JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declined to appoint a special prosecutor for Jacksonville community activist Ben Frazier’s misdemeanor charge of trespassing, saying that would not serve the best interests of justice.
A letter from the governor’s office to State Attorney Nelson states: “Because staff members of this office were directly involved in the circumstances and underlying facts necessary to support the arrest, we have concerns that the ends of justice would not be best served if this office were to select which state attorney should investigate or prosecute this matter.”
In response, State Attorney Melissa Nelson of the Fourth Judicial Circuit has invoked a little-used power and appointed her own outside prosecutor from the Seventh Judicial Circuit, with the approval of State Attorney R.J. Larizza of the Seventh Judicial Circuit.
Frazier, of the Northside Coalition, was arrested following a confrontation with members of DeSantis’ staff prior to a news conference by the governor in Jacksonville. Frazier showed up to the planned event where he and other activists stated they wished to confront the governor on his handling of the pandemic, among other issues. He was confronted by members of the governor’s staff, and refused to leave when asked repeatedly to do so.
Frazier was removed from the building and handcuffs and arrested. DeSantis changed location to another spot on the property for his news conference.
Attorney John Phillips and Frazier stated last week that they plan to file a federal civil rights lawsuit if the misdemeanor trespassing charge is not dropped.
Phillips is now asking the special prosecutor appointed by Nelson to dismiss the charge. “This was a public place. Mr. Frazier was not violating any law or disturbing any peace,” Phillips argues in an email.