Two Republican congressional candidates embroiled in an alleged murder-for-hire plot had their case postponed until September. Anna Paulina Luna’s temporary restraining order against William Braddock will remain until the case’s new date.
The race to fill the soon-to-be-vacant District 13 seat is still more than a year away. But it’s already getting deathly intense.
Luna lost to outgoing Congress member Charlie Crist in 2020 but quickly filed to run in 2022 when Crist announced he was leaving Congress to run for governor.
Braddock, a fellow Republican, filed to run for the same seat in June. Just before, however, Luna and another conservative activist accused Braddock of plotting to kill Luna. Both Luna and the activist, Erin Olszewski, secured temporary restraining orders against Braddock.
Some were quick to ridicule Luna’s claims as political theater. Mostly because she named other Republican rivals in her complaint, but didn’t seek injunctions against them. Then Olszewski released a phone call she recorded between herself and someone she claims is Braddock. In it, the man says he has access to Russian and Ukrainian hit squads.
The phone call was first released by news site Politico and later entered into public record through a police investigation
“I have access to a hit squad too,” the man believed to be Braddock is heard saying.
“Damn,” Olszewski responds amid nervous laughter.
“You did not f–ing hear that from me.”
“I didn’t hear what.” And more nervous laughter.
The call continues.
“If the poll says Luna is gonna win, she’s gonna be gone. She’s gonna disappear,” the man says.
“Dang,” Olszewski replies.
“And you cannot tell anybody that.”
“I would never tell anybody.”
“But for the good of our country we have to sacrifice the few.”
Because the call was recorded without Braddock’s consent it’s not able to be used in court. Luna’s other rivals, Matt Tito and Amanda Makki, were not on the call and maintain Luna only mentioned them to try and clear out potential primary opponents.
But Luna’s lawyer says there is enough evidence and witnesses to secure a permanent restraining order. They’ll now have until Sept. 14 – the date of the new hearing – to prove that. Friday’s hearing was the second in the case. A June hearing was continued to the July date. But attorneys on all sides say they want to take the time to get the case right.
“We don’t want to create an appellate situation that could cause a problem in the future,” attorney Katherine Yanes said during Friday’s zoom hearing.
Police in St. Pete investigated the call and say it is Braddock. But no charges will be filed. Investigators say Braddock’s comments were conditional in nature because he set up an “if…then” scenario, therefore there’s no probable cause for charges.
Braddock denies being the person in the recording on the grounds that he hasn’t heard it.
Luna’s case further muddies the race for the St. Pete congressional seat long held by Democrats. Some Democratic operatives fear Crist is leaving a seat he could easily win but might be tougher for other Democrats. Voter turnout over the last few election cycles shows Republican strength in the district has grown. Luna, who had far less name recognition than Crist, was able to come within 25,000 votes of Crist in 2020.