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Citing conflict, Gov. DeSantis refuses to pick a new State Attorney to prosecute activist Ben Frazier

Prosecutor Melissa Nelson asked Gov. DeSantis to reassign the case, saying her office had a conflict, but the governor declined, citing a conflict of his own.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (Note: The video above was originally published earlier this month.)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declined to reassign the high-profile prosecution of a Jacksonville activist, as requested by State Attorney Melissa Nelson, saying his office has a conflict of interest.

Nelson made her request Jan. 6 after Frazier’s viral detainment at a Jacksonville media event for DeSantis. Frazier, who did not have media credentials to attend the event, declined requests by DeSantis’ staffers to leave, noting the event was in being held in a public building. He was handcuffed and taken to a police car, leaving behind his motorized scooter – an incident that quickly began trending on Twitter.

Frazier, founder and president of the Northside Coalition, has since said he plans to file a federal civil rights and Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit against DeSantis.

In Nelson’s letter, she said her office had a conflict in the case, because Frazier has “an established relationship” with her office, "both as an advocate and adversary."

But in a Jan. 18 response, the Governor spurned her request. 

"As you are aware, the alleged criminal activity occurred due to an event organized by this Office. 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. Therefore, this Office declines to exercise its discretion to reassign this matter to another state attorney," DeSantis' office wrote in its response.

On Thursday, Nelson selected the 7th Circuit State Attorney’s Office, which covers St. Johns, Volusia, Putnam and Flagler counties. In a letter to that office, she wrote, "On January 4, 2022, Mr. Ben Frazier was provided a criminal citation for Trespass in Jacksonville, Florida. I requested that the Governor’s Office assign this matter to another jurisdiction based on a conflict with this office, but the Governor’s Office has determined that they have a conflict as well and denied my request. With our office’s conflict still present and with State Attorney R.J. Larizza’s permission, I have appointed you as a special prosecutor in this matter and ask that you make an independent determination as to whether to file charges, or not. You have full authority to reach whatever decision you deem appropriate but must do so without input from any employee in our office."

Frazier is due in court Jan. 26.

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