Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder, lawyer by day and Grim Reaper by night, took Florida governor Ron DeSantis to court over the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic – but is now facing “repercussions” that he says are an effort to punish and silence him.
In his guise as the Reaper, the lawyer shot to notoriety by stalking beaches with a scythe over the summer to instil the fear of death into Florida.
His alter ego, Mr Uhlfelder, sued the governor in a failed bid to force the closure of all beaches and a statewide stay-at-home order.
While that case and appeal were dismissed, lawyers for Mr DeSantis on Friday urged the court of appeals to sanction Mr Uhlfelder for what they called an abused of the justice system that diverted resources from the Covid pandemic response.
Mr Uhlfelder said on Tuesday the governor was trying to punish him for having the audacity to challenge his authority.
“This is not about me. It’s about citizens having the right to challenge government when they’re not doing the right thing,” Mr Uhlfelder told The Washington Post.
“To say that I distracted from his job is laughable, considering he hasn’t done his job.”
In asking for sanctions against Mr Uhfleder, lawyers argued he knew the case was frivolous and the hours involved could have been spent on pressing matters related to the health, welfare and safety of Floridians.
The call for repercussions against Mr Uhlfelder follows the police raid of Florida’s ousted Health Department data scientist, Rebekah Jones, who accused the state government of manipulating Covid-19 data.
While Mr DeSantis told the Tallahassee Democrat he had no prior knowledge of the raid, Ms Jones has said that the computer and cell phone seized from her home contained evidence of the state malfeasance surrounding its Covid response.
Florida has recorded 1.2 million coronavirus cases and 20,271 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Mr DeSantis has resisted strict lockdown measures and mask mandates imposed by governors in some of the worst-affected states like California and New York.
Mr Uhfelder said he was urged by the Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll to appeal the decision as a “matter of importance” due to “an understandable concern”.
If the court agrees to sanctions, Mr Ulfelder could be ordered to pay the legal fees for Mr DeSantis’ lawyers.
“When you have immense power as the governor of the third-largest state, it shouldn’t be used to try to silence or punish your rivals,” Mr Uhfelder told The Post.