A Miami attorney and Republican candidate for the state Senate offered Friday to represent a man who was arrested after he threatened to kill Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, one of the attorney's rivals.
Lorenzo Palomares said Friday he's willing to represent Steve St. Felix, who was charged Monday after he left a threatening comment on Diaz’s Facebook page, at no charge.
“It will be an honor to represent him pro bono,” said Palomares, who like Diaz is running in the July 25 primary for Senate District 40.
Police say St. Felix was “fed up” with the Republican Party and that he was not taking his medication when he threatened Diaz. It is not known what condition St. Felix may suffer.
“I’ll kill your ass and you better not show up to the next REC meeting,” St. Felix wrote on Facebook, referring to the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee, the county party's formal name.
Although Palomares lists two years of criminal law experience, St. Felix already has an attorney. Reached at her office Friday, Jacqueline Woodward said she was unaware of Palomares’ solicitation.
“I have not received any stipulation of counsel,” she said, adding that she hoped St. Felix’s case would not become a political issue. Woodward, who said she has represented St. Felix for a number of years, said her client has been receiving mental health treatment “for some time,” and that he is clearly mentally ill.
St. Felix was an REC member until he resigned "several months ago," said REC Chairman Nelson Diaz, no relation to the state representative. A St. Felix friend said he sometimes called him “Mr. Republican.”
Rep. Diaz, Palomares and the third Republican in the primary race, former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, remain REC members, according to the party. Rep. Diaz reported the threat to police, who then arrested St. Felix, 34, and charged him with making written threats with intent to do bodily injury.
During a court hearing Thursday, St. Felix invoked the names of other Miami Republicans, including Nelson Diaz, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
“I want Marco Rubio, Nelson Diaz, Manny Diaz, Manny Diaz Jr, Carlos Gimenez... go eat a Cuban sandwich boy,” he said, according to court footage from WTVJ-NBC 6.
Following St. Felix's arrest, Rep. Diaz said it was disheartening to be threatened over politics.
“It is sad to see that our national political discourse has led us to a place where someone threatens the life of a stranger based solely on their party affiliation,” he said in a written statement.
Palomares accused Rep. Diaz of using the incident to score free publicity ahead of the July 25 primary.
“He is certainly the one who caused this issue to happen,” Palomares said of the St. Felix incident. “This man is not a violent man. I’ve seen him. I’ve dealt with him.”
Rep. Diaz, whose home was under police supervision the night St. Felix was arrested, called Palomares’ comments “disgusting” and said he did not leak details of the incident to the media; Miami-Dade Police sent out a press release to members of the media on Tuesday.
“Mr. Palomares has never served in public office. Anyone who has served knows just how seriously these threats must be taken, especially after what happened to Congressman [Steve] Scalise,” Rep. Diaz said on Friday. “I take my service very seriously, and the safety of my family is my primary concern.” Scalise was shot while taking part in baseball practice in Washington, D.C.
The night after St. Felix's arrest, Rep. Diaz grabbed a microphone at the end of the local GOP’s annual fundraiser and told the crowd he “was told not to come here because if I came here, somebody was gonna try to kill me.”
“I don’t care. I’m here because I want to be here with you tonight,” he said, to raucous applause.
Party Chairman Diaz said St. Felix "never displayed any signs of mental health problems” while at the REC, but that clearly he was grappling with a psychological condition.
“Steven is upset in the manner and means by which the party is being managed by Nelson Diaz,” Palomares said. “He didn’t take his pills, but they overreacted to it.”
St. Felix has made controversial comments online before, especially when not on his medication, said high school friend Frantz Jean, a 35-year-old from Lauderhill.
The two played varsity football at North Miami Beach Senior High before St. Felix went on the Florida A&M University to play college ball, Jean said. At the time, he said, St. Felix was a “typical teenager.”
“It’s after high school that we started noticing the change in his behavior from time to time,” he said, adding that St. Felix was obsessive about his Republican affiliation.
“That’s the number one thing he always says, ‘I’m a Republican.’ He’s always been a proud Republican. That’s why we always call him ‘Mr. Republican,’” he said.
He said St. Felix would often take to social media to vent about his life, sometimes rattling off posts until early in the morning.
“When I saw him on the news, it broke my heart,” Jean said. “This is the first time that it's actually gone this far to him being incarcerated.”
Jean said he and his friends will try to make sure St. Felix has access to his medications and maintains a strict regimen.
“When he’s under his medication, he’s a perfectly fine citizen.”