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Former State House Candidate To Serve Community Service, Probation

Sep 14, 2018

A former Republican candidate for the State House District 73 seat who dropped out after lying about her college education has signed an agreement for deferred prosecution.

Under the deal signed Friday, Melissa Howard must now serve 25 hours of community service and be on probation. Once completed, she will have no criminal record of the misdemeanor for lying about having a diploma from Miami University in Ohio.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune Political Editor Zac Anderson said even in the realm of politics, this case stands out.

“It isn't unusual for kind of odd things to happen in campaigns, sometimes. And even for candidates to exaggerate their academic credentials, but for candidates to go to this length is highly unusual,” Anderson said.

A supporter of Howard's Republican rival in the primary called the attention of authorities to the fraud, and it turns out, what she did was a crime. Anderson said Florida Statute 817.566, applies.

“That says any person with intent to defraud misrepresents his or her association with, or academic standing or progress at a university or post-secondary institution is guilty of a misdemeanor,” Anderson said.

He said he won't be surprised if Howard tries to get back into being involved in the community later, because, he said, she was very invested before all of this.