Former Joe Garcia staffer admits wrongdoing
MIAMI (WSVN) -- A South Florida congressman's former chief of staff received hugs and kisses from crying family members as he begins his first of 90 days behind bars.
Jeffrey Garcia surrendered himself in court, Monday, after pleading guilty to illegally requesting hundreds of absentee ballots on behalf of voters during the 2012 election. "It's not about pure intent, it's whether there was attempt to steal somebody's vote, and they definitely did not do that, and there was no such intent," said Garcia's attorney, Henry Bell.
In all, Garcia pled guilty to one felony charge and three misdemeanors. Garcia could have faced up to eight years in prison. "He only said that he never intended and never did," said Bell. "I think the facts show he actually didn't manipulate anybody's vote, interfere with anybody's ballot. All they did was request the ballots. The way they did it was in violation of the applicable statutes, and that's it."
A professional political operative, Garcia, ran the campaign for representative Joe Garcia-- no relation between the two but long-time personal friends.
The freshman congressman was in office since January and released a statement: "It is painful to watch a friend go through this very difficult ordeal. As we all move past this investigation, it must be noted that while these actions were wrong. No ballots were touched or manipulated in anyway, and no voter had their votes interfered with or impeded in any way."
Once he's released from jail, the former chief of staff will have to serve 18 months probation, including 90 days on house arrest. "This is just the final step in the process with the state in doing what Jeff set out to do when this became public, which was accept responsibility for what he did, put this behind him and move on," said Bell.
During the length of his sentence, including probation, he will be prohibited from participating in politics.
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