Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on October 11 that reveals severe accusations against a former state attorney currently serving as a judge in the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Judge Jeffrey Ashton, his wife Rita Ashton, and son David Ashton are accused of molestation of a child and attempting to cover up the abuse.
The allegations only came to light through an executive order that removed State District Attorney Andrew Bain, who requested that he be recused from the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Bain currently sits as a judge in the Ninth District and was only recently appointed after the previous judge was suspended.
The executive order signed by DeSantis appoints David Haas, a judge with the Tenth District, to hear the case. Haas will have the power to lean on elected officials and law enforcement through the courts to lead the trial.
There are few details available at this time relating to the charges. Jeffrey Ashton is facing charges of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 16 and failure to report child abuse. Rita Ashton faces charges of failing to report child abuse, while David Ashton faces claims of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under 16.
The Winter Park Police Department is currently investigating the charges but has yet to make an arrest. The allegations were brought to DeSantis by Bain, but it is not clear what led the judge to determine that the matter would best be handled by a judge outside of the district.
Gov. DeSantis executive order exposes allegations of child abuse against Florida Judge Jeffrey Ashton https://t.co/78nznGqVoM
— FOX 35 Orlando (@fox35orlando) October 13, 2023
Former prosecutor Monique Worrell was suspended by DeSantis in August, leading to the appointment of Bain to the seat. Worrell was suspended because of policy disagreements between her and DeSantis.
The issue arose after Worrell’s office failed to bring drug charges against an individual who had been arrested after a traffic stop in which a gun was thrown from the car. Three men were arrested, all who had previous charges, but no gun charges were brought in the case.
Ultimately, Worrell declined the case, citing a lack of confidence in achieving a conviction. The man went on to shoot and kill three people including a television news reporter and injured two others. DeSantis holds that Worrell’s use of judicial discretion allowed the individual to return to the streets where he committed the murders.
The executive order only states the nature of the allegations but does not provide any information about the case details. It is not clear if Ashton and his son both molested a child and the wife helped cover it up. The investigating police agency declined to provide additional details as the investigation is ongoing.