FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — On the same day that South Florida clergy members and community leaders came to the defense of Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, his attorneys have filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the perjury charge against him.
Runcie was arrested Wednesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
According to the indictment, Runcie made a "false statement" while testifying under oath during a grand jury investigation related to possible fraud for school safety initiatives and whether there was a failure to follow the mandates of school-related safety laws put into place after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
But in a motion filed Friday in Broward County circuit court, attorneys Michael E. Dutko Sr., Jeremy Kroll and Johnny McCray Jr. claim a judge should drop the perjury charge unless the state can provide what it was Runcie is alleged to have told the grand jury that led to his indictment.
Runcie's attorneys claim that the indictment "provides no specificity as to what statement is attributed to Mr. Runcie that constitutes the basis for the underlying allegation."
They said the indictment is so vague that it "even fails to specify during which of the two days of Mr. Runcie's testimony the statement is alleged to be made."
During a news conference outside the school district earlier in the day, dozens of political, faith and business leaders gathered to pledge their support for Runcie. Among those in attendance were state Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, former Broward County mayor and current Commissioner Dale Holness, both of whom are candidates to fill the late Alcee Hastings' seat in Congress, and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.
Thurston said they "pledge 100% support" for Runcie.
"And we're asking the entire Broward community to do the same," he said.
Thurston called Runcie an "honorable, brilliant Black man of the highest character."
"It shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone that these allegations originate where I just came from -- in Tallahassee -- in an action by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is controlled by Gov. Ron DeSantis," Thurston said.
Thurston went on to say that DeSantis has "made his disdain for Mr. Runcie clear."
"He's made no bones about his desire to remove him and his supporters," Thurston said. "He's done everything to divide our community here in Broward County."
Thurston, who is a longtime lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, echoed the sentiments of the motion, saying he's never seen "such vague, conclusionary allegations as those contained in this indictment" in his 30 years of practicing law.
"You know, if we were in a banana republic and you had a secret jury and you came up with ambiguous charges, then we would understand that," Thurston said. "But this is not a banana republic."
Runcie's supporters denounced the governor and touted the district's academic achievements under the superintendent's tenure.
"Ron DeSantis is the undisputed co-leader of this witch hunt against Mr. Runcie," Thurston said.
Broward County School Board general counsel Barbara Myrick was also arrested. She faces a charge of unlawful disclosure of statewide grand jury proceedings.
Runcie's attorneys said Thursday that he planned to plead not guilty.