New allegations emerge about Ron DeSantis’ confidant Kent Stermon’s problems before his death

KentStermon
The 4th Circuit State Attorney's Office offers comment on Daily Mail story, ongoing investigation.

Stunning reporting from the Daily Mail makes disturbing allegations about the death by suicide of one of Ron DeSantis erstwhile allies.

Kent Stermon, a Jacksonville donor and political powerbroker who was central to the Governor’s early career and political rise, took his own life last December amid an active investigation from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, where he held significant influence for a civilian.

The new reporting fills in some details of the tragedy, and the 4th Circuit State Attorney’s Office is the first to comment.

“The investigation remains ongoing. I will let you know when it is officially closed and send you our investigative memorandum,” said spokesman David Chapman.

That report is likely to surface in the next couple of weeks.

The Daily Mail named an employee of the SAO, chief investigator Jackson Short, who began working for the SAO weeks after Stermon’s death. In a note to loved ones, Stermon urged one to “go find your own Jackson Short,” a mysterious statement.

“As to your questions about Chief Investigator Short, he and his family were personal friends with the Stermons for many years. Short remains on the job as normal,” Chapman wrote.

FP have reached out to the Executive Office of the Governor, the Mayor’s Office, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and former Sheriff and current Congressman John Rutherford for comment, and those inquiries have yet to be responded to or acknowledged.

The Mail alleges Stermon died by suicide after offering an “underaged teen” tickets to a Taylor Swift concert in exchange for a “photo of her breasts.” Reportedly, he allegedly then attempted and failed to coerce the girl into showing them in person, which allegedly led to the victim’s father confronting Stermon who offered a “five-figure sum to keep quiet.”

Stermon, who was 50 years old, had been dealing with serious health issues before his death. Stermon told Florida Politics just hours before he was found dead that he had suffered a stroke days before but was upbeat.

“I am stepping about as far from politics as I can right now,” Stermon texted, in what would be some of his last words to anyone. “My prognosis is positive and I just got discharged from (the) hospital but I have a ton of work to do to get healthy.”

In a sign of how close he was to DeSantis, Stermon served as a Board of Governors member of Florida’s State University System, on the Florida Highway Patrol Advisory Council, and was Chair of the Governor’s Public Safety Transition Advisory Committee. The Board of Governors called him a “champion of higher education and student success in Florida” when he passed away.

Stermon had a unique role in regional politics, making connections — particularly for DeSantis’ once-unlikely path to the 2018 Republican nomination for Governor.

He also more recently was plugged int the process of filling the vacancy left when former Sheriff Mike Williams, another close friend of Stermon’s, resigned months before his death, including having advance knowledge of the Governor’s appointment of interim Sheriff Pat Ivey and the Governor’s political support of current Sheriff T.K. Waters.

“I’ve spoken with a lot of folks in the Sheriff’s Office and outside,” DeSantis said, setting up the decision last summer.

Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ Communications Director, offered a statement on the Governor’s behalf after his passing, when many of the circumstances of his death were not known.

“The Governor and First Lady were shocked and saddened to hear of Kent’s passing, and their prayers (and our entire office’s prayers) are with his family during this difficult time,” Fenske said in December.

FP has an open request for comment to DeSantis’ office. He is in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

Stermon, who rented a home to DeSantis while he was in Congress, helped build a bridge to the Northeast Florida establishment in both fundraising and endorsements.

When endorsements were slow going for DeSantis, Northeast Florida pols were pivotal in changing the trend around the time of a DeSantis-Adam Putnam debate in Jacksonville, with Stermon driving momentum. Ahead of that debate, former state Sen. Rob Bradley and state Rep. Travis Cummings issued a joint endorsement of DeSantis.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also counted Stermon as a friend and ally, and they collaborated politically in recent years, including hosting an early fundraiser in Jacksonville for former Senate candidate Herschel Walker of Georgia.

Mayor Curry offered comment after Stermon’s death in December: “My heartfelt condolences to Kent Stermon’s family during this difficult time. I cannot imagine their pain and heartbreak. My thoughts and prayers are with them.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


23 comments

  • Jso retired

    April 18, 2023 at 2:41 pm

    This story is wild…
    Let’s not forget how all this started back in December and Desantis

    GOP donor Kent Stermon, most of JSO’s ‘Sheriff’s Circle’ barely used special access

    By Claire Heddles

    Published on March 5, 2023 at 7:54 pm
    Most people in Jacksonville’s “Sheriff Circle” — a group of civilians with special access to Sheriff’s Office buildings — rarely used it, according to new records obtained by Jacksonville Today. Just five of the nine people used their access badges in recent years.

    The access logs, along with Jacksonville Today interviews with those listed in the Sheriff’s Circle (a badge designation assigned by JSO) show all used the privilege far less frequently than Kent Stermon — the influential Republican donor and Gov. DeSantis-appointee to the Board of Governors who was under criminal investigation when he died by suicide in December.

    Stermon used his special JSO badges on almost 200 different dates between 2017 and 2022, swiping the badge more than 700 times in total (often multiple doors on the same day) to access JSO headquarters, multiple Sheriff’s Office substations and JSO aviation facilities. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has blacked out records — or redacted — the specific areas he accessed. The investigation into Stermon is continuing, almost three months after his death, JSO says, and police have not commented on the nature of the investigation.

    The degree of access that one well-connected member of the public had to policing buildings, beginning under former Sheriff John Rutherford, has raised questions about security and preferential treatment in JSO. Now a Congressman, Rep. Rutherford, R-FL4, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

    • Lex

      April 18, 2023 at 2:42 pm

      This is good reporting. All for Taylor swift tickets? I don’t get it. So sad and strange

      • Oscar

        April 18, 2023 at 2:47 pm

        Making national news! Daily mail

        To me, Stermon killing himself simply over one incident with an adult doesn’t pass the litmus test,’ one law enforcement source told DailyMail.com. ‘There’s more to it.

        ‘Very possibly it was the start of the rope that would unravel. It is the possibility of exposing what might have happened when the girl was a minor in their acquaintance.’

        The source added: ‘At worst what happened recently was false imprisonment and a request to look at her breasts. That’s not enough.

        Stermon’s note was found face down alongside a bullet casing in the seat of his black pickup truck

        The handgun recovered at the scene of Stermon’s suicide. The 50-year-old shot himself in the right temple, according to police reports

        Stermon had a tight relationship with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) which provided him with a swipe badge to access facilities and areas within buildings, which he used on more than 200 days since 2017, records show.
        ‘After all, he could have claimed, hey, we’re both adults. She flirted with me, I flirted with her, she consented to be in my office.

        ‘But when she was younger – that’s the key to the investigation.

        ‘As a convicted sexual predator, he would have been looking at 15 to 20 years. And for someone who lived in a multi-million-dollar home in an exclusive gated community, that is some downfall.’

        Stermon’s attorney David Barksdale did not return calls for comment.

        Stermon was an immensely powerful behind-the-scenes figure in DeSantis’s rise, having had a major impact in catapulting him to the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee in 2018.

        The following year DeSantis appointed his friend to the Board of Governors which is responsible for Florida’s public university system.

        DeSantis also put him on his transition team and for a while DeSantis rented a condo co-owned by Stermon, according to Politico.

        Now DeSantis, 44, is seen as the most likely candidate to derail Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

        He is widely expected to run, but he has not yet officially announced.

    • JD

      April 18, 2023 at 2:45 pm

      But why at a post office?

      This story gets stranger and stranger

  • Ts and Ps

    April 18, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    Thoughts and prayers for all involved

  • Dr. Franklin Waters

    April 18, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    It really is interesting how many people close to Ron DeSantis have turned up dead. 🤔

    • Suzy Feld

      April 18, 2023 at 5:35 pm

      Kind of like Putin

    • Dont Say FLA

      April 19, 2023 at 8:42 am

      Two words: Alex Murdaugh.

    • Traci

      April 21, 2023 at 10:15 am

      Like who else? Name some names please.

  • Ron DeSantis

    April 18, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    I had him killed.

    • Suzy Feld

      April 18, 2023 at 5:36 pm

      Figures. It is just like you.

      • Donald J Trump

        April 18, 2023 at 6:15 pm

        Vote for me instead. I’ll protect LGBT and abortion.

    • Shasha

      April 20, 2023 at 10:33 am

      That’s what a lot of people have been saying. Stermon knew something, possibly involving child sex traffickers matt gaetz & Joel Greenberg or others. The name Emerald has been bantied about. Both Stermon & Kunasek know too much & might have cracked under the pressure of an investigation & Ron couldn’t have that mucking up a possible run for the White House.

  • Donna for Duval

    April 18, 2023 at 3:21 pm

    Kent Sturmon died. Was a rapist. Vote for Democrat Donna Deegan and run these racist sex offenders out of town.

    Lindsey Brock will be Alexander Pantinakis in 30 years. Both old, bald, ugly creepers. Dan Davis, has no integrity!

  • Kent Sturmon was a Sex Offender

    April 18, 2023 at 3:35 pm

    Vote for Democrats, we can’t have another GOP Sex offender as the mayor. Dan Davis is best friends with kent sturmon!

  • Earl Pitts American

    April 18, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    Good afternoon America,
    I, Earl “Political Genious Advisor” Pitts American, am honored that all the above posters have called upon me, Earl Pitts American, to clear this political fabrication and disrespectfull piece of mean spirted fiction up.
    First of all the Daily Mail is a total piece of of trash leftist rag posing as a legitimate news source.
    In addition Jacksonville is a den of lying snake leftist dook 4 brains in regards to all government employees including the Sheriff’s office.
    This is nothing but a disrespectful pack of lies as far as any Desantis connection is concerned. Political mud slinging at its worst.
    In addition much of the fake story is based on Russian disinformation and the entire piece of mud slinging lies are 100% based on far left wacko conspiracy theories.
    Thanks for calling on me, Earl Pitts “political lie buster” American to put this piece of journalism rotten trash behind us all once and for all.
    Thank you again America,
    Earl Pitts American

    • Billy the Bamboozler

      April 18, 2023 at 6:14 pm

      Genius my azz. Schizophrenic narcissistic psychopath with psychotic delusions. You need medication.

    • Ron DeSantis sucks

      April 19, 2023 at 1:30 am

      OK, then why did he commit suicide if this allegation was false?

  • Dan Davis + Kent sturmon = best friends

    April 18, 2023 at 6:09 pm

    Dean Black, Pancake Pantinakis, Nick Howland, Dan Davis, Kent Sturmon, Lindsey Brock. All a bunch of fat balding best friends.

    Sturmon solicited a minor for sex. Takes photos with Dan Davis. Who else is he related too? Tried to bribe his way out.

    Donna for Duval!

  • Dont Say FLA

    April 19, 2023 at 8:04 am

    Was just commenting on other stories how culture wars from Conservative can be taken as confessions, and statedly wondering why Florida Gov Rhonda’s Panties is waging a culture war against children (schools, books, gayness, shootings, the list goes on). And here we are! Here is the answer I sought. Wow. Now I forget who exactly it was, but someone one said, “Ask and ye shall receive!”

  • Maggie Scott

    April 19, 2023 at 5:30 pm

    The world is a better and safer place now. I have no tots and pears to offer, but I do have plenty of glee that another slimy sexual predator has been visited by Karma.

    But Stermon will provide great fodder for countering Repug claims that “the libs” groom children,” and other asinine claims.

  • Justthefacts

    April 20, 2023 at 7:26 am

    AG I’m not sure where you obtain your information for this story which has now been repeated as fact statewide (and nationally) but Congressman Ron DeSantis as a gubernatorial candidate was going to win – period. DeSantis had a core group of donors who had been with him 7 years mostly Catholics, conservative evangelicals, many supporters of the Jewish faith from SFL and prominent business men statewide. .

    The R party and elected officials often rally behind someone who thinks it’s their turn, even if they are not the strongest candidate. They rallied behind Putnam. Kent (God rest his soul) was not a power broker who was “central” to DeSantis rise as Governor. He supported him absolutely, but DeSantis Congressional career and outstanding record and lifetime achievements, and his wife Casey were the reason he succeeded.

    DeSantis destroyed Putnam in the gubernatorial debates, everyone watched that statewide. DeSantis’ performance over Putnam was outstanding proving his intellectual prowess on the issues. Putnam looked like a deer in the headlights. Your statement Stermon was influential with endorsements that somehow “turned the tide” in the race, is false, as well as your insinuation that his leadership in the finance arena in the primary or general catapulted DeSantis into the governor’s office is someone’s alternate version of reality. DeSantis attracted supporters because of who he is.

    Establishment official’s endorsements were not key to DeSantis’ gubernatorial victory; you simply don’t understand FL R voters. (As a side note, none of the the sheriffs you mention were ever on DeSantis team in the primary.)

    The small margin of voters who pulled Gov. DeSantis across the victory line in‘16 against Gillium had nothing to do with Susie Wiles expertise, it was the diehard FL R’s who showed up at the polls and pulled him across the finish line despite the media’s unapologetic attempt to put Andrew Gillium into office. The main stream media did this, despite the fact Gillium was under federal investigation for corruption for which he will be prosecuted in the near future.

  • Chuck McCue

    April 28, 2023 at 1:43 pm

    There is so much more to this story. Why did Stermon drive all the way to Atlantic Beach to commit suicide? Former Mayor Mitch Reeves lives in Atlantic Beach and is only 1 of 9 people who had similar badge access to JSO. Was Stermon in Atlantic Beach to see Mitch Reeves before he shot himself? Is Mitch Reeves involved in the Stermon investigation of a minor?

Comments are closed.


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