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Frank Artiles to face trial in February over Miami 'ghost candidate' case

The Miami Herald
Former Florida State Rep. Frank Artiles

Former Republican Florida State Rep. Frank Artiles is set to face trial in February on charges stemming from an alleged "ghost candidate" election scheme.

Lawyers for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and for Artiles' defense came before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ariel Rodriguez on Monday to finally set a trial date on a criminal case that has languished for more than two years.

Now, a trial date has been set for Feb. 5, 2024. Both parties have until Oct. 2 to produce all the discovery for both sides to review.

READ MORE: Frank Artiles Resigns Over Racial Slurs Scandal

Artiles faces multiple charges related to an alleged scheme in which he paid a friend, Alexis "Alex" Rodriguez, to run as a no-party candidate in the 2020 Senate District 37 race against Democrat Jose Javier Rodríguez. The purported goal of the scheme was to confuse voters based on the two candidates sharing the same last name.

Alex Rodriguez, who did no campaigning and did not even live in the Senate district he was running for, received more than 6,000 votes. Jose Javier Rodríguez, the incumbent, ultimately lost to Republican Ileana Garcia by 34 votes after a manual recount.

Following an investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, Artiles and Alex Rodriguez were charged in March of 2021 with conspiracy to make or accept campaign contributions in excess of legal limits, accepting and making excess campaign contributions, false swearing in connection to an election and submitting false voter information.

Alex Rodriguez pleaded guilty in 2021 and agreed to testify against Artiles. Artiles has pleaded not guilty. If found culpable at trial, he faces between five and 20 years in state prison.

The alleged scheme between the two men was one of three instances of independent "ghost candidates"that appeared in Senate races during the 2020 election in Florida, supported by dark money-funded campaign ads.

Rodriguez was sentenced to three years of probation and one year of house arrest for his involvement in the alleged election plot.

"I would like to publicly offer a sincere apology to the residents of Florida District Senate 37 including Sen. Jose Javier Rodríguez, the people of Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida, and anyone else who was affected by my actions," Alex Rodriguez said in court on Aug. 24, 2021 when he gave his plea.

Artiles' attorney, Frank Quintero, said during the Monday hearing that they have expert reports to prove that Alex Rodriguez lied during depositions and deleted an "uncommon quantity" of text messages from his cell phone after the charges were brought against the pair. They intend to bring these reports up at trial.

Joshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigations team. Reach Joshua Ceballos at jceballos@wlrnnews.org
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