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News Section: Law Enforcement



State Attorney Expected to Plea Out Wachter Case

Published Thursday, December 12, 2013 12:07 am
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SARASOTA -- Former Sarasota County Republican Party Chair Bob Waechter is expected to accept a plea deal today on identity theft charges, stemming from a 2012 incident in which police say they caught him on videotape purchasing pre-paid debit cards that were then used to make donations in the name of fellow Republican Lourdes Ramirez to multiple Democratic candidates, including President Obama and Congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald.

 

As expected, Ramirez has since announced her candidacy for the Sarasota County Commission and it is suspected that Waechter, one of the most powerful Republican power brokers in Sarasota, had intended to use the bogus donations to the rival party against her campaign.

 

The State Attorney's Office formally filed charges against Waechter, who was also the Take Back Our Government front man, in February of this year. The charges included a third-degree felony for fraudulent use of personal identification, which could have led to as many as five years in prison under state sentencing guidelines.

 

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His trial was originally slated for October 21, but was postponed to early January of 2014. In September, Waechter paid $5,000 in civil penalties after agreeing to a legal settlement with the Federal Election Commission who was also investigating the incident as they applied to FEC regulations.

 

The Herald-Tribune reported yesterday that Waechter was expected to take a plea deal with State Attorney Ed Brodsky's office. Sources have told The Bradenton Times that Brodsky's office was considering dropping the felony charge as part of the plea, citing Waechter's supposed contrition for his acts.

 

Brodsky, who has received campaign support from Waechter, has been criticized for not sending the case to another circuit in order to ensure impartiality. TBT publisher and Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash said that when, previous to the Ramirez case, he approached Brodsky about the possibility of his office pursuing charges against Waechter for possible legal infractions while fronting Take Back Our Government, the state attorney told him he "wouldn't touch it," and that such a case would have to be sent out of his circuit.

 

Not only has Brodsky kept the case in his 12th Circuit, but his office also denied a request from the FBI recently, when the feds asked to join the case, further fueling speculation that the powerful GOP figure would be handled delicately by the Republican state attorney's office.

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