TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — The trial began this morning for former Longwood mayor and current Seminole county GOP chairman Ben Paris.
After forgoing a plea, Paris faced his first day of trial on Monday in Seminole County for his potential role in interfering in a 2020 senate race.
Two years ago, Paris allegedly helped his former boss at the Chamber of Commerce, now State Sen. Jason Brodeur, win the competitive Florida senate seat in District 9 by conspiring to create what’s now commonly known as a “ghost candidate.”
The judge and attorneys spent most of the day selecting a jury but were able to determine that the use of the word “ghost candidate” would not be permitted in front of the jury as it would “mislead” them.
“I don’t think the terminology of using ghost candidate or straw candidate is appropriate for this candidate,” Judge Wayne Culver of the 18th Judicial Circuit said.
However, the “ghost candidate” at the center of the scheme is Jestine Iannotti. Iannotti is facing charges alongside Paris as well as political consultant Eric Foglesong for their relations to the scheme. Information revealed in testimony could impede the trials of Foglesong and Iannotti.
The candidate that won the election in 2020, Brodeur, served two years in the legislature. Brodeur won the GOP nomination last week for District 10 and will be on the ballot in the upcoming midterm elections. Brodeur currently still denies any knowledge of the scheme.
Testimony for the trial begins Wednesday. Iannotti is expected to testify in the upcoming days that Paris asked her to run as an independent in District 9’s senate race in 2020.