A courthouse in Florida
A police car outside a courthouse in Florida Reuters

A former chief of staff for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), has filed a lawsuit alleging that Governor Ron DeSantis and his deputies pressured him to perform unlawful activities, including gathering information on migrants and arresting neo-Nazi demonstrators without reasonable suspicion, The Miami Herald reported.

The former officer detailed that one such case took place in September 2023, when he was ordered by DeSantis' chief of staff, Alex Kelly, to arrest neo-Nazi demonstrators in Orlando under a law prohibiting unauthorized projection of images on property. Despite his objections over First Amendment protections, Kelly insisted on finding a way to make arrests, emphasizing the governor's demand for immediate action, he said.

The lawsuit also outlines pressures to collect photos and personal information of migrants without legal grounds and to withhold public records related to DeSantis' travels. These actions, according to Desguin, led to his forced resignation in November 2023.

The governor's office has not commented on these specific allegations but indicated that their arguments would be presented in legal filings. A spokesperson mentioned a state investigation found violations of state rules by Desguin, which were linked to insubordination and workplace conduct issues.

Marie Mattox, representing Desguin, contends that the timing of the state investigation's findings, finalized in May, suggests an attempt to discredit him after his departure. The affidavit of separation stated Desguin retired without misconduct, supporting his claims against the allegations.

Desguin's lawsuit states that his issues with DeSantis' administration began in late 2021 when he was tasked with dealing with immigration matters. He alleges that Larry Keefe, DeSantis' former public safety czar, demanded the collection of migrant data without legal justification. Desguin objected, citing the need for reasonable suspicion, but faced continued pressure from Keefe to comply.

Additionally, Desguin recounts discussions involving the governor's plan to relocate migrants, including proposals for transporting them to other states. He voiced legal concerns about potential false imprisonment or kidnapping. Despite his objections, the governor's staff, particularly Chief of Staff James Uthmeier, pushed for the execution of at least one flight as part of the immigration initiative. This led to an operation coordinated from Texas that transported around 50 migrants to Martha's Vineyard. The case made national headlines, and both the Texas and Florida administrations have been sued as a result of it.

In fact, the group of Venezuelan migrants could get U.S. visas as compensation. Concretely, they could get the benefit for being "victims of a crime," considering they were misled into going to the island. Speaking

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, this status is "set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity."

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