FORT MYERS, Fla. - Political newcomer Jason Maughan is running for state senate. He's looking to put his legal troubles from more than 20 years ago behind him as he focuses on the battle for clean water in Southwest Florida.
In 1995 he was charged for a drive-by shooting and perjury. All those charges were not only dropped, but Maughan also sued for wrongful prosecution and won a six figure settlement.
He says the experience changed him forever. But he adds, theres another type of abuse of power going on here in Southwest Florida; one that's destroying our environment.
A jar filled with water and blue green algae from the Caloosahatchee sits on Maughan's desk. "The thing speaks for itself. It's offensive and unnatural and needs to be fixed."
The candidate says he's horrified by the conditions of Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River. "I grew up camping in that river on the little islands. And we cooked with the water in that river and no one thought anything of it."
The water now is all he can think about.
An Immigrant from Ireland as just a boy, he's now seeking a seat in the Florida state senate, looking to unseat incumbent Lizbeth Benaquisto.
He says his message is clear. "There is massive industrial pollution, agricultural industrial pollution of the Caloosahatchee. This campaign has refused to accept money from either the consultants or Big Sugar and its partners indirectly. The money that is backing several politicians who would be key in this district in order to affect real change was actually coming from the very parties that are causing the pollution in the first place."
Maughn says his motives are pure, but you can expect to see some vicious attacks on his character.
Newspaper headlines from 1995 declare him facing charges of "drive by shooting" and committing "perjury."
As a law student near Seattle, Washington, he had a firearm go off accidently. The charges were dropped but not before being put thru the ringer.
"In a town of 1,500 people with a prosecutor who was running for the judge who was handling the case, I became the political football."
Unafraid, Maughn says he's now kicking that political football across the Okeechobee and into the sugar fields and is ready to take on the special interests.
"There is a war on water an we've been loosing it significantly for the past several decades."
Ultimately, Maughan was given a misdemeanor for reckless endangerment. But since then he says he has provided close to $100,000 of pro bono work a year to help people who can't afford legal help.