ORLANDO, Fla. – District 15 circuit judge candidate Howard Friedman said his decision to fund a mailer accusing his opponent, Jeff Ashton, of dismissing his wife, Annette Schultz, because she had cancer was not personal or a vendetta.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s my wife. It doesn’t matter who it is,” Freidman said. “He completely violated a cancer victim’s rights, which is outrageous.”
Friedman, a veteran magistrate with more than 30 years of experience in law, said he doesn’t want the political mailer to become a distraction to the campaign, but he felt the voters needed to know about Ashton’s decision.
“He fired her. She was told Jeff wants trial attorneys. That’s what she was told at the time she was fired," Friedman said.
In the discrimination charge filed by Schultz on March 6, 2015, she argued she was fired “because of my disability and because I requested an accommodation for it.”
Ashton, who was state attorney at the time, said the photograph in the flyer was taken “2 1/2 years after she left the office.”
“Why she was fired is a matter of public record," he said. “It wasn’t because of her health. It was based on performance.”
Friedman provided a physician’s note from Dr. Regina Flores, of the Florida Cancer Specialists, indicating Schultz has multiple myeloma and needs ongoing therapy, which has side effects.
Schultz’s affidavit indicates she would be “fatigued” if she had to engage “in large amounts of physical activity.”
She went on to say she was “hounded about the number of trials I was conducting” yet she claimed the average of 1.1 per prosecutor was in line with her performance.
The case was settled out of court with a payment of $58,545 to Schultz and an additional $20,000 in attorney’s fees.
“The voters need to know about that,” Friedman said.
Ashton said the ad won’t impact the outcome but Friedman could face disciplinary action.
“I don’t think it will be very effective," Ashton said. “I do think it will be a big deal in Mr. Friedman’s future because the bar will be investigating that.”
The District 15 circuit Judge race is nonpartisan.
The primary vote is Aug. 28