Jeffrey Garcia, Rep. Joe Garcia’s former chief of staff, will serve 90 days in jail as part of a plea deal in a case involving absentee ballots.
Garcia, who has no relation to the congressman, pleaded guilty Monday as part of the deal with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. He will also serve 18 months probation and will not be allowed to work in politics until his probation is over.
"My intent and actions were calculated merely to increase voter participation. Nonetheless, your honor, I realize that I broke the law and when we requested these absentee ballots for voters to be delivered to them without their permission we were in violation of the law and I should not have done it," Jeffrey Garcia said.
Jeffrey Garcia pleaded guilty to one felony and three misdemeanors. All the charges stem from violations of the election laws that control absentee ballots. Prosecutors said Jeffrey Garcia was going online and requesting absentee ballot for voters, which is something that can only be done by the voter or legal guardian.
"It's really sad to see that he got caught up in this activity. It's a shame because he knows better," said Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney.
Jeffrey Garcia indicated that even though he made mistakes, no voters were actually harmed.
"I'd like to make it clear to the voters of District 26 and others that neither I or anyone working on my direction or on my behalf ever tampered with anyone's ballot or interfered with their right to vote in any way," Jeffrey Garcia said.
While Jeffrey Garcia was led away and will be behind bars until the beginning of 2014, it was a lot less than the eight years he could have received. His lawyers emphasized no fraudulent votes were actually cast, and that made a big difference in the amount of time he is spending in jail.
In a statement, Rep. Joe Garcia said it was not easy to see his friend go through the situation.
“It is painful to watch a friend go through this very difficult ordeal,” The Miami Herald quoted Rep. Joe Garcia as saying. “As we all move past this investigation it must be noted that while these actions were wrong, no ballots were touched or manipulated in any way, and no voter had their votes interfered with or impeded in any way.”
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