An probe released on Monday reveals that Ron DeSantis's chief elections fraud official fell after leaving an abrupt, "contentious" meeting in the Florida governor's office. He lay dead or critically ill in the hallway outside for about thirty minutes before being discovered.
Unknown information about Peter Antonacci's death in the Tallahassee capitol building in September 2022 surfaced on the website of Florida Bulldog, an independent online watchdog of the state's politics and government.
Following a tip that Antonacci, 74, passed away following a dispute with DeSantis, the outlet filed a public information records request with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to get redacted materials.
The 17 pages that the Bulldog published online provide no evidence that DeSantis was truly present at the meeting that took place in his own office in a conference room that was also attended by Florida's secretary of state James Byrd and FDLE commissioner Mark Glass, among others.
However, they did provide information that had not before been made public, such as the fact that Antonacci passed away following a contentious meeting in the governor's office as opposed to the initial report that he was "at work in the Capitol building" and that he was missing for twenty-four minutes following his collapse in the hallway outside.
At several points during the meeting—the agenda of which was withheld from the papers—witnesses described Antonacci as "agitated" and "frustrated."
The records depict the desperate attempts to resuscitate Antonacci, who had a history of cardiac issues, after he was eventually located, but the Bulldog makes no accusations of criminal misconduct by any of the parties involved.
The report sheds light on the shroud of secrecy surrounding the incident and its aftermath, revealing details such as the location, the attendees, and the possible reasons behind Antonacci's possible agitation or rage during the meeting. All of the identities of the "10 to 15 people" who were allegedly there are hidden by redactions on the documentation, and still photos and video of the incident have been completely removed.
According to FDLE director Scott McInerney, Antonacci was "agitated" at the meeting and had "abruptly" got up from his seat and left, but the Bulldog said he had not displayed any signs of medical concern.
Until paramedics came, Glass and FDLE general counsel Ryan Newman tried to resuscitate Antonacci with CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED), but the equipment “could not produce a shock,” according to the records.
After the 2020 general election, DeSantis personally selected Antonacci, a former election supervisor in Broward County, Florida, to head a contentious new state office of election crimes and security with unheard-of prosecuting authority.
That year's election night, the governor celebrated Florida's safe and secure voting process as a model for the country, but he soon came to believe that action was required when Donald Trump misrepresented electoral fraud as the reason for his loss to Joe Biden.
DeSantis's multimillion-dollar request for a team of investigators to look into electoral fraud was approved by an obedient Republican supermajority in the Florida legislature, but judges have largely rejected the prosecution of citizens who cast ballots after the state declared them eligible to do so.
Voters who obtained voter registration cards and were primarily ex-felons who thought their rights to vote had been reinstated by a state ballot initiative, according to DeSantis, were "gonna pay the price."
Republican state politicians, such as Byrd and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, praised Antonacci for being appointed by taxpayer money in July 2022 to combat election fraud that was not, by any means, present in the state.
An ER doctor at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital determined that Antonacci's cause of death was cardiac failure following a heart attack. There was no autopsy performed.
At his funeral, he was honored for his many years of service to the state of Florida as a deputy attorney general and general counsel to Rick Scott, DeSantis's predecessor.
The Guardian has requested a statement from DeSantis's office.