run for the State Attorney’s position opening up in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit as Aramis Ayala prepares to leave office next year.

Perry, 70, has been in private practice with the law firm of Morgan and Morgan since retiring from the bench in Floria’s 9th Judicial Circuit in 2014. He drew national fame as the judge in the sensational 2011 murder trial of Casey Anthony.

Perry had served as an assistant state attorney, prosecuting high-profile cases in the circuit, in the 1980s, and in 1989 was elected judge in the district, serving Orange and Osceola Counties.

He enters a field with two prominent assistant state attorneys also seeking the Democratic nomination, Ayala’s Chief Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra, and Ryan Williams, a top assistant state attorney in the neighboring Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

There also is a Republican running, Orlando lawyer Kevin Morenski. But he has none of the experience of Williams, Barra, or Perry, and Democrats have a huge advantage in voter registrations in both Orange and Osceola counties.

Morenski also has none of the money. Barra’s campaign has about $100,000 in the bank.

Ayala announced last May she would not seek a second term.

Both Barra and Williams issued statements Thursday expressing respect for Perry, yet saying the circuit’s voters should look forward to the future they believe they represent, not backwards to a past they contend Perry represents.

Both Barra and Williams had prosecuted cases in Perry’s courts.

“While I respect Mr. Perry, it’s been more than 30 years since he has worked as a prosecutor. Our community shouldn’t look to the past; we need to focus on the future,” Barra said in her written statement. “With my prosecutorial and managerial experience, I am the only candidate who knows what it will take to get the job done and bring justice to crime victims.”

Williams is running on a platform of reforming the State Attorney’s Office from Ayala’s policies.

“I’m running for State Attorney because I know my energy and passion are necessary to restore credibility and integrity to the office. I respect Judge Perry and his 50 years of service to the community, but he is not a long-term solution for our community’s safety,” Williams said. “I’m betting voters are ready to look forward, not back, in this important moment, and I am excited for the opportunity to prove I am right.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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