Republican House District 42 candidate Fred Hawkins Jr. has agreed to a deal with state prosecutors to enter a diversion program that could lead to dismissal of a felony charge of impersonating a law enforcement officer.
The agreement was revealed Tuesday after Circuit Judge Keith Carsten agreed on Monday to a request from the State Attorney’s Office to accept Hawkins’ application for the program.
Under the arrangement, Hawkins, who was charged based on an episode that took place at a homeowners association meeting last year, would enter a pretrial diversion program. According to the State Attorney’s Office for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, the pretrial diversion will last one year and requires him to take an Impulse Control Class, complete community service hours, pay fines and pay thousands of dollars for the cost of investigation to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
If he completes it, the state agrees to drop prosecution or even to dismiss the charge outright. If he does not complete it, prosecutors will resume traditional prosecution.
Hawkins has remained active in his political campaign. He is battling Democrat Barbara Cady for the open seat to represent HD 42, covering much of Osceola County and parts of eastern Polk County.
“I am glad to get this behind me and have said throughout this process that I was innocent of this allegation. The fairness of the criminal justice system and my faith in these proceedings serve as a reminder that a person is innocent until proven guilty,” Hawkins said in a statement released Tuesday by his campaign. “I look forward to continuing my campaign for House District 42 based on my record of principled and community-based leadership.”
Hawkins was arrested in July and charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer because of an incident at a November, 2019, HOA election meeting outside of Saint Cloud.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the incident after video emerged in May The video, from a bodycam worn by a security guard hired by the HOA, showed Hawkins pushing through a crowd, holding up a badge, declaring he was “a sheriff” and that she (the security guard) was about to be arrested, and then pushing past her. She had been operating on instructions to let people into the voting area only one at a time. Later, she was arrested on a charge of battery on Hawkins and resisting arrest, charges that were later dismissed.
Hawkins was an Osceola County Commissioner who carried a “special deputy” badge. The badge and distinction as special deputy were largely honorary. In August, Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Hawkins from the Osceola County Commission.
Cady was unimpressed by the arrangement.
“This still doesn’t change what happened. Fred Hawkins was arrested on a felony charge based on his poor behavior during an HOA meeting,” Cady said in a text statement. “So now he can use his power and influence to have the charges reduced, which just adds to the story of his poor decision-making and behavior unbecoming of a public servant. Because of his poor judgment a young woman security guard was unjustly arrested.”
That security guard, Ailyn DePena, has sued Hawkins. The civil suit still is pending.
Hawkins campaign stated, “Commissioner Hawkins and the state attorney’s office came to an agreement that the charge stemming from nearly a year ago from a contentious HOA meeting in which Hawkins tried to bring law and order to a volatile situation would be dismissed. In an effort to bring this matter to a speedy and certain dismissal, Mr. Hawkins elected this course of action to bring closure on this matter.”