BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Prosecutors have declined to file charges against Palm Bay Deputy Mayor Kenny Johnson after a tense encounter with State Rep. Randy Fine last month at the Dancing with the Space Coast charity event, the State Attorney’s Office said Thursday, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
A review of an assault investigation opened by the Melbourne Police Department after the June 4 incident — in which Johnson and an unknown man confronted Fine in a heated verbal exchange — found Johnson had committed “no prosecutable crimes,” according to Todd Brown, a spokesman for the office of State Attorney Phil Archer.
Johnson repeatedly engaged Fine in front of fundraiser guests, getting “apparently ... less than a foot” from Fine, even after Fine tried to walk away, according to a description of surveillance footage included in a police case report.
Satellite Beach City Councilwoman Mindy Gibson intervened and the encounter ended without further incident, according to the report.
The episode is the latest escalation in an ongoing feud between Fine and Johnson, in which Fine has frequently attacked the Palm Bay councilman for a 2015 arrest in which Johnson allegedly texted lewd photos of himself to a 17-year-old girl.
Charges were dropped after an investigation and records of the incident were expunged, Johnson’s campaign previously told FLORIDA TODAY. Johnson has called the affair a “big misunderstanding.”
Johnson’s arrest was once again the subject of attack mailers and robotexts sent to some Palm Bay residents in the days before and after the June encounter. He has said he blames Fine for the ads.
At one point during the confrontation, Fine told police in a sworn interview Johnson made “vague threats,” at one point saying, “You better stop it or else. You’ll be sorry,” the report said.
State prosecutors determined the alleged statement amounted to a “conditional threat,” Brown said, but didn’t meet the bar for assault.
Johnson said Thursday he didn’t make the statement and denied threatening Fine. He was angry over the repeated attacks, which he wanted to address with Fine directly, he said.
“He called me a rapist and a pedophile, so if anybody had confrontational words it was him,” Johnson said. “When you’re going to spew lies on social media, I expect you to have that same energy when spoken to and not be a coward when confronted as a man.”
Police said in the report Johnson did not return multiple requests for a statement. Asked why he didn’t speak to the police, Johnson said Thursday he was unaware the incident was even under investigation before speaking to a reporter.
“If they wanted to speak with me, they could have spoken to my attorney,” he said.
“I’m glad the state attorney looked at it and saw it for what it was, so I appreciate him for doing his due diligence,” Johnson said.
Fine also told FLORIDA TODAY he “really appreciated” police and prosecutors for reviewing the case, and said he was considering filing for a restraining order against Johnson.
“Mr. Johnson’s conduct, as it was with the (17-year-old) girl, was completely inappropriate,” Fine said.
Fine denied being behind the recent attack ads. Campaign finance records show he had made payments through his political action committee to two Florida PACs with ties to a Tampa political consultant known for similar tactics.
One of the PACs to which Fine gave money, Leadership for Florida’s Future, was identified as the sponsor of the mailers. The same group was behind a robocall making identical allegations against Johnson in February 2020, which Fine also denied funding at the time.
“Those mailers and [texts] didn’t come from me,” Fine said. “But even if I had sent those out under my name, you don’t come up to someone, get in their face, push up and act like a thug.”
Johnson said Thursday he had already put the incident behind him.
“I keep doing my duties for city of Palm Bay,” he said. “(Fine) is not even a blip on my radar.”