Photo via Aramis Ayala campaign
The Orange County Sheriff's Office is investigating a noose mailed to the office of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala after she announced she wouldn't pursue the death penalty under her administration.
Records show Eric Edwards, chief investigator for Ayala's office, contacted deputies with the Sheriff's court security division on March 28. Edwards said that during the past two weeks, two envelopes with messages had been received in the mailroom of Ayala's office in downtown Orlando.
The state attorney's office employees opened the first envelope, received on March 20, and found a white piece of paper with the message, "SOONER OR LATER A NIGGER WILL BE A NIGGER" in black blocked letters. The envelope also contained three white business cards with the words "You are an Honorary Member of S.P.O.N.G.E." on one side and "Society for the Prevention of Niggers Getting Everything" on the other side. The second envelope, received on March 28, contained an index card with a noose made of green twine taped to the card, according to the report.
Employees believed both envelopes may have been sent by the same person, but the Sheriff's Office says it has not been determined if they were sent by the same individual. Investigators said they would contact the postal inspector's office to see if they could conduct an inquiry into the origin of the messages, the report says.
"[Ayala] was advised of the envelopes and their contents," the report says. "She believes that the hangman's noose was meant as a threat to her as a public official. She also believes that the envelope received on March 20, 2017, was a racial message and could be determined to be a hate crime."
The messages were mailed to Ayala's office in the days after she made public her decision on March 16 not to pursue the death penalty in the case of murder suspect Markeith Loyd or any other capital cases that come through her office. Ayala, who is the first African-American to be elected as state attorney in Florida, received immediate backlash from law enforcement groups and Republican officials. Lynching threats were directed at Ayala shortly after her announcement, including one from a Seminole County Clerk of the Court who posted on Facebook that Ayala should "get the death penalty" and be "tarred and feathered if not hung from a tree."
Gov. Rick Scott removed her from the Loyd case and 22 other first-degree murder cases in the days following her decision, reasoning that she "won't fight for justice." Ayala has since filed two lawsuits against the governor – one in the Florida Supreme Court and one in the federal court of the Middle District of Florida.
Ayala first spoke
about the noose being mailed to her office in a radio interview on WHPB 98.5 The Wire
"I have gotten a lot of pushback," Ayala said. "I received a noose that was mailed to my office. I received several types of derogatory and racist remarks to me, personally and professionally."