Reporting Maggie Newland
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hundreds of pages of documents and recorded phone calls detail an absentee ballot investigation that led prosecutors to charge two campaign aids working for former Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez.
Juan Pablo Baggini and Steve Suarez, Francis Suarez’s campaign manager, both pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of illegally attempting to request absentee ballots.
In one of the recorded phone calls from Baggini to Steve Suarez, shortly after Baggini’s home was raided in June, Baggini told Steve he was “freaking out” as the cops had come into the house with a warrant to search saying, “They took the computer because of the AB’s [absentee ballots].” Steve Suarez’s response to Baggini’s news was, “For real?”
The court documents show absentee ballot request forms filled out by potential voters at a cinco de mayo party in Brickell. At the top of each form is a disclaimer saying, “By signing this form you authorize ‘The Future is Now’ to fill out the form requesting an absentee ballot on your behalf.”
“The Future is Now” was an organization affiliated with the Suarez campaign. Even with the disclaimer, prosecutors said it wasn’t legal for a campaign aid to go online and request ballots for someone else—only the person requesting the ballot or a legal guardian can do that.
In phone calls, Baggini repeatedly states that he thought what he was doing was legal, “Why were they here if this was something legal? You told me it was legal,” Baggini says to Steve Suarez who responds, “Yeah exactly.”
In another phone call, Baggini asks then-candidate Francis Suarez, “What do I say if the media calls?” to which Francis responds, “I think you should say the truth you know I think if the media calls you say look, people requested these ballots and obviously I didn’t do, I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong processing their requests.”