Florida Grim Reaper lawyer sues 'mini-Trump' governor over Covid response

By Martin Pengelly

“This is not about me,” the Grim Reaper said on Tuesday, about his decision to take Florida governor and “mini-Trump” Ron DeSantis to court over the state’s coronavirus response. “It’s about citizens having the right to challenge government when they’re not doing the right thing.”

The Reaper – actually attorney Daniel Uhlfelder, who sprung to fame earlier this year as he stalked Florida beaches in hood-and-scythe costume, warning locals about the dangers of Covid-19 – was speaking to the Washington Post.

The Post was reporting the Florida governor’s response to Uhlfelder’s attempt to force him to close beaches and issue stay-at-home orders.

In short, as an aide wrote in an appeals court filing on Friday, DeSantis says Uhfelder is responsible for an “abuse of the justice system” that has “diverted time and energy from the demands of pandemic response”.

Uhlfelder told the Guardian earlier this year he “couldn’t sleep at night [if I just did nothing]”.

Speaking to the Post, he said: “To say that I distracted from [DeSantis’s] job is laughable, considering he hasn’t done his job.”

Amid controversy, DeSantis has resisted imposing new lockdown orders, mask mandates or other restrictive public health measures. According to Johns Hopkins University, Florida has recorded nearly 1.2m cases of Covid-19, behind only California and Texas, and 20,271 deaths.

Attorneys for DeSantis also called Uhlfelder’s actions “empty political posturing” that “warrants repercussions”.

Uhlfelder, who has sought to raise funds for Democratic candidates for office, told the Post the Republican governor was trying to quash opposition via the courts. He also noted that Florida police last week raided the home of Rebekah Jones, a former state health department data scientist.

Jones emerged as a leading critic of DeSantis, alleging manipulation of data and telling the Guardian in August: “They’re not listening to the scientists.”

Uhlfelder noted that a judge in his case had said it was “a matter of importance”, and added: “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.”