Lawsuits

Fake Hispanic Miami Beach Commission Candidate Settles Defamation Suit

Miami Beach Commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (left) and former candidate Rafael Velaquez
Miami Beach Commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (left) and former candidate Rafael Velaquez Photo via City of Miami Beach/courtesy of Rafael Velasquez
Years before Miami Beach City Commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez falsely touted herself as "Hispanic," she found herself enmeshed in another election scandal.

The earlier one stemmed from her accusation that then-Miami Beach City Commission candidate Rafael Velasquez exposed himself to her and attempted to place her hand on his penis in a car after a day of campaigning in October 2017.

"I was 'Harvey Weinsteined,'" Rosen Gonzalez told Politico in the waning days of the 2017 commission race.

At the time, Rosen Gonzalez was a sitting Miami Beach commissioner who was eyeing retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's congressional seat. She was also a mentor to Velasquez, who vehemently denied the allegation. Though the accusation did not result in criminal charges, it prompted two other claims of sexual misconduct involving interactions with two other women. In a defamation suit he filed against Rosen Gonzalez in Miami-Dade Circuit Court the following year, Velasquez alleged that the debacle cost him not only the election but also his reputation. He sought $5 million in damages.


"[Rosen] Gonzalez's defamatory accusations were made intentionally and maliciously, solely to garner sympathetic attention for her own political ambitions," Velasquez's complaint stated. "[Rosen] Gonzalez falsely accused Velasquez of a serious crime to various media outlets during the height of a close election solely to influence the election and thrust her own congressional campaign into the middle of a discussion about sexual harassment."

The year after Rosen Gonzalez lost her 2018 congressional bid, she and Velasquez ran for the same Group 4 Miami Beach Commission seat. Both lost, and Velasquez hasn't run for office since.

Now, as Rosen Gonzalez vies with three rivals in a messy race for the Beach commission's Group 1 seat, Velasquez's defamation suit against the candidate appears to have been put to rest.

Court filings from September 10 show that the settlement resulted in a $110,000 payment from Rosen Gonzalez to Velasquez, of which more than $60,000 will pay the plaintiff's former attorneys for fees and costs.

Velasquez declined New Times' request for comment.

Reached by New Times, Rosen Gonzalez disputed that the suit was settled, despite documentation detailing the settlement and the Miami-Dade County Clerk of the Courts designating the case as "closed."

The Group 1 candidate says she does not accept the terms of the already executed settlement and is considering legal action against her insurance provider.

On that score, Miami Beach-based attorney Kent Harrison Robbins, who has previously represented Rosen Gonzalez, sent New Times a memo addressed to the insurer on her behalf threatening litigation.

"Ms. Gonzalez strenuously opposes your settlement of this case," Robbins writes in the email. "Should you proceed with the settlement under the terms now proposed, she intends to sue you personally and your carrier for acting in bad faith and contrary to her interests."

The last sentence in the same email is typed in all caps: "YOU ARE ON NOTICE."

Rosen Gonzalez, who is not Hispanic, made headlines last month when she touted herself as the “the most high-profile Hispanic Democrat in the City of Miami Beach." CBS Miami investigative reporter Jim DeFede noted that Rosen Gonzalez isn't Hispanic.

She later apologized in a tweet but insisted she identified "politically as Hispanic."
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Michael Majchrowicz is a staff writer at Miami New Times. He studied journalism at Indiana University and has reported for PolitiFact, The New York Times, Washington Post and Tampa Bay Times.