A South Florida blogger has accused a former Sweetwater commission candidate of making harassing phone calls and threatening “to cause him pain,” according to a Miami-Dade County police report.
SweetwaterPost.com founder and editor Josh Caleb Mayorga also accused recent candidate Jose Mejia of being responsible for two phony Craigslist ads — one selling puppies, the other a free dishwasher giveaway — that generated more than 30 text messages to his cellphone, according to the incident report.
Police closed the case and suggested Mayorga take his complaint to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.
Mejia, an aspiring attorney, was on the May 9 ballot for Sweetwater’s Group 2 commission seat. Mejia came in last with 178 votes, while Jose Bergouignan garnered 915 votes and Marco Villanueva won the seat with 947.
The day of the election, Mayorga published a Sweetwater Post article headlined “Jose Mejia Drug Arrest Shines Light on Troubled History of Candidate for Sweetwater Commissioner.”
The blog article linked to a Collier County Sheriff’s report that Mejia was arrested during a Feb. 13 traffic stop along Interstate 75 for felony possession of $6,000 worth of marijuana found inside his 2014 Chevrolet Cruz.
The Collier County state attorney’s office dropped the possession of a controlled substance charge (a third-degree felony), but filed a third-degree felony charge of possession of cannabis (over 20 grams) and a first-degree misdemeanor charge of possession of paraphernalia.
On April 26, Mejia agreed to enter a one-year “Pre-Trial Substance Abuse Intervention Program” including monthly drug abuse evaluations and treatment, if necessary. He must pay $50 a month for supervision costs, as well as a $30 drug-testing fee, a $2 monthly fee to the Department of Corrections, $367 to Collier County Sheriff’s Office to cover investigative costs. In exchange for completing the program, the state attorney’s office for Collier County says it will drop the charges.
Mayorga told Miami-Dade County police he believes Mejia retaliated against him for publishing the article about his arrest.
Not so, says Mejia.
“I am not upset or bothered at all,” Mejia said. “We live in a country where freedom of speech exists. I stand firm on that constitutional right. He doesn’t have a journalism degree. He is someone that gets paid to write hit pieces. Despite that I don’t have ill feelings towards the man. On the contrary, I was the only candidate that spoke to the guy throughout the campaign up until he flipped the script on me and started defaming me. I have him blocked. I don’t and I haven’t contacted him.”
Mejia says Mayorga never reached out to him before publishing the article, to give him a chance to tell his side of the story.
Mayorga, however, provided to the Miami Herald a text-message conversation in which he asked Mejia about his legal troubles.
“I asked him, ‘Did you get arrested?’ I asked him, ‘Did you get roped in Collier County?’ That’s the slang term for arrested, but I asked him directly. He deflected the question. He started attacking me for asking the question. I plan on publishing the conversation to show the public what type of a person he is.
“He was given a chance to respond. It wasn’t intended to be a hit piece. I feel the information was relevant. The article was published the day of the elections because I am usually swamped with time. I am a one-man operation. It was relevant to the public.”
Mayorga, 34, said he was tipped off to Mejia’s legal trouble after visiting an online police forum.
He also provided a voicemail in which Mejia insults him.
“I answered the call and it turned out to be Jose Mejia screaming and threatening me,” Mayorga said. “I feared for my safety. When he found out I was recording the phone call he hung up.” Florida law prohibits secretly recording phone conversations.
Mejia, 27, denies threatening Mayorga.
He also says he’s keeping his options open about someday again pursuing public office. “Possibly,” Mejia said in an email to the Miami Herald. “Possibly a future run.”