Prosecution compares Pop-Tarts to ballots in ex Eatonville mayor's fraud trial

Anthony Grant accused of stealing 2015 mayoral election, state says

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Both prosecutors and defense wrapped up closing arguments by comparing ballots to toaster pastries Friday in the voter-fraud trial against former Eatonville Mayor Anthony Grant.

Grant, along with co-defendants Mia Nowells and James Randolph, are accused of coercing voters and forcing them to send in absentee ballots, effectively "stealing" the 2015 mayoral election, according to the state.

The jury started deliberating Friday before 1 p.m.

In his closing arguments, State Attorney Rick Walsh brought out a package of strawberry frosted Pop-Tarts to explain to jurors why he believes Grant and his two former campaign workers are guilty.

"It is common sense to look at something that says 'it's Pop Tarts,' looks like it contains Pop-Tarts and come to the conclusion that it is Pop-Tarts," Walsh said.

Walsh then pulled out a ballot.

"It looks to be a ballot. It's common sense that (if) Anthony Grant was holding this object, he was holding a ballot," Walsh said.

Grant's defense team had its own Pop-Tart analogy.

Attorney Gary Dorst held up the Pop-Tarts to show that Grant's fingerprint on a ballot envelope doesn't prove he had anything to do with the ballot inside.

"If it becomes a crime to poison a Pop-Tart it doesn't make any difference if the packaging has the poison or not. It's the poison on the Pop-Tart," Dorst said. "There is no evidence that the defendant touched any of the official ballots."

Dorst argued that the evidence to convict just wasn't there.

During the five-day trial, Walsh called on five key witnesses, including a single mother who thought she'd lose her government home if she didn't vote for Grant and a woman whose name was used who hadn't lived in the area since 2011.

“It's hard to get somebody who's not interested in voting to actually drive to the polls to vote on Election Day," Walsh said. "It's not too hard when you bring the ballot to them and stand by them to have you vote in front of them and tell them how to vote."

The defense countered by saying that the charges were a conspiracy between federal investigators and former State Attorney Jeff Ashton in a bid to look "tough on crime" for his re-election.

Prosecutors called up several witnesses for testimony, including federal investigators and the town clerk.

The defense was brief during cross-examinations.

 

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