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FDLE investigating St. Lucie County Sheriff Keith Pearson, executive order states

Document signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis says Pearson investigated for violations of election law
Posted at 7:54 PM, Jun 13, 2024

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — WPTV has learned from an executive order signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that St. Lucie County Sheriff Keith Pearson is under investigation for "election code violations."

The order, signed June 4 amid a flurry of several executive orders, appoints State Attorney Phil Archer to handle Pearson's case after State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl recused himself.

Bakkedahl's judicial district covers St. Lucie County, and he has endorsed one of Pearson's opponents, Richard Del Toro, for sheriff.

Read the full order below:

"The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has indicated desire to move forward with criminal charges," Bakkedahl told WPTV Chief Investigator Jamie Ostroff in an interview.

Bakkedahl said he did not know what the specific allegations under investigation are.

"I didn't want to bring my office to the integrity of my office, and the authority of my office, to bear on a prosecution that could be portrayed as being political in nature," Bakkedahl said. "We've got to work with that sheriff's office, and should (Pearson) win, I've got to work with him. And I'm going to do that, because that's what people of the 19th circuit expect of me. And that's what's in the interest of the public safety."

State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl speaks to WPTV chief investigative reporter Jamie Ostroff about why his recusal from the investigation into Sheriff Keith Pearson.
State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl speaks to WPTV chief investigative reporter Jamie Ostroff about why his recusal from the investigation into Sheriff Keith Pearson.

Legal analyst Katie Charleston explained that this investigation likely won't impact the choices for sheriff available to St. Lucie County voters during the August primary.

Precint deputy hat Keith Pearson June 2024.png

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"There's nothing that prevents someone from running for office who has allegations or even charges pending against them," Charleston said.

However, Charleston pointed to a Florida statute that bars people convicted of felonies and some misdemeanors from working as a law enforcement officer.

Archer's office said it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into Pearson, and declined to comment any further.

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