ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – In her first interview since obtaining a restraining order against a primary opponent, St. Petersburg Republican Anna Paulina Luna said she is horrified by the murder threats made against her, but vowed to continue her congressional race.
“It’s horrifying,” Luna said, “but I think when you’re fighting for something you truly believe in, you have to accept that it’s a possibility.”
Luna filed for a restraining order in June after a friend, Erin Olszewski, recorded a phone call with a man Olszewski said was William Braddock, a former Republican primary opponent who has since dropped out of the race.
During the call, the man makes several threats against Luna, including that she “is gonna be gone” and that he has access to “a Russian and Ukrainian hit squad” that will “make her disappear.”
“How are you supposed to feel about something like that?” Luna said. “I’d never had any interaction with him prior. I didn’t know him personally. You hear about this type of stuff in TV shows, but you never expect it to happen to you. He was just talking so nonchalantly — who, what, when, where, why — about how he was going to murder me. It’s pretty horrifying.”
Luna said she and Olszewski went to St. Petersburg Police with evidence including the recording and “screenshots of text messages over the last few weeks from associates of Braddock.” They both then filed for restraining orders against Braddock, which were granted on a temporary basis last month.
Two more potential candidates in the race were mentioned in Luna’s request for a restraining order, though neither were its target: Amanda Makki, runner-up to Luna in last year’s primary who announced Tuesday she is running again in 2022; and Matt Tito, a Marine veteran and the 2020 Republican candidate for Florida House in District 68.
Luna’s filing referenced that in the screenshots, “Braddock stated the following information: He is working alongside Makki and Tito to ‘take me out.’ He verbally clarified that means he intends to kill me.”
St. Pete Police consulted with the State Attorney’s Office, but “due to the conditional nature of the threats made by Braddock, it was determined that no probable cause exists at this time,” according to a report about the case.
Luna did not take out a restraining order against Makki or Tito. Police have never said they were a target of an investigation.
Makki told 8 On Your Side it was a political attack. She is upset that her name was included in Luna’s request for a restraining order when there’s “no way” she could have been involved.
“Why couldn’t she have called me and asked?” Makki said. “There’s a reason why she included my name in the report. This was done completely to smear me as a candidate.”
Makki called Luna a “phony” and said she is “looking into” filing defamation charges against her.
“Before you take down someone’s reputation without any kind of evidence, you need to make sure that what you’re saying is factually accurate,” Makki said. “You only have one reputation in life. And you’ve got to work hard to preserve it if someone is trying to take you down.”
Tito made similar statements in a letter to Luna last week.
“By your own admission…you had no grounds to file any complaint toward me personally, but merely saw an opportunity with Braddock and decided to lump me into this charade knowing full well that it would create fodder and public speculation,” Tito wrote in part. “Whatever Braddock chose to say, or not, in private is out of my control and has no connection to me. You are the source of this vile public smear. In the event that you elect not to do the right thing and apologize, I will be forced to consider a defamation suit with discovery to begin immediately.”
Luna said the references to Makki and Tito in her filing were all based on comments that Braddock said or texted, and that she has never made any claims publicly that they were involved. She encouraged people to wait for the evidence before making any judgments.
A hearing to determine whether to make Luna’s restraining order against Braddock permanent is scheduled for Sept. 14.