Prosecutors in Florida on Monday dropped charges against a Black man who was arrested earlier this year as part of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ purported crackdown on voter fraud.
In August, Tony Patterson, 44, was one of 20 people in the state arrested and charged with “election voting by unqualified voter” and “false swearing” during the 2020 election.
But prosecutors filed a notice of nolle prosequi on Monday, indicating they will no longer longer pursue criminal charges against Patterson — ultimately amounting to a dismissal of the case. Patterson is the first person to have their charges dropped, although a judge previously tossed out a criminal case against Robert Lee Wood, 56, who was also among those arrested this summer.
Convicted felons are allowed to vote in Florida unless they were found guilty of felony sexual crimes or murder. The 20 people arrested this summer were not allowed to legally vote for this reason, but say that they weren’t aware — partly because the state had issued them voter registration cards after approving their applications.
In October, The Tampa Bay Times obtained and released body-camera footage of Patterson and others being arrested for voter fraud after an investigation by DeSantis’ Office of Election Crimes and Security.
“What is wrong with this state, man?” Patterson said while being escorted in handcuffs, according to the Times. “Voter fraud? Y’all said anybody with a felony could vote, man.”
In a news conference at the time, DeSantis celebrated the arrests as a necessary step to stop illegal voting. But critics have said the arrests raise concerns about the disenfranchisement and targeted attacks on disadvantaged citizens in America: At least 12 of the people arrested were registered as Democrats and 19 of them were Black.