Nikki Fried seeks sanction of state House member over Twitter threat to ‘protesters’

The Florida Capitol, in Tallahassee, is expected to have ramped-up security amid ongoing political tension that led to insurrection Wednesday in the nation's Capitol. Credit: Colin Hackley

Democratic Florida Cabinet member Nikki Fried appealed to the Republican leaders of the state House to discipline Rep. Anthony Sabatini of Lake County for using Twitter to threaten violence against police-brutality “protesters” should they venture into his area.

In a letter to House Speaker Jose Oliva and Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls, Fried cited the “historic tensions” within the country since the death in police custody of George Floyd, an African American, in Minneapolis and subsequent unrest.

“On May 31, Representative Anthony Sabatini, who represents the people of House District 32, posted to social media encouraging those who encounter protestors in the Lake County vicinity to brandish weapons, displaying an image of an AR-15 semi-automatic assault-style rifle,” Fried wrote.

“This action is not only outrageously irresponsible and reckless,” she wrote, but violates House rules stating that members will serve “with integrity in the public interest” and uphold the honor of the House, among other violations.

“As Speaker of the House and as Chair of the Rules Committee, I call upon you to admonish Representative Sabatini for his detrimental conduct through whatever means appropriate, including censure and removal of committee assignments, according to House Rules 15.9 and your judgment,” Fried wrote.

There was no immediate reply from the House leaders.

Fried serves as Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services and is the only member of her party elected statewide.

The tweet in question featured a picture of an assault rifle and the words: “Attention potential ‘protesters’ coming near Lake County, FL. This is an AR-15 — this will be a very common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business — FYI!”

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.