Perry won't face prosecution in sign altercation

Complaint withdrawn in slap over campaign sign dispute


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Prosecutors say they will not pursue a case involving an altercation between state Rep. Keith Perry and another man that began with the removal of one of Perry's campaign signs in Gainesville.

State Attorney R. J. Larizza's office filed a memo this week noting that Robert Leppla, who initially submitted a complaint against Perry, did not want to pursue the case.

"Based on the review of witness statements and video evidence, the allegations do not meet the standard for a criminal prosecution," Christina Opsahl, an assistant state attorney, said in the memo.

Larizza, who is the top prosecutor for the 7th Judicial Circuit, was appointed to handle the case after State Attorney Bill Cervone, who handles prosecutions in the 8th Judicial Circuit, which includes Gainesville, declared a conflict of interest.

Cervone supports former state Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua, in this year's Senate District 8 race against Perry, a Gainesville Republican.

The Sept. 10 altercation began when Perry's daughter saw Leppla removing one of Perry's campaign signs on property where cars were being parked for a University of Florida football game.

A surveillance video showed Leppla and Perry arguing over the sign, with Leppla chest-bumping Perry and Perry later slapping Leppla.

Perry also said Leppla spit on him. Leppla initially filed a sworn complaint against Perry with the Gainesville Police Department but later withdrew it.

"I never believed the case warranted criminal charges, though I do wish I had done more to (defuse) the situation," Perry said in a statement. "Having said that, GPD (the Gainesville Police Department) should've never taken this to the state attorney. The whole thing, in my opinion, was politically motivated."