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Seminole County GOP chair's trial related to ghost candidate scheme underway in Sanford

Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Florida. Photo: Steven Martin / Creative Commons
Steven Martin
Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Florida. Photo: Steven Martin / Creative Commons

The trial of Seminole County GOP Chairman Benjamin Paris is underway in Sanford. Paris is facing allegations related to a vote-siphoning scheme in the 2020 selection.

Paris is facing one charge of contributing to a political campaign under someone else’s name.

The alleged goal of the scheme was to help Paris’ former boss Republican Senator Jason Brodeur win his election by using a so-called ghost candidate to siphon off votes from his competitor. It’s unclear whether the scheme helped Brodeur maintain his seat.

Still, prosecutors said Paris broke the law. “The state will have been able to prove to you that the defendant, as a principle, or active participant, did commit the crime of making a campaign contribution by or through the name of another," said Assistant State Attorney Stacey Straub Salmons in her opening statement.

In his opening statement, Paris’ attorney said the state lacks evidence. "That's the crime - making the donation," said attoney Matthews Bark. "One thing that you will not hear is that Benjamin Paris made a donation at all. Benjamin Paris did not make a donation. What I'm telling you [the jury] is to look for that lack of evidence."

Paris' trial is expected to last two days.

Candidate Jestine Iannotti faces a felony charge and five misdemeanors and political advisor Eric Foglesong faces three felony charges and two misdemeanors for the scheme.

WMFE's Danielle Prieur contributed to this report. 

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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