An Alachua County elected official running for reelection next month is accused by police of carving a gay slur into an SUV parked across the street from his family’s former home.
Daniel “Danny” Taylor Gordon, 41, of Gainesville is formally accused in Alachua County Circuit Court of misdemeanor property damage and criminal mischief, according to court records filed Tuesday. Police said Gordon was caught on video by a nearby surveillance camera, which he then stole. He denies it.
Gordon, a lawyer, is running for election next month for a contested board seat on the county Soil and Water Conservation District. He was previously elected to a different uncontested seat on the board in 2020. The board seats are non-partisan, but Gordon is a registered Democrat and is known as a progressive politically.
In an interview Wednesday, Gordon denied vandalizing the car or stealing the surveillance camera.
“That was not me,” Gordon said. “Today is a hard day for me on top of everything. All I want to do is vindicate myself.”
In a related criminal case, Gordon was arrested in August and formally charged in September with felony burglary and misdemeanor larceny after police said he was caught on surveillance video burglarizing a home where he had previously lived with his parents north of the University of Florida campus. Police said the burglary occurred on July 31.
“The defendant’s face, long hair, beard and clothing … were recorded on the video, and he was wearing a backpack,” Gainesville police Officer Warren Meek wrote in his report. In his booking photo at the Alachua County Jail on Aug. 6, Gordon is seen with long hair and a full beard.
In an interview Wednesday, Gordon denied stealing anything from his family’s former home. He said he had several drinks, was not doing well that day and was visiting the property to check on his mother’s rose bushes.
“I was having a really, really, hard, emotional day and I just wanted to see if my mother’s freaking rose garden was still there,” he said. “I’m not a thief.”
The daughter of the woman who reported her family’s home had been burglarized published photographs from the surveillance camera on July 22 and July 31 on a Facebook community page asking for help identifying the bearded man in the images. Gordon said he confirmed it was him in one of the images.
“I literally contacted her and said, ‘Yes, you have a video of me.’ That was me,” he said. “I made an unfortunate mistake on that one night.”
While that burglary case was quietly moving through the court system, police on Tuesday formally accused Gordon of carving the gay slur into the rear hatch of a Volkswagon SUV parked in a driveway across the street days later, on July 31. In that case, Gordon also was recorded on surveillance video, police said. Damage to the SUV was estimated at $970.
The owner of the SUV did not immediately respond to phone and text messages.
The chairman of the county conservation board, John Chamberlain, said Wednesday he was unaware of the accusations against Gordon, which he said were uncharacteristic.
“I’d be really shocked if he exhibited any prejudice,” Chamberlain said. “He has been progressive with our board. That’s always been his approach. I don’t know what to say except I’m flabbergasted.”
Chamberlain said he expects Gov. Ron DeSantis to immediately suspend Gordon from his seat on the board until the criminal charges were resolved. The county conservation board runs programs to conserve soil and improve water quality and quantity on private lands in Alachua County.
Gordon described his work for the conservation board as volunteering for trash cleanups and trying to preserve the area’s springs.
In his interview, Gordon sounded emotional and said he was being “railroaded” for what he called a mistake he said he made during a difficult time in his life.
“I want to drop out of this race,” he said. “I don’t want anything to do with this anymore.”
In June, DeSantis signed a new law passed by Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature requiring that board seats for soil and water conservation districts effectively match county commission or school board districts. The change forced Gordon, who had previously been elected without opposition in District 4, to run in next month’s election for the contested seat in District 3.
Gordon wrote on his Facebook page in recent weeks that he has been wrestling with emotional issues. He said this week had been the four-year anniversary of the death of his father, who died shortly after his mother. Earlier this month, he wrote that he had experienced an awful day and needed to speak with friends, who responded to his post with encouragement.
Gordon also has been harshly critical of DeSantis on Facebook, calling the governor a profane term for a person’s anus for filing a licensing complaint over a drag show at a Miami bar. He has also lambasted conservatives for their support of former President Donald Trump, who he called antisemitic and a neo-Nazi.
In his interview Wednesday, Gordon said he had a lot at stake in the outcome of the criminal cases. The Florida Bar, which regulates lawyers, can discipline attorneys or even ban them from practicing if they are convicted of serious crimes.
“They’re trying to take my law degree,” he said. “They’re trying to take my dignity. They’re trying to take everything that I’ve ever done. And I didn’t do this.”
Gordon graduated from Florida State University in 2019 with a degree in environmental law.
Gordon’s next court appearance was scheduled for Nov. 9 – the afternoon after Election Day.
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