Five years ago, almost became governor of Florida. The former Tallahassee mayor lost to Gov. Ron DeSantis by fewer than 34,000 votes.

The then-rising politician is now in a federal courtroom fighting criminal charges.

The trial of Gillum, 43, and his political adviser and mentor, Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks, 54, started Tuesday in Tallahassee. It’s expected to last three weeks.

Here’s what to know ahead of the case as the trial begins.

What is Gillum accused of?

In 2022, Gillum was indicted by a federal grand jury after being accused of lying to FBI agents and defrauding campaign mega donors and organizations that believed they were donating to legitimate political causes.

He’s accused of asking for political contributions under false pretenses and routing the money through Lettman-Hicks’ communications company, which then distributed the money back to Gillum. Nearly $57,000 in campaign and other contributions were illegally steered into Gillum’s personal account, according to the indictment.

Aside from the 17 counts of wire fraud, Gillum is also accused of lying to FBI agents, a charge that stems from the agency’s public corruption investigation in Tallahassee.

Undercover agents posed as developers, court records say, and paid for parts of a 2016 trip Gillum and his brother took to New York City. In 2017, Gillum sat down with FBI agents and denied receiving gifts from developers.

How has he responded?

Gillum has denied the allegations against him, though the FBI’s corruption investigation has already led to several convictions. He also denied knowing anything about how Lettman-Hicks managed the campaign accounts.

The former Democratic nominee for governor pleaded not guilty and said the investigation was political.

“There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee,” Gillum said after being indicted. “They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”

What’s next?

If convicted, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks face decades in federal prison.

They can be sentenced to up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud — or conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Gillum could face up to five years in prison for the charge related to making false statements to the FBI.

Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report

©2023 Miami Herald. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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