Former Eatonville mayor found guilty in voter-fraud trial

Jury says Anthony Grant guilty on 2 felony counts, 1 misdemeanor

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Anthony Grant.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Former Eatonville Mayor Anthony Grant was found guilty Friday on two felony counts and one misdemeanor, News 6 has learned.

“We are pleased with the jury’s verdict,” said Eryka Washington, a spokesperson for the 9th Judicial Circuit of Florida. “These cases are important to maintaining the community’s trust in our voting process.”

Earlier in the day, prosecutors and defense wrapped up closing arguments in Grant's voter-fraud trial by comparing ballots to toaster pastries.

Grant, along with co-defendants Mia Nowells and James Randolph, was 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. News 6 learned the verdict about 9:30 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 believed Grant and his two former campaign workers were 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 and 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 (them) vote in front of (you) 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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