Joe Harding requests sentencing delay in COVID-19 fraud case
image via AP.

He faces up to 35 years in prison.

Former Rep. Joe Harding, who pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements about COVID-19 relief funds he received, is asking for his sentencing date to be punted to September.

In a motion filed with the North District of Florida, Harding’s lawyers, Ronald Kozlowski and Peggy-Anne O’Connor, requested a continuation of his sentence hearing from July 25 to around two months later.

The reason for the request, they wrote, is they need longer to speak with witnesses and prepare a sentencing statement for the court. They added that Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Keen, the prosecutor on the case, is fine with the delay because he could use the extra time too.

“Keen and his office are preparing for trials in August and October, therefore September affords the United States the best opportunity to prepare for all its responsibilities,” they wrote in the motion, filed Tuesday. “This motion is made in good faith and not for the purpose of unnecessary delay. Additionally, neither party will be prejudiced by granting this requested action.”

Harding, an Ocala Republican, faces up to 35 years in prison for lying to the Small Business Administration to obtain $150,000 in federal assistance intended for companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He used some of that money for personal reasons, transferring more than $10,000 to his personal checking account and using similar sums for a third-party business entity and credit card payment.

Harding repaid the loans by April 2021 after an interview with investigators, according to court filings.

He was indicted Dec. 8 following a joint investigation by the FBI, IRS, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and SBA, originally filing a plea of not guilty. He switched his plea March 21.

Prior to his indictment, Harding was a rising star in the Florida Republican Party, having garnered national attention as the author of the Parental Rights in Education law restricting LGBTQ-inclusive instruction in public schools. Florida lawmakers have since expanded those strictures, derided by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” measure, and Legislatures in 24 other states this year either considered or passed similar measures.

Harding’s indictment came just over a month after he won re-election by 29 percentage points. He resigned in December. Seventy-nine percent of voters in House District 24, which covers a portion of Marion County, elected author Ryan Chamberlin to replace him in a May 16 Special Election that drew five fellow Republican candidates and one write-in.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • publicans have the earmark of criminality

    June 14, 2023 at 11:15 am

    these Republicans are just so corrupt. It never ends with them. It just shows they lie and cheat.

    • nail morse

      June 14, 2023 at 1:58 pm

      Harding was a pet of DeSantis’ in the FL Legislature. He “supposedly authored” the “Don’t Say Gay law” which DeSantis stole from Authoritarian Victor Orban. The exact same bill Orban authored!!
      In June of last year, Hungary’s far-right government passed a law cracking down on LGBTQ rights, including a provision prohibiting instruction on LGBTQ topics in sex education classes.

      About nine months later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill banning “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” up through third grade. According to some knowledgeable observers on the right, these two bills were the same.
      Rod Dreher, at the American Conservative magazine, “I was told this by a conservative reporter who … said he talked to the press secretary of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and she said, ‘Oh yeah, we were watching the Hungarians, so yay Hungary.’”
      Hardings BIL is serving 5.1/2 years for stealing $7.8. In Fl DeSantis like to keep everything in the family. If one is elected, he makes sure there is a appointment to a family member for a much higher paying job and one that she/he is not qualified for!

  • Earl Pitts American

    June 14, 2023 at 11:35 am

    Good morning America,
    It has been reported that Harding had began hanging out with dook 4 brains lefties around five years prior to Covid.
    Therefore the reporting of this Harding fellow as a Republican is deemed by me, Earl Pitts American, to be totally bogus and without merit.
    Henceforth this Harding fellow shall be referenced as a “Dook 4 Brains RINO.
    Thank you America,
    Earl Pitts American

    • nail morse

      June 14, 2023 at 2:00 pm

      HEY AH He admitted he was GUILTY.!!

  • PeterH

    June 14, 2023 at 3:48 pm

    Florida is heaven on earth for miserable grifter Republicans!

    “Florida is and has been a sunny place for shady people”

Comments are closed.


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