Former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has hired criminal defense attorney Alex Spiro to represent him as he faces scrutiny over a hotel incident that could end his political career.
Spiro has issued a take-down demand to media outlets that published a graphic photo of Gillum online. It depicted the married father of three nude lying on a hotel room floor with a pillow soiled with vomit under his head.
The picture was taken on the same day that police were called to a South Beach hotel where Gillum was found inebriated and in the company of a male victim of a drug overdose, Travis Dyson, who used the alias Brodie Scott on a website for male escorts.
Aldo Mejias, a 56-year-old doctor whose license expired in 2019, rented room 1107 at the Mondrian South Beach Hotel. He discovered Gillum, 40, vomiting in the bathroom and Dyson, 30, having trouble breathing. Dyson then began vomiting on a bed, which prompted Mejias to call the police.
Several small baggies of suspected methamphetamine were recovered at the scene but none of the men involved were charged with a crime. Dyson was treated at Mount Sinai Medical Center hospital and discharged.
Gillum, who did not speak to police, said in a statement that he was in Miami for a wedding celebration when paramedics were called to “assist one of my friends.” He admitted having too much to drink but denied using methamphetamines. Dyson told the Miami New Times that Gillum mentioned nothing to him about a wedding.
Two days later Gillum announced that he will be stepping away from politics indefinitely and entering rehab for alcohol abuse and depression.
“I know the damaging effects it can have when untreated,” Gillum said in a release. “I also know that alcoholism is often a symptom of deeper struggles. I am committed to doing the personal work to heal fully and show up in the world as a more complete person.” His wife, R. Jai Gillum, posted on Facebook, “This too, shall pass.”
Gillum served as mayor of Tallahassee, FL from 2014 to 2018. He was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2018 but lost to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee. He has since become a political commentator on CNN. He was also working as the chairman of Forward Florida Action, a political group working to register minorities statewide to vote and influence local elections and the 2020 presidential election.
The Central Florida Post, owned by Orlando-based journalist Jacob Engels, obtained the nude image exclusively. Engels wrote last Saturday “this publication obtained and was the first to release an exclusive photo of what appears to be a naked Andrew Gillum passed out in his own vomit on a Miami hotel room floor.” Engels is defying a demand from Gillum’s attorney to remove the article and photo.
“To be clear, The public has no legitimate interest in any such photo, and its release appears to be based not on any such desire to shed light on an important public event, but rather to appeal to the prurient interests of certain members of the public,” Spiro wrote.
“Moreover, this blatant attempt to damage the reputation of a devoted public servant seeking treatment in the midst of a national emergency and global health crisis is appalling and demonstrates an utter disregard of decency and the privacy rights of Mr. Gillum and his family. The article is a violation of Mr. Gillum’s rights to privacy and must be promptly removed,” Spiro stated.
“Despite Mr. Spiro’s claims that the public has no legitimate interest in the photo, they clearly do,” Engels fired back. “After our report, dozens of news outlets around the globe used our exclusive in their own commentary and Andrew Gillum began trending on Twitter.”
“This man could have been our governor and a phony rehab stint is clearly a ploy for sympathy before re-entering the political arena,” he insisted.
The media outlet has filed an open records request with the Miami Beach Police Department under the Freedom of Information Act (FIOA) for “unredacted” police bodycam footage of Gillum in the hotel room.
Enrique Tarrio, a congressional candidate in South Florida who helped the Post obtain the photo, says he plans to resist any legal action by Spiro. “[Gillum] was almost elected governor of Florida. If he had won, we would have had a sitting governor involved in a meth-fueled gay sex orgy with a known male prostitute as we faced down the Wuhan flu pandemic,” Tarrio argued.
“The public would have been placed at great risk and it is likely that people could have died due to delayed response times related to Mr. Gillum’s need to enter rehab. Mr. Gillum is not a dedicated public servant as his attorney claims. If he was a dedicated public servant he would have remained dedicated to his public image. That means not cheating on his wife, procuring male prostitutes, and engaging in meth-fueled sex orgies while his young children were left home fatherless. Thank God that Florida was smart enough to elect a true leader like Ron DeSantis,” he stated.
Javier Monjarres, publisher of the Floridian Press, has complied with Spiro’s request and removed the article and photo. He wrote last Saturday, “Andrew Gillum’s lawyers have now confirmed that it was him who was lying on the tile floor and apparently ‘under the influence of an unknown substance” during an apparent overdose at the Mondrian Hotel on Miami Beach,’ as we posted here.”
“According to Alex Spiros, an attorney at Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP in New York City, in a cease and desist letter our news outlet received from his firm regarding the overdose incident at the Mondrian Hotel on Miami Beach that involved Gillum, our story was a “violation of Mr. Gillum’s privacy rights” and was “merely an appeal to prurient interests, and serves no legitimate news-related purpose.”
“Spiros confirmed it was Gillum by failing to deny the accuracy of the identification as well as acknowledging his client is in rehab for substance abuse problems,” he concluded.
Miami Beach Police Department spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez told the Tallahassee Democrat that an internal review is also underway to find out how records of the incident were leaked before its official release to media organizations. “It’s unknown how the report was shared,” he said in an email, “and yes it is being looked at.”
A police report of the incident was first published March 13 on the Twitter feed of Candace Owens, a conservative commentator and author.
The Daily Mail also published photos of the scene “under Freedom of Information law.” Rodriguez said Miami Beach PD has only released the incident report in response to public records requests and officials have not authenticated the photos.
“I am the sole spokesperson for the MBPD,” Rodriguez said in an email. “I can assure you no PRRs have been fulfilled besides the incident report. When they are complete, my intent is to share them with everyone who has requested, at the same time.”
“We responded to a medical call,” he wrote. “The narcotics, although in plain view, were not in physical possession of anyone inside the room. The officers chose to impound the narcotics.”
Will anyone admit to possession of the controlled substances? The investigation continues.