It appears that prosecution of a man accused of trespassing at a Gov. Ron DeSantis press conference may move forward after all.
The Governor’s Office denied the request of 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson to recuse her office from the case of Ben Frazier, so a compromise was reached.
DeSantis General Counsel Ryan Newman wrote Nelson on Jan. 14 denying the request for executive assignment on the grounds that members of the Governor’s Office were “directly involved” in the circumstances of the case.
Newman contended that the “ends of justice would not be served” if the Governor’s Office exercised such discretion. However, 7th Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza worked with Nelson’s office to identify a special prosecutor, David Ray Smith, who has “full authority” to decide whether there is a case to be prosecuted.
Nelson had appealed for reassignment of the case based on her office’s “relationship with Mr. Frazier.”
“In his capacity as a community activist, Mr. Frazier has routinely called upon our office to take certain actions related to investigations and other pending criminal cases. At times, Mr. Frazier has acted in the role of advocate, and other times, concerned citizen, and still at other times, adversary. Members of our office and I have both hosted and attended multiple meetings with Mr. Frazier. Indeed, over the last 18 months, our office has been engaged in dialogue with Mr. Frazier — at his invitation — to address various criminal justice issues unique to our community,” a previous letter to the Governor’s Office read.
This story got national attention when the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office walked the mobility-challenged Frazier out of the room in handcuffs after staffers for both the Governor and the Duval County Office of the Florida Department of Health failed to persuade Frazier and those with him to leave.
Officers brought Frazier to ground level and put him in the back of a police car while Frazier’s supporters looked on. He was not taken to the Duval County Jail, but he was detained throughout the Governor’s remarks.
Frazier’s first court appearance is slated for Jan. 26.