Florida’s Divisive Head of ‘Elections Security’ Lay Dead in DeSantis’s Office for 24 Minutes After Contentious Meeting

Pete Antonacci, who ran the Office of Election Crimes and Security and was tasked with rooting out the kind of election fraud denounced by President Trump, was found with his face ‘purple and blue’ and without a pulse.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Governor DeSantis listens as the Florida Election Crimes and Security Office Director, Peter Antonacci, speaks during a press conference at the Broward County Courthouse on August 18, 2022, at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The head of Florida’s “election security” efforts, Peter Antonacci, collapsed and died in a hallway in Governor DeSantis’s office at Tallahassee and lay there for 24 minutes before being discovered. Antonacci had gotten up abruptly and left a contentious meeting about election security before surveillance camera footage showed him staggering before collapsing on the floor. 

The account of Antonacci’s mysterious death, on September 23, 2022, comes from Florida Department of Law Enforcement records released to a nonprofit investigative news outlet, the Florida Bulldog. 24 minutes after Antonacci stormed out of the meeting, the FDLE commissioner, Mark Glass, spotted him collapsed on the floor of a hallway in Mr. DeSantis’s suite of offices.

Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. According to reports, at the time of his death, Antonacci’s face was “purple and blue,” and he was without a pulse. A scrape on top of the Florida official’s head indicated he may have hit a doorknob on his way to the floor. 

Antonacci, known as “Mr. Fixit” for his long career solving problems in Florida’s bureaucracy, had been handpicked by Mr. Desantis to lead Florida’s Office of Election Crimes and Security. The governor established the office with legislative approval in July, 2022, in the wake of continued concerns emanating from President Trump about the validity of the 2020 election. 

Pete Antonacci represented Governor Bush’s daughter Noelle at her drug court hearing at Orange County, Florida, in 2002. Ms. Bush was sentenced to ten days in jail for drug offenses. Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images

Antonacci had previously served as the election supervisor for Broward County, where he had attempted to root out election fraud, a large concern for Republicans despite actual cases being rare in the state of Florida. 

Prior to his tenure at Broward County, Antonacci represented two Florida governors, Daniel “Bob” Graham and Jeb Bush, as special prosecuting counsel in the Florida Senate’s impeachment trials of the Supervisors of Elections in 1987 and 2004. 

The new election fraud office has primarily sought to prosecute those caught illegally voting in Florida elections. A state ballot initiative allowed most, but not all, ex-felons to be granted the privilege of voting. The office had sought to go after felons who were still ineligible to vote. Before Antonacci’s untimely death, his office had already found 20 Floridians who had allegedly voted illegally in the 2020 election.

The investigations had drawn scrutiny, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, as most of the Floridians whom Antonacci had sought to prosecute were Black. 

Though details about his final meeting have not been released, the meeting was called to discuss “an election topic,” according to a statement by the FDLE’s Shane Desguin. NPR reports that much of the mysterious meeting’s agenda appears to have been redacted from the records.

The Florida Bulldog reports it received a tip that Antonacci and Mr. DeSantis had argued before he collapsed, but there’s no evidence that the governor attended the meeting in question. A spokesman from the Governor’s office, Jeremy Redfern, tells local CBS station WKMG, also known as Click Orlando, that he was not at the meeting. 

Yet according to those present at the meeting, it was contentious and marked by quarreling. Ultimately, Antonacci stormed out of the meeting after 30 minutes, according to an account by the director of executive investigations with the FDLE, Scott McInerney.  

After Antonacci’s collapsed body was eventually discovered, Mr. Glass and Mr.  Desguin began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Florida Capitol Police also attempted to use an automated external defibrillator on Antonacci. Yet the records released by FDLE said the “machine never indicated that a shock was advised,” suggesting it would be of no use. 

Despite the peculiar circumstances, Antonacci’s wife and primary doctor later told FDLE investigators that the election official had a long history of heart disease and cardiac issues, resulting in several surgeries. Antonacci was taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In addition to his roles as an election supervisor, Antonacci held a series of senior political roles for both Democrats and Republicans in the state. 

The late election supervisor had served as general counsel to then-governor and current U.S. Senator, Rick Scott. He had also worked as the Palm Beach County state attorney, the South Florida Water Management District Executive Director, and the top deputy to former democrat state Attorney General, Bob Butterworth.

In his capacity as a private attorney, Antonacci had gained notoriety for representing the daughter of Jeb Bush, Noelle Bush, charged with a series of drug related cases in 2002.

The then-24-year-old daughter of the former Florida governor and presidential hopeful ultimately landed at Orlando County jail for a total of 13 days after relapsing on two separate occasions during two separate court-mandated rehabilitation sentences.

The New York Sun

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