Investigation of Fabián Basabe aide-slapping allegation finds evidence ‘inconclusive’
Fabián Basabe sold his same-sex marriage bills as a way to soften the Legislature's partisan divide. The resulting fallout likely hardened it. Image via LYNNE SLADKY/AP.

Basabe AP
‘(Based) upon conflicts in the factual accounts provided by the participants and a lack of corroborating witnesses, the finding is inconclusive.’

An investigation into whether freshman Miami Beach Republican Rep. Fabián Basabe slapped a 25-year-old aide in the face at a social gathering in January has determined that a physical altercation did indeed happen, though possibly not how the aide described.

Evidence supporting allegations Basabe’s former aide, Nicolas Frevola, made that Basabe struck him unprovoked and in front of several people is “inconclusive,” according to Michael Mattimore of Allen Norton & Blue, the law firm the Florida House retained in April to look into the matter.

In fact, none of those Frevola said witnessed the slap corroborated his claim.

The incident in question occurred on Jan. 3 during a reception at a Tallahassee-based lobbying firm following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second inauguration. The Governor was not at the function.

Frevola told Mattimore and others from Allen North & Blue during an April 12 interview that he was speaking with a lobbyist (“Lobbyist 1”) and two interns employed by the hosting lobbyist group when Basabe approached him. The two “exchanged words,” Frevola said, and Basabe slapped him with an open hand before telling him to go stand in the corner of the room for 10 seconds, which Frevola did.

Frevola told Matimore that in addition to the lobbyist and two interns, another unnamed state Representative, the Representative’s mother, a former Representative and a second lobbyist (“Lobbyist 2”) were nearby and could also have witnessed the slap. He claimed the Representative’s mother even approached him to ask if Basabe was abusing him.

In a summary of the inquiry sent Wednesday to Florida House General Counsel David Axelman, Mattimore said he interviewed “all individuals identified by Frevola as potential witnesses” except for one person unspecified by Mattimore and the two interns, whom Frevola could not name — and whom another witness said was not there.

Neither Lobbyist 1, who said she spoke briefly with Basabe and Frevola but left the conversation before she saw anything happen, nor the other currently elected Representative said they witnessed the slap. The former Representative said that while he attended the party, he did not spend time around either Basabe or Frevola and did not see any alleged slap.

Lobbyist 2 told Mattimore he didn’t attend the gathering.

Basabe was the only person other than Frevola to say an altercation took place. Basabe, whom Mattimore interviewed May 3, confirmed he approached Frevola and Lobbyist 1 while the two were speaking and asked them a question. Lobbyist 1 then walked away, he said, which Mattimore noted “is consistent with Lobbyist 1’s account.”

But Basabe claims Frevola then “initiated unwanted, nonviolent, physical contact with him” to which he responded by slapping away Frevola’s hand “and may have made contact with him.”

“This inquiry makes the following factual findings and conclusions as they related to the alleged incident between Basabe and Frevola: Basabe and Frevola were both present at the office of the lobbyist group on the evening of Jan. 3, 2023, and at some point Basabe approached Frevola. Based upon the statements of both Basabe and Frevola, there was physical contact between the two,” Mattimore said.

“With respect to the specific allegation by Frevola that he was slapped in the face by Basabe, based upon conflicts in the factual accounts provided by the participants and a lack of corroborating witnesses, the finding is inconclusive.”

In a statement shared with Florida Politics, a spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Renner’s office echoed Mattimore’s categorization of the event.

“Having been presented with a narrow allegation and taking the matter seriously, the Florida House retained an outside investigator,” the spokesperson said by text. “Upon interviewing the witnesses brought forth by the complainant, the investigation into the allegation of this incident was inconclusive.”

Basabe was far less reserved in his own, lengthy statement in which he described Frevola as “lying scum” with “low-life ambition,” adding that the investigation concluded “rightly in my favor.” He alluded to previously having a close relationship with Frevola in which he welcomed the former aide into his home for meals and to play with his child.

“What a shame,” he said. “What a waste of a perfectly good opportunity to make something of yourself — your life, to learn on a job that is not just work but a mission, a job that gives you the opportunity to help people, to better your own life and the lives of others and to make others happy!”

Speaking briefly by phone, Frevola said he had no comment and deferred questions to his lawyer and uncle, Al Frevola. Florida Politics will update this report upon receipt of a response.

Speaking in April with CBS News Miami, which first reported on the slapping allegation and investigation, Frevola said he didn’t initially speak out about the incident due to embarrassment and a supposed non-disclosure agreement he said Basabe required him to sign.

Basabe denied knowing of any such agreement.

Frevola is also the subject of a complaint by freshman Orlando Republican Rep. Carolina Amesty. Allen Norton & Blue is also leading an investigation into that matter, CBS News Miami reported.

Basabe, meanwhile, has been a magnet for negative attention during his first year in elected office. Critics have decried his votes for bills targeting the LGBTQ community, of which he’s said he is a member, including an expansion to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law restricting LGBTQ-inclusive classroom instruction and a currently halted measure known colloquially as Florida’s “anti-drag” legislation.

He has also faced sharp criticism for abstaining from voting on a measure banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and for voting in favor of a soon-effective law eliminating the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

Basabe won the seat representing House District 106, a historically Democratic-leaning coastal area in Miami-Dade County, by just 242 votes in what many consider the biggest election upset for state office in the 2022 Midterms.

Running a mostly self-funded campaign, Basabe narrowly outpaced former Bay Harbor Islands Mayor Jordan Leonard to succeed outgoing Democratic Rep. Joe Geller — despite resurfaced reports of alleged racist remarks Basabe made during Miami’s annual Art Basel event and an altercation with a neighbor that led to his capture by the U.S. Marshals Service’s Fugitive Task Force in 2020.

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.


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