Florida Statute Section 794.05 states “A person 24 years of age or older who engages in sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years of age commits a felony of the second degree.”
As a legislator who is tough on crime, you know that, since Holton v. State (1891), Florida law has recognized that ignorance of a victim’s age is no defense to the crime of statutory rape. Assuming that your alleged victim was 17 at the time of your liaisons with her, it follows that she was half your age, she was unable to vote, unable to legally consume alcohol, and unable to legally consent to your alleged behaviors with her. Perhaps, she had not even graduated high school and was younger than Nestor, your “adopted” son.
I write this not only as a constituent and native of the Florida Panhandle, but as a Republican and fellow conservative whose concern is for our District, our ideals, our young people, and your well-being.
A year ago, we learned that you are connected to a federal investigation begun under a Republican Attorney General.
Contrary to how your consultants have distorted and twisted facts, the guilt of those who attempted to extort you does not “exonerate” you. In fact, the crimes of others, including your “wingmen,” raise questions as to what acts they committed in your presence or with your knowledge. As an American, you are entitled to the fullest due process of law. You and I have both taken a sacred oath to defend those rights and the Constitution that provides them. However, as our elected representative, escaping criminal guilt does not absolve you of moral accountability. If there is any truth to allegations of statutory rape, human trafficking, obstruction, drug use, and other violations of state or federal law related to you, you should resign your office.
I am not speaking of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt—a legal standard. I speak of any guilt at all. As a leader, a higher standard binds you—a moral standard.
Is there any truth to these allegations? Have you engaged in sexual activity with minors, as an elected official, as a grown man? Have you or others in your presence provided drugs or alcohol to minors? Have others in Washington, Tallahassee, or Panhandle political circles observed you commit these crimes? Are there other federal or state investigations into or allegations surrounding your conduct that sever the bonds of trust between you and those whom you serve?
Why should you resign?
First, a public office is a public trust. You speak in our place in Washington, DC. You represent our values and aspirations. Should we trust and respect you if you committed or condoned the inappropriate acts we have heard about since March 2021?
Can you advocate for us? Can you assure us that our best interests and values, not your ambition and appetites, have shaped your daily conduct in office?
Second, your continued presence injures the conservative cause. Your proximity to Republicans taints them with your alleged conduct.
When conservatives win, America wins. Will you be a liability for Governor DeSantis’s re-election or for President Trump in 2024? Your name stands as an obstacle for Republicans in elections we must win. No one succeeds in politics without discarding toxic loyalties. The more deeply you sink into scandal, the more distant Republicans should be from you.
Finally, for your future and character, if there is truth behind these allegations, resign.
The people of District I believe in second chances and redemption. Demonstrating honor and humility today may preserve your political future tomorrow.
Many who read this letter will certainly disagree with me, but I speak for many who question your continued fitness for office.
If there is truth behind the allegations, do not drag the people of District I through this scandal with you.
If you respect us, you should give us better answers than what we have received. If you revere conservative ideals, you should place them ahead of your ego. If you are a leader, you should accept responsibility.
Congressman Gaetz, if any one of these allegations is true, you should resign.