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Quid pro quo? CSI Academy owner’s family members were major contributors to Watson’s campaign

BY JENNIFER CABRERA / OCTOBER 29, 2019

Our previous story described Clovis Watson’s bill to give $2.1 million in state money to CSI Academy, Inc., in exchange for providing crime-scene investigation training (at no cost) to Florida law enforcement agencies. CSI Academy is owned by Robert Rush, a Gainesville lawyer. 

Since Watson ran unopposed in the general election, he didn’t receive a large amount in campaign contributions in 2018—only $17,485. Of that, $1000 came from Robert Rush (who had not contributed to Watson since 2012 and only contributed to Watson and Nikki Fried in 2018), and $1000 came from Marian Rush, the sister and employee of Robert Rush (and also the  City Attorney for the City of Alachua), who had never previously contributed to Watson. Anne Rush, Robert Rush’s daughter-in-law, also contributed $200 to Watson (her only previous campaign contribution was to her husband, Jacob Rush, who challenged Ted Yoho in the 2014 primary). 

While Watson attracted $1000 donations from a number of corporations and PACs, there were only 3 individual donors that gave that much: Robert Rush, Marian Rush, and Jess Bailes, the Vice President of ABC Fine Wines & Liquors (ABC Fine Wines & Liquors also contributed $1000). Two individuals contributed $500 (Mark Langley of Key West and Alachua City Manager Adam Boukari), and the rest of the individual contributors gave $250 or less.

Watson’s office has not responded to our request for comment on the CSI Academy bill. Watson has filed to run for Alachua County Sheriff in 2020. 

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  • This is poor journalism. Ms. Jennifer Cabrera is misinformed and did not follow journalistic procedures when writing this article. She did not check her sources. The information relayed is inaccurate. Robert Rush has dedicated more than 6 years in both creating courses and voluntarily teaching courses. Mr. Rush has donated his time teaching Courtroom Testimony (how to introduce forensic evidence in court) to hundreds of individuals. Mr. Rush along with Tom and Phyllis Sperring, the additional owners and managers of the CSI Academy of Florida have donated tens of thousands of dollars for law enforcement to train at the CSI Academy of Florida. In fairness you should have published the hundreds of testimonials from officers around the state who have benefited from this school. This is a function that is not funded by any state agency, however it should be. Robert Rush has been a friend and a colleague with Representative Clovis Watson for over 30 years in the city of Alachua where they both reside. Mr. Rush supports many different candidates. We at the CSI Academy of Florida recognize the tremendous burden society places on police officers including expecting to solve a crime before it happens. Once a crime scene is compromised the criminal gets to go free. We teach that evidence tells the truth and it’s only human failure to recognize, collect and understand it that can diminish its value. The CSI Academy of Florida is dedicated to finding the truth.

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