Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Jeff Ashton faces child molestation, abuse allegations, governor’s office says

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Jeff Ashton, who famously prosecuted the Casey Anthony case, is facing allegations of child molestation and failure to report child abuse, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office.

The abuse allegation came to light in an executive order signed by DeSantis on Wednesday and posted on the governor’s website, transferring any investigation and prosecution of Ashton from the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Orange and Osceola counties to the 10th Circuit, which serves Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties.

According to the order, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Andrew Bain advised the governor’s office about allegations accusing Ashton of “lewd and lascivious molestation on a child under 16 and failure to report child abuse.” The order also notes allegations against spouse Rita Ashton, for failure to report child abuse, and David Ashton for lewd conduct on a child under 16.

Bain asked to recuse himself from the case and requested the assignment be given to another state attorney “to avoid a conflict of interest or any appearance of impropriety.” DeSantis’ order said he had reassigned “the investigation and prosecution of this case and all related matters” to State Attorney Brian Haas with the Tenth Judicial Circuit .

The Winter Park Police Department confirmed Friday it is investigating criminal allegations against Ashton to local media outlets but declined to provide further details.

Ashton, who spent decades as a prosecutor in Orlando, was elected Orange-Osceola state attorney in 2012 after serving as the prosecutor in the Casey Anthony trial. In a case that drew intense national and international attention, Anthony was acquitted in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Anthony, in 2011.

Ashton is also known as being the first prosecutor in the U.S. to use DNA evidence in criminal court in 1987.

He lost his bid for reelection as state attorney in 2016 to Aramis Ayala. His defeat came after online hackers revealed in 2015 he had frequented the Ashley Madison website, an adult dating platform often used by married people looking to have affairs.

He was elected circuit judge in 2018, first serving on domestic violence cases before moving to the civil bench.

Ninth circuit spokesperson Karen Levey told the Orlando Sentinel on Saturday that Ashton will continue to preside over cases despite the allegations. His next hearing is scheduled for Monday morning.

“There is no change to Judge Ashton’s judicial assignment. He will remain in his civil division,” she wrote in an email.

Only the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Supreme Court can suspend a judge. Amanda Rabines contributed to this report.