An assault complaint against a likely incoming state Senator will be handled by State Attorney Ed Brodsky. But what would it take for the state to press charges against Republican Jonathan Martin?
Brodsky promised a thorough investigation into circumstances that led Martin at a Lee County Republican Executive Committee meeting to yank a cell phone from a man’s hands.
“First and foremost, we have to make a determination whether criminal charges are warranted, and we haven’t reached that point yet,” he said.
Martin last month announced he would file in Senate District 33, where incumbent Sen. Ray Rodrigues is not seeking re-election. He jumped into the race in the middle of qualifying week with the endorsement of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But Martin, Chairman of the Lee County GOP, has dealt in recent months with infighting in the party, including over School Board contests.
At a May meeting of the REC, Martin took away a cell phone being held by Simon Susko, who was livestreaming the meeting on Facebook. The video remains online, where about 11 minutes in, Martin can be seen putting his hand over the camera and telling Susko he could not record. Immediately after, as Susko continued, Martin’s hand appears again to grab again at the phone and audience members tell him, “You can’t touch people.”
Martin later told Florida Politics that the party has never allowed livestreaming of the meetings, and that Susko wasn’t even a member of the REC. Ultimately, the phone was returned to his mother, Tara Jenner, the phone’s owner and an REC member. She was allowed to continue filming.
Jenner later filed against Martin for the Senate seat but did not qualify. Martin faces only a write-in opponent for the seat.
Susko filed a battery complaint with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Under Florida law, the state can pursue misdemeanor or felony battery charges when someone “actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other.”
After the report was filed, State Attorney Amira Fox asked the Governor to reassign the case out of Florida’s 20th Judicial Circuit because a relative of Martin’s works in her office. DeSantis last week issued an executive order directing the case to Brodsky’s office in Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit.
Brodsky said battery cases of this kind rarely go to trial. When that happens, it’s usually a demand of defendants over something like a claim of self defense. Otherwise, prosecutors and those being investigated reach a resolution before a matter ever lands in front of a judge.
“There is a strong likelihood of a resolution,” Brodsky said. “In most cases in Florida, they do resolve by a plea.”
Investigators remain in the very early stages of handling the incident with Martin, but plenty of information is already clear, Brodsky notes.
“In this case, we know there was contact,” Brodsky said. “We just need to know, was it authorized? Was it reasonable in light of the circumstances?”
In this case, Brodsky said his office will benefit from the fact video exists of the incident.
But he said the mere fact contact occurs between two individuals doesn’t necessarily mean a battery charge will result. Investigators with the State Attorney’s Office will need to interview both the parties directly involved in a conflict and any potential witnesses.
“You have to look at every given set of circumstances to evaluate the situation,” he said. “All that goes to determining, when there is a contact, whether it’s appropriate for criminal charges to be instituted.”