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State attorney asks to be recused from potential Matt Shirk investigation

Ex-public defender accused of violating state law while in office

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – State Attorney Melissa Nelson has sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, asking to recuse her office from any potential criminal investigation into the actions of Matt Shirk, an embattled former Jacksonville public defender.

A state audit released Aug. 1 shined light on troubling details about Shirk's final months in office, saying he spent lavishly and recklessly gave away government property. Shirk is accused of committing several policy and law violations.

Nelson said while the report doesn't outline specific criminal violations, it does outline alleged conduct that might need to be investigated further. Nelson said an outside agency should handle that, citing a conflict of interest.

Nelson wrote that in 2013, then-State Attorney Angela Corey requested an investigation into possible misconduct in Shirk's office. A grand jury investigated the case, and prior to becoming elected state attorney, Nelson wrote, she testified in the proceedings held before the grand jury that was investigating Shirk.

ICYMI: Wasteful spending & freebies: How Matt Shirk left office

Additionally, Nelson wrote that a current employee of the State Attorney's Office served as the deputy clerk when the grand jury gave its presentment at the conclusion of the investigation.

Among other findings in the state audit, the report found Shirk gave away 14 computers. They were recovered with the hard drives removed, which Public Defender Charlie Cofer contends is a violation of state laws.

The audit found Shirk also gave away nine government-owned guns worth nearly $800 to a motorcycle group, which is a private entity, without the proper paperwork. 

Cofer told News4Jax the report speaks for itself. He has filed complaints against Shirk with the Florida Bar.


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