TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Romona Oliver, née Brown. Tony Patterson. Douglas Oliver. Nathan Hart. Hubert Jack. Byron Smith. All six are Hillsborough County residents. All six were arrested on the morning of Aug. 18 on charges of voting illegally in the 2020 election.
Hours later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the arrests of 20 individuals on allegations of voter fraud. The arrests were announced at a news conference in the state capital. It was billed as “the first election integrity operation” and arrests following the creation of the state’s new Elections Crimes and Security Office.
At the event, DeSantis said each individual was barred from voting due to their felony status for crimes of murder or sexual assault.
More than a month after the arrests, the Tampa Police Department, who assisted in the arrests, provided bodycam footage of the events that unfolded on Aug. 18. From the videos made available, those arrested did not appear to know that they could not legally vote. Each person was charged with two third-degree felonies, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The arresting incidents recorded show Hillsborough residents confused and at times angry at the events unfolding around them. Below, read through transcripts from the arrests caught on bodycam.
Tony Patterson had been away from his house when officers first arrived. An earlier file of bodycam footage showed officers arrive and make contact with another resident at the home.
Footage recorded later in the morning showed Patterson’s reaction to the arrest and voter fraud charge. Mostly, he was confused and upset by what was happening.
Officer 1: “So apparently, I guess you have a warrant.”
Patterson: “For what?”
Officer 1: “For voter stuff, man.”
FDLE officer: “I think the agents with FDLE talked to you last week about some voter fraud — voter stuff. When you weren’t supposed to be voting, maybe.”
Patterson: “What are they talking about … why is they?”
FDLE officer: “We’re not the case agents, but what you gotta do — they have reduced your bond quite a bit. It’s two felony charges for voter fraud, but they’ve reduced it to $500 bonds, so it’s $1,000.”
Patterson: ‘Oh my god, man, what the?”
FDLE officer: “Yes sir. Unfortunately, right now we’ve gotta take you to jail, but you’re going to bond right away. You don’t have to go to first appearance. Nothing like that.”
Patterson: “A bond? I didn’t do … What did I do wrong?”
Officer 1: “We don’t know. We’re not the …”
FDLE officer: “We’re not the case agents.”
Officer 1: “They sent us over here because you had a warrant. And whenever people have warrants, the people coming to arrest the people. They don’t know nothing. You know what I mean?”
Patterson: verbally/visibly distressed.
Officer 1: “Do you have anything on you that you’re not supposed to have?”
Patterson: “Can I please —?”
Officer 1: “I gotta put you in handcuffs, buddy.”
Patterson: “Voter fraud? What is voter fraud?”
Officer 1: “Voting when you’re not supposed to, sir. Because of your sex offender status, you’re not supposed to be voting.”
Patterson: “What’s this got — I don’t know this. What kind of felony is this?”
Officers told Patterson that the felony was the “lowest kind there is.” He tried to enter his home, but officers said he would not be able to go inside his home. One officer gave his keys to another resident.
Patterson: “Voter fraud. Why is it you doin’ this now? This happened years ago.”
Officer 1: “I don’t know.”
Patterson: “This is crazy man.”Partial transcript of Tony Patterson’s voter fraud arrest on Aug. 18.
The officers took him to their cruiser to search him and take him into custody for a ROR. On the way, Patterson continued, in disbelief at the charge of voter fraud.
Patterson: “What is wrong with this state man? Voter fraud? Y’all said anybody with a felony could vote, man. What do you mean I couldn’t vote? I don’t know this.”
When they searched Patterson and put him in the police cruiser, he said he needed to call his brother, continuing to say he was confused by the charge and saying he wanted to leave Florida.
“I’m trying my best to get the hell out of this state,” Patterson said. “This s*** crazy, man. Y’all put me in jail for something I didn’t know nothing about.”
Like Oliver, officers checked his shoes and socks while he sat in the cruiser. Patterson, still distressed, said the charge was because he was “a f****** business man. I don’t know what’s going on with sex offenders, but I’m not like them man. I’m just trying to work.”
In the car, Patterson asked the officer driving him in to get processed when the law he was charged under was passed. The officer told him he didn’t know, and Patterson continued saying he didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to vote.
“Why would y’all let me vote if I wasn’t able to vote?” Patterson asked from inside the cruiser. The officer repeated his answer from outside, that he did not know. “And why now? It happened years ago. Why now? Why me?”
For Romona Oliver, formerly Romona Black, it was early and she was still in the driveway. Her newly married husband was in the car, when officers arrived. Her plan for the day had involved going to work, and picking someone up to give them a ride.
Instead, officers came to her car and explained that she was under arrest for voter fraud.
A partial transcript of the arrest is below:
TPD officer 1: “Ma’am, we have a warrant for your arrest.”
Romona Oliver: “For what?”
TPD officer 1: “For voter fraud.”
Romona Oliver: “Oh my god!”
TPD officer 2: “Ultimately ma’am, you have a warrant. I know you’re caught off guard. You have a warrant. It’s for voter fraud. You’re caught off guard, I understand. OK, here me out. It’s an ROR, you know what an ROR is? You go in, you get booked, and then they’re gonna release you from booking. You’re going to be right back out.”
Romona Oliver: “Oh my god.”
TPD officer 2: “But you have a warrant. It’s from FDLE. OK?”
Romona Oliver: “OK.”
TPD officer 2: “I know you’re caught off guard, but that’s how this works.”
Romona Oliver: “I’m like, what the hell … OK … I voted but, I didn’t commit no fraud.”
TPD officer 2: “That’s the thing. I don’t know exactly what happened with it, but you do have a warrant, and that’s what it’s for.”
Romona Oliver: “Oh my god!”
TPD officer 2: “I don’t know what happened with that, but you do have a warrant.”
Romona Oliver: “Can my husband …”
TPD officer 2: “Ultimately, what’s going to happen is you’re gonna go there, they’re going to take your fingerprint, they’re going to book you in, and then they’re going to release you, and then you’ll go on and you’ll just have to go to court, so ROR means you’re released, but then you have a court date, and you’ll have to go to court and figure out what happened.”Partial transcript of Romona Oliver’s voter fraud arrest on Aug. 18
The officers searched Oliver, removing jewelry and personal items from her. During the process, she said she “did not have nothing on me.” Officers gave the woman’s car keys to her husband so he could follow behind to pick her up after completion of the ROR and booking process at the Hillsborough County Jail.
Oliver said she was heading to work when officers arrived. TPD had arrived before she could even get on the road. Upon being put in the cruiser, officers removed the woman’s shoes to check for items inside, then helped to put them back on.
Her seatbelt was buckled, and the officer returned to the driver’s seat of his police cruiser.
Inside the vehicle, it was mostly silent. At one point, she asked how long the drive to the jail would be and the officer and the suspect discussed which location they were going to. Eletha
When officers arrived at Byron Smith’s house, they knocked on the door and asked for his identification when he answered. They asked him to put on shoes and step outside to talk, while they “checked something on the computer, here.”
After, the officer went to his police cruiser to check some information, then returned to Smith a few minutes later.
TPD officer 1: “Yes sir, I’m at the right house and I have the right man. The sheriffs wanna talk to you sir.”
Smith said the sheriff had called earlier.
Smith: “Please sir, can I please go hang up my phone?”
TPD officer 1: “I’ll hang it up for you. We’ll take a walk in there and I’ll hang it up for you.”
Smith: “What’s this about?”
TPD officer 1: “They just wanna talk to you. I have to detain you until they get here, as per my instructions. I appreciate your cooperation.”Partial transcript of Byron Smith’s voter fraud arrest on Aug. 18
Smith was asked if he had any dogs inside, which he answered in the negative.
The officer cuffed him and they walked back into his house. Afterward, Smith is taken back outside, where like the others on video, he is searched and placed in the police cruiser. The officer drove him to jail for processing, then released him per the ROR.
Nathan Hart was one of six people in Hillsborough County arrested for voter fraud.
“It could easily destroy everything that I’ve worked so hard to build over the last 15 to 20 years,” Hart said. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster.”
Hart was convicted of a felony sex offense in 2004. He says two years ago, someone at the DMV was registering people to vote. He told the man his situation but says the man still encouraged him to fill out the paperwork.
“I’m getting threatened with five-plus years in prison, and all I did was about when they told me I could,” Hart said. “My emotions have never been so out of whack as they have been over the last two months.”
Hart says since his conviction, he’s done everything to turn his life around. He says now, his future is uncertain.
“The governor wants to crucify me in the guys that I met when I was (in ail) to make an example out of us,” Hart said. “What I’m hoping that somehow God can intervene, somehow maybe soften a heart somewhere.”