Uneasy lies the head that wears an allegedly stolen homecoming crown.
There’s a small-stage Shakespearean tragedy playing out in northwestern Florida, where a teen accused of rigging a 2020 homecoming queen election plans to sue school district officials, insisting her arrest ruined her life.
Emily Rose Grover, 19, claims her civil rights were violated when she was accused — falsely, she claims — of tampering with electronic votes in the October 2020 homecoming race at Tate High School in Cantonment, from which she was later expelled.
The fallout of the made-for-TV high school drama humiliated Grover and also prompted a university to rescind her “full-ride” scholarship, the teen’s attorney Marie Mattox told The Post.
“She has had horrific emotional pain and suffering, as you can imagine,” Mattox said. “Her life has been destroyed. She is trying to get back to a semblance of normalcy.”
Grover is apparently doing so by accepting a bid to join the Alpha Delta Pi sorority at the University of West Florida, photos recently posted on her Instagram account show.
“Normally, from what I’ve heard, they are the hard-ass sorority,” Baylee Sanders, who went to the same church as Grover, told The Post. “But then they’ll take in a girl who has been arrested and [had] four charges!”
A spokesperson for the sorority told The Post: “At the time Emily Grover pursued membership in Alpha Delta Pi, she had been fully cleared of all charges.”
It all came about because of an anonymous ethics complaint, filed about a month after Grover won the homecoming crown, alleged she used the school-district employee account of her mother — an assistant principal at a local elementary school — to cast the bogus votes, Mattox said.
The Escambia County School District contacted FDLE officials in November 2020 to report that hundreds of student accounts were improperly accessed, triggering an investigation.
Agents uncovered evidence of 246 fraudulent votes cast from accounts accessed by computers inside the mom and daughter’s home or via Carroll’s cellphone, according to the FDLE.
Eight students and a teacher told FDLE investigators that Grover spoke about accessing her mother’s school district employee account — some even saw her do it — for nearly four years, court documents obtained by The Post show.
“I have known that Emily Grover logs into her moms [sic] school account in order to access grades and test scores since freshman year when we became friends,” one student told authorities. “She looks up all of our group of friends’ grades and makes comments about how she can find out our test scores all of the time.”
Another person at the school told investigators Grover was bold and shameless about her actions, court documents show.
“I recall times that she logged onto her moms [sic] focus account and openly shared information, grades, schedules, etc, with others,” the witness said. “She did not seem like logging in was a big deal and was very comfortable with doing so.”
Grover, was 17 when she was arrested, along with her mother, Laura Rose Carroll, 52, in March 2021. According to the Daily Beast, “cops fanned out SWAT team-style around the home, stationing themselves at the front, back and side doors … and pounded on windows.”
Mother and daughter were charged with unlawful use of a two-way communications device and criminal use of personally identifiable information, among other charges — and accused of breaching online student accounts to cast nearly 250 bogus votes for Grover’s homecoming queen bid, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Both faced a maximum of faced up to 16 years in prison if convicted of all three felonies and a misdemeanor. Carroll was freed on a $6,000 bond and Grover on a $2,000 bond.
The teen was expelled and her mother was suspended from her job as an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School in the same district.
Following her high-profile arrest, Grover had at least one college revoke her acceptance offer and suffered the humiliation of seeing a horse’s backside placed over her face in a senior section photo in the school’s yearbook, according to a photo obtained by The Post.
Editor Samantha Guerrier, then 18, was reportedly suspended for four days for her role in what she claimed was an unfortunate mix-up after school administrators told student staffers to remove all of Grover’s images from the yearbook.
Before the homecoming incident, Grover was known as a “bubbly” social butterfly, ready to party or hit up the beach at any time. But a bona-fide “mean girl” lurked behind that attractive, skin-deep veneer, Sanders said.
“From what the other girls in the [friend] group said around her is that she was more of a mean girl in school, popular, etc.,” Sanders, 23, recalled. “The way they made it sound was just like in the movie ‘Mean Girls.’ She’s nice to people to their face but then talks behind their back.”
But, according to Grover’s lawyer, the real victim in the alleged voting fraud is the homecoming queen herself, who remains “very, very fragile” from the entire ordeal, Mattox insisted.
“Her life has literally been put on hold,” the attorney told The Post. “Her life literally stopped for almost two years. She then had to reevaluate her life, put a hold on everything and had to come back from this horrible experience and work her way into living a regular life.”
Grover did not respond to messages seeking comment and Mattox said she would not be available for an interview.
Photos from the accused cheat’s Instagram page shows her seemingly doing her best to get on with her life, including during a jaunt to the Caribbean in June.
“When on the islands somewhere,” the bikini-clad blonde wrote.
Other photos and video showed Grover snorkeling with her sister, saddled up at a bar with a young man while blowing a kiss to the camera, and leaping into pristine waters as her companions cheered.
A month earlier, in May, Grover managed to overcome the debilitating emotional distress she intends to cite in her forthcoming lawsuit against the Escambia County School District while hitting up the Hangout Music Festival on the beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, photos show.
Grover finding solace in sorority sisterhood amongst other attractive extroverts is both unsurprising and “hilarious,” Sanders added. The teen’s sister, Faith, is also in Alpha Delta Pi, photos show, making Grover a legacy.
Since then, Grover completed a pre-trial diversion program earlier this year, resulting in the dismissal of all charges, for which she would have been tried as an adult.
Her attorney sent a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in early April, claiming Grover was wrongly accused of rigging the homecoming race and asking the agency to preserve any evidence in the case in advance of the co-ed’s looming legal action.
Grover may also sue the law enforcement agency over what she and her attorney claim was a botched investigation that ultimately upended her life, Mattox said. She expects to formally file by early November.
Neither the FDLE nor the Escambia County School District wished to comment.
There is a question as to how the tipster was aware of the details of the fraudulent voting that allegedly took place in late October 2020, Grover’s attorney claims.
“The school, without any attempt at verifying the information, undertook to report Ms. Grover to FDLE (rather than local authorities who may arguably have been more appropriate contacts),” Mattox’s letter continued.
The investigation — overseen by a monitoring company called Election Runner — revealed that either 177 or 122 homecoming court votes came from the same IP address within a short period of time. But Mattox said the inquiry “apparently did not” address basic questions like where the alleged bogus votes were cast or examining Grover’s electronic devices to discover if she had access to Election Runner data.
An FDLE investigator admitted in sworn testimony that she didn’t speak with anyone at Election Runner to verify the allegations she received. Election Runner did not respond to The Post’s request for comment by publication deadline.
“[The FDLE investigator] also admits in the same sworn statement that she is unaware of the chain of custody for the information she received and did not investigate to ascertain it had not been tampered with or altered,” Mattox wrote.
Carroll, who was set to head to trial this month, entered a no-contest plea to one count of felony unlawful use of a two-way communications device on Sept. 8.
She was sentenced to 18 months probation and all additional charges were dropped.
Mattox told The Post that a thorough forensic audit of electronic devices used by Grover and Carroll will clear the mom and daughter duo.
“We believe that the evidence is going to show that [Grover] did not do what she was accused of, that there was no electronic tampering with the vote,” she said. “I don’t think her mom did either.”
Read the full article here