GAINESVILLE – The adult son of a candidate for county sheriff was arrested on first-degree misdemeanor stalking charges by deputies working for his father’s political opponent, Florida’s only female incumbent sheriff. The primary election is just under a month away.
Clovis Watson IV, 27, of Gainesville, acknowledged that he followed and harassed his former girlfriend of two years, deputy Maddison Telle wrote in an arrest complaint. First-degree misdemeanor stalking can carry with it a year-long prison sentence, according to Florida statutes.
Watson’s father, Clovis Watson Jr., is a state representative first elected in 2012 and candidate in a tight Democratic primary race for Alachua County sheriff against incumbent Sadie Darnell. It was expected to be Darnell’s closest race since she became sheriff in 2006. The primary is Aug. 18.
Watson IV has yet to be released, with a bond set at $10,000, according to jail records updated Wednesday. He could not be reached for comment.
Darnell put a policy into place blocking news organizations from requesting interviews with detainees without written consent from a defendant’s lawyers, even when a defendant wants to talk to journalists. The defense lawyer identified in court records as representing Watson IV left his office Monday afternoon and was not available to discuss the case.
Watson, the candidate, said he was disappointed in his son’s behavior and said sheriff’s deputies acted properly. He has four other adult sons. He was leaving the Legislature this year due to term limits.
“I’m truly disappointed in my son and how he handled the situation with his ex-girlfriend,” Watson said in a statement. “What he did was unlawful and warranted an arrest. My son put himself in this position. The men and women in uniform did their jobs.”
He added: “I love my son but his actions were wrong and he’s being held accountable, as he should.”
The sheriff’s office said Watson IV received no special considerations due to his father’s status as the sheriff’s political rival.
“The deputy worked the investigation as they would with any other victim,” Sgt. Frank Kinsey said. “Who he was, and who his father was, had no play or no bearing in the investigation when the victim called us seeking protection.”
Watson IV had been ordered not to contact the victim when he was spotted following her car late Friday night. He was arrested about two hours later, early Saturday. She had also filed a burglary complaint against Watson IV on July 3, saying that he followed her home and crashed into her car. Court records said he also showed up at her apartment with a handgun, but the woman disputed this in a brief telephone interview. She declined otherwise to talk about the incident.
After his arrest Saturday, Watson IV was directed not to possess any firearms and stay away from his ex-girlfriend.
Darnell has been a popular sheriff in the county that includes the University of Florida, never losing a primary or general election by fewer than 20 percentage points. However, this year Watson has raised nearly twice as much in campaign donations – $66,702 versus $36,635 – and spent more money on the election so far than Darnell.
It remained unclear if Darnell would tap into her own pockets for this election cycle. According to her state financial report in June, Darnell reported an estimated worth of $2.2 million, mostly in retirement accounts. Watson has yet to file his 2020 report, but last year he reported an estimated $1.6 million net worth, mostly from two homes he owns.
This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at email@example.com
This story was revised on Wednesday, July 22, to include updated jail records.