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Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle to step aside from Hialeah absentee-ballot investigation

Hours after her office arrested Deisy Cabrera, a suspected Hialeah absentee-ballot broker Thursday morning, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle announced she will recuse herself from any further involvement in the case.

Fernández Rundle, who is seeking reelection, said she wants to avoid a potential conflict of interest because an unnamed person may be connected to her campaign and to Cabrera.

With the state attorney stepping aside, it will fall to Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case going forward. Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said the governor will review Fernández Rundle's request on Friday and make a decision.

Fernández Rundle had come under pressure from her Democratic primary opponent, defense attorney Rod Vereen, for remaining on the case because her longtime campaign consultant, Al Lorenzo, also works on Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's reelection bid. Gimenez has denied any connection to Cabrera, the ballot broker, but she is said to support him.

Read Fernández Rundle's statement after the jump.

“Now that the arrest of Deisy Penton De Cabrera has been accomplished and she is facing a felony and two misdemeanor charges related to absentee ballot fraud, I have today asked the Governor’s office for an Executive Assignment of this case to another prosecutor’s office. 

Unsubstantiated allegations have recently been brought to my attention that a person who has been assisting in my campaign was alleged to have been seen in the company of this defendant. I am therefore taking this action to avoid even the possibility that my pending election will cause any distraction to the prosecution of this case. I am also doing this with the intent of toning down the rhetoric so that this case can progress in a normal and expeditious manner for the benefit of our community. 

Any and all other pending voter fraud investigations and resulting prosecutions will continue to be handled by my office.

As I have previously stated, when it reconvenes, I will be asking the Miami-Dade County Grand Jury to take on the entire issue of absentee ballots and to look closely into the practices and procedures associated with them.”