Into the money: Former finance director and treasurer testify in Gillum, Lettman-Hicks trial

During testimony Wednesday, Gillum’s wife took to Twitter to plea for support
A view of the courtroom during the second day of trial for Andrew Gillum and Sharon...
A view of the courtroom during the second day of trial for Andrew Gillum and Sharon Lettman-Hicks on Wednesday, April 19, 2023 in Tallahassee, Fla. (Sketch/Christopher Rivera)(Courtesy Christopher Rivera)
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 2:52 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2023 at 8:30 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The former campaign finance director and the former treasurer for Andrew Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign took the stand Wednesday on the seventh day of his and Sharon Lettman-Hicks’s trial.

The financial leadership for Gillum’s campaign denied mishandling funds, although his former finance director expressed concern about the use of a sizeable donation. Jurors also heard from an accountant connected to Lettman-Hicks’s business and the campaign, who said he made an error on her company’s tax documents.

Gillum and his former campaign advisor are facing conspiracy and wire fraud charges after an investigation involving undercover FBI agents looked into the pair’s use of donations during his 2018 run for governor. The former Democratic gubernatorial candidate is also charged with lying to the FBI.

Lettman-Hicks’s company, P&P Communications

Former gubernatorial campaign treasurer Andrew Gay testified Wednesday about the use of funds during Gillum’s “Get Out The Vote” initiative ahead of the 2018 election.

Prosecutors questioned Gay about the team’s choice to hire third-party contractor John Grayson’s accounting firm to handle payments related to the project, which ended up costing about $130,000. Why would the campaign hire outside hands to do work Gay was capable of, they asked.

The defense’s response was simple. The choice was to avoid a conflict of interest, they said.

Later in the day, John Grayson himself took the stand. The accountant said he worked for Lettman-Hicks’s PR firm, P&P Communications, at the time of the campaign. During testimony, he took responsibility for errors on the company’s tax returns.

Prosecutors also noted the Gillum campaign’s use of office spaces from Lettman Hicks’s P&P Communications, which cost the campaign paid $2,100 a month. They questioned Gay on the ethics of using campaign funds for the space.

Gay denied any wrongdoing by renting the location, and defense attornies for Lettman-Hicks argued that the payments for the space were publicly reported.

Prosecutors examine a billionaire’s donation

During former campaign finance director Akilah Ensley’s more than two hours of testimony, she notably recalled for prosecutors an instance of coordinating $250,000 in wire transfers from billionaire donor Donald Sussman.

In court, it was revealed the full donation did not go to Gillum’s campaign. Using a nonprofit to keep Sussman’s donation anonymous, $100,000 went to the campaign.

The remaining $150,000 was left with the Opportunity to Learn Action Fund. When prosecutors asked Ensley if that was concerning, she said yes. She said she didn’t know why the funds weren’t going to Gillum’s initiative Forward Florida.

At first, Ensley alleged she tried to ask the former mayor about the money’s movement and he did not respond. But when Gillum’s defense showed her an email response from the defendant, she revised her statement to say he didn’t respond to her verbal questions on the matter.

Gillum’s family comes to his defense

Gillum has repeatedly asserted his innocence to the public. The night before the trial’s start, he took to Facebook to clear his name and ask for financial support for the trial.

During testimony Wednesday, the politician’s wife stepped in to defend him.

In a post on Gillum’s Twitter page, R.Jai Gillum pleaded for support from the public. She said the trial has proven her husband’s innocence.

She alluded to the trial being a personal attack on her family, and she linked to a page requesting donations toward Gillum’s legal fees.

Presiding Judge Allen Winsor said earlier this week that the trial may wrap sooner than expected. Officials originally estimated it would last three weeks.

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