Florida teen charged as an adult in homecoming queen election scandal pleads not guilty

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PENSACOLA, Fla. – Emily Grover, the Florida high school homecoming queen accused of rigging her school’s election, pleaded not guilty in court this week to all four charges she faces. 

Grover, who was 17 when arrested and has since turned 18, is being tried as an adult. She was scheduled to appear in Escambia County Court on Friday. Her attorney, however, filed a waiver earlier this week and entered Grover’s plea of not guilty. 

Grover and her mother, Laura Carroll, assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School, were arrested in March after authorities said the duo used Carroll’s special access to the district’s student data system to cast hundreds of fraudulent votes for Grover in the homecoming queen election at Tate High School.

In October 2020, the Escambia County School District’s election software application flagged hundreds of votes in the homecoming election as fraudulent, causing the district to contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. At about the same time, the district’s student council coordinator was notified Grover had allegedly commented about using her mom’s FOCUS account to cast votes, according to arrest warrants.

May 4: Florida student accused of rigging homecoming queen vote could face 16-year sentence

March 16: Florida assistant principal, daughter arrested in homecoming queen vote scandal

The investigation ultimately found that Carroll’s “district-level access” to the FOCUS system enabled her and Grover to cast 246 votes across two devices for Grover as homecoming queen.

The investigation also said that Grover allegedly openly used her mother’s FOCUS account to access other students’ profiles, which contain information such as grades, medical records and test scores. Law enforcement officials collected nine statements from students and a teacher who said they either heard Grover talking about accessing the account or watched her log onto it over the course of four years.

Grover was ultimately expelled from Tate High School, according to her arrest warrant. Carroll was suspended from her position after her arrest. School officials have declined to say if they have since terminated Carroll.

Grover is charged with one count of each of the following:

  • Offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices (third-degree felony)
  • Unlawful use of a two-way communications device (third-degree felony)
  • Criminal use of personally identifiable information (third-degree felony)
  • Conspiracy to commit these offenses (first-degree misdemeanor)

Her mother, Laura Carroll, pleaded not guilty in early April to the same four charges

Both women’s cases will now go through a discovery phase in which their attorney, Randall Etheridge, will learn what evidence the state has against them. 

After that, Etheridge will schedule depositions of all the state’s witnesses and then Carroll and Etheridge will decide whether to enter a plea deal or go to a jury trial. 

Follow Annie Blanks on Twitter: @AnniePNJ. Contributing: The Associated Press.