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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis 4/17/2020

Source: Miami Herald / Getty

A Florida Sheriff is calling out his opponent this week after “erotic”‘ photos of him and his wife surfaced in the midst of a campaign.

According to the Sun Sentinel, photos were released of Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony at two events organized by a promoter for “erotic theme events, pool parties, strip and swing club invasions and group vacations.”

Tony was not in office when the pictures were taken, but now that he’s running for sheriff in a high profile election for the first time in August, his supporters believe he’s become the target of dirty politics.

The photos, obtained by South Florida Sentinel, show Tony wearing sunglasses, tight-fitting swim shorts and a big smile at events he went to with his wife. The website with the photos said the events occurred in August 2015 and April 2016, and further pictures show a party-like atmosphere with folks in bathing suits, including some women who wore pasties instead of a bra.

Tony’s campaign released a statement on Monday, accusing former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel of being responsible for shedding light on the photos. The surfacing of the pictures also comes after Tony’s past of killing a man in self-defense came to light.

“This is another attempt by Scott Israel to smear Sheriff Tony’s name and reputation,” the statement said. “He tried to depict Sheriff Tony as nothing more than a black kid with a gun, but it backfired because most people see his struggles growing up among violence as an inspirational story of what you can accomplish with hard work and determination no matter where you start.”

“Now, Israel is stooping even lower by releasing pictures that instead of just attacking the sheriff, include his wife in an attempt to embarrass and slander her,” the statement continued. “Broward County voters will see past these disgraceful political tactics.”

Israel has denied having a hand in the photos’ release. “The first time I even heard of these photos was when someone sent me a link to them posted on” a political blog, he argued. “I know nothing about their origin.”

The parties were organized by a collective known as “VIPBliss,” which describes itself as an exclusive private party promoter for the young, fit and attractive. They’ve been organizing events since 2003 according to their Facebook page. Membership for the group is free but participants are screened by photos and the group “bases membership acceptance on physical attractiveness.”

According to WSVN, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, handpicked Tony as Broward County sheriff in January 2019 after Israel was relieved of his duties. On Monday, he responded to the incident saying:

“It’s not like he was a political ally of mine. I wasn’t trying to do that. I was just trying to [appoint] someone that had done a good job and I liked the fact that he had come from a real tough upbringing, Florida State football and had been a great law enforcement officer, so he’s gone through a lot of background investigations up until this point as well, and it seemed like he had the leadership.”

Andrew Pollack, who supported Tony early on and suggested him to DeSantis as a replacement for Israel, deemed the photos an irrelevant private matter.

“No laws were broken,” Pollack said. “These are consenting adults having a good time at a party. What’s the big deal? This is shady politics. This is no different than a lot of Halloween parties.”

As for the news of a 1993 incident in Philadelphia where Tony shot and killed a man, he explained:

“This wasn’t a secret. There was no requirement for me to express that I survived a brutal attack where someone was trying to kill me when I was 14 years old.”

Tony said he and his brother were in an argument with a man named Hector Rodriguez and at one point, Rodriguez threatened to kill them.

“He basically lost it and pulled a gun out and stated he had no problem with shooting us,” said Tony. “I was 14. I was frightened. I’ve seen my friend shot and killed in front of me. I was brutally beaten and had my sneakers taken off at gunpoint.”

Tony said Rodriguez chased him and his brother into their home, and that’s when he found his father’s gun and opened fire, fatally hitting Rodriguez.

“I had an individual armed with a gun in our home, trying to kill me and my brother,” he said, “and fortunately, I had to respond and stop him by shooting him before he was able to kill me and my brother, and that great response, as horrific as it was, as frightening as it was, allowed me to be here today.”

Tony has certainly formed some adversaries over the years, which could impact opposition to his campaign for sheriff. He’s currently feuding with the police unions ever since he suspended one union’s president, Jeff Bell, last month. The deputies’ union carried out a no-confidence vote and Bell sued to get his job back. Bell has declined to comment on the recent incidents involving Tony because of the ongoing suspension and litigation.

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