Tag: joe harding
Joe Harding

Florida 'Don't Say Gay' Lawmaker Sentenced To Prison For Fraud (VIDEO)

Former Florida Republican state lawmaker Joe Harding, author of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” law, was sentenced Thursday on federal felony fraud and money laundering charges after fraudulently obtaining $150,000 in COVID funds.

Harding was facing up to 35 years in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, but after a plea deal he will serve four months.

“In court Thursday, the judge credited Harding for taking responsibility and showing remorse. However, he believed prison time was warranted as a general deterrence,” ClickOrlando reported. “In addition to the prison sentence, Harding will serve two years of supervised release.”

Harding is the author of the “Parental Rights in Education Act,” which Gov. DeSantis promoted by claiming it would only apply to grades K-3, before signing it into law. He later expanded the law’s reach to include all grades.

At the time of Harding’s indictment, The Guardianreported, “DeSantis signed the bill into law in March, sparking a chilling groundswell of similar legislation throughout the country. At least 137 bills in 36 different states have introduced educational gag order bills in 2022, according to an August report by Pen America.”

In March of last year, Harding responded to the Florida Democratic nominee for governor’s message that read: “To our LGBTQ+ students: I stand with you and I see you.”

He wrote: “To the parents of Florida: I stand with you and I see you. I’m sorry that there are people like below that want to take away your rights, sexualize your 6 year olds and lie to you.”

Watch Harding arrive for sentencing below or at this link.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Joe Harding

'Don't Say Gay' Bill's Corrupt Sponsor Facing 35 Years In Prison

Joe Harding, the now-former Florida Republican lawmaker who authored the extremist "Don't Say Gay" bill could face up to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday afternoon to federal felony fraud charges in a scheme to obtain $150,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, according to Florida Politics‘ publisher Peter Scorsch.

Harding, 35, was a construction project manager who started his own lawn care company. He quickly became a right-wing darling after his anti-LGBTQ legislation, officially the Parental Rights in Education Act, was embraced by Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed it into law.

Harding was charged in a December federal indictment with six counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in his plot to obtain $150,000 in COVID funds. He resigned from the legislature the following day. He originally pled not guilty.

After Harding was charged and resigned, Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, responded via social media, saying: "So much harm to students, parents and teachers because of his raw political ambitions. He slandered entire communities and trafficked in lie after lie that has emboldened violent bigotry. He will have his day in court but his legacy is already a despicable one."

Harding is not the only family member accused of criminal acts.

"Harding's indictment follows a September guilty plea from his brother-in-law, Patrick Walsh," Florida Politics reported in December. "As reported by Fresh Take Florida, Walsh pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges connected to his receipt of nearly $8 million in disaster relief loans."

Unrepentant to the harm many feel he has done to children and the LGBTQ community, in a statement Tuesday Harding said: "During the past legislative session I have felt the support of millions of Americans while fighting for our shared concerns and for the rights of parents. I will never forget the support I received from every corner of this great country."

Harding will be sentenced in July.

Florida's Voicealso reported Harding's guilty plea Tuesday.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Feds Indict 'Don't Say Gay' Legislator For COVID Aid Fraud

Feds Indict 'Don't Say Gay' Legislator For COVID Aid Fraud

Florida Republican state lawmaker Joe Harding, the author of the highly-criticized and some say unconstitutional “Don’t Say Gay” law, has been indicted by a Department of Justice grand jury on federal fraud charges.

“A federal grand jury has returned a six-count indictment against Joseph Harding, 35, of Williston, Florida,” DOJ said in a press release, detailing an alleged scheme, which included obtaining “fraudulently created bank statements,” to defraud the U.S. Government’s Small Business Administration of $150,000.

The felony charges include wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements.

The DOJ indictment also alleges, “Harding committed two acts of wire fraud by participating in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) and for obtaining coronavirus-related small business loans by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and for the purpose of executing such scheme, caused wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce.”

Trial is scheduled for next month. DOJ says Harding could be subject to as many as 35 years in prison should he be found guilty on all charges.

Harding’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis not only signed into law but used, via his then-press secretary to further attacks on the LGBTQ community, doubled-down on one of his key components: outing LGBTQ children to their parents.

The legislation, technically named the “Parental Rights in Education” Act, prohibits “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identity in certain school grades, but as expected, has been seen as “confusing” and a total ban on any discussion of LGBTQ issues.

Making clear the legislation’s intent, Florida GOP lawmakers voted down an proposed by a Democrat that would require schools create a safe environment for LGBTQ children.

“Those are serious allegations of corruption,” Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith told Florida Politics, which first reported the news. “The courts will sort through that sordid mess but we know he’s made many false statements about the LGBTQ community. Florida parents are forced to navigate schools that are less safe for their children because Joe Harding’s political ambitions know no bounds.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

DeSantis Appears Willing To Support Ugly Anti-LGBT 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

DeSantis Appears Willing To Support Ugly Anti-LGBT 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday for the first time showed support for an anti-LGBTQ bill that bans discussion of LGBTQ issues or topics in schools while forcing teachers to out children to their parents at home.

“In terms of the schools, we’ve seen instances of students being told by different folks in school, ‘Oh, you know, don’t worry, don’t pick your gender yet. Do all this other stuff,'” DeSantis said Monday, Florida Politics reports. “They won’t tell the parents about these discussions that are happening. That is entirely inappropriate.”

DeSantis also said it is "inappropriate" for teachers "to be hiding these things from parents," meaning issues of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“To get into situations where you’re not having the parent (involved), where you’re hiding things from the parent, you’re injecting these concepts about choosing your gender. That is just inappropriate for our schools,” DeSantis reinforced.

“We want to make sure our schools are focusing on the basics. We don’t want them to be engines for things like (critical race theory), things that are divisive and not accurate.”

The bill, officially Florida House Bill 1557, “Parental Rights in Education,” would also allow parents to sue the schools if they feel their "rights" as outlined in the legislation have been violated.

The "Don't Say Gay" bill was filed by freshman Florida House Republican Joe Harding, the founder of a local lawn care company who has no background in education or child development.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet