“Those indicted today crossed the line from dirty politics to criminal activity and they will pay the price.”
Those were the strong words of Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg at a press conference she held after a Harris County Grand Jury indicted three individuals whom she states sought to illegally influence the March 2020 Democratic Primary elections and ultimately the general election in November of this year.
According to Ogg, the two “schemes” (as she referred to them) were intended to change and effect the outcomes of two Texas House of Representative races – the House District 142 currently held by State Rep. Harold Dutton and the House District 132 formerly held by State Rep. Gina Calanni.
In one case involving political consultant Damien Jones, he has been charged with coercion of a public servant and false caller ID information display. Jones is being accused of threatening to reveal information that could have embarrassed Rep. Calanni just days before the 2020 election filing deadline and for strongly suggesting via text messages that she resign instead of run for re-election, according to Ogg. Instead of resigning, Rep. Calanni contacted the Texas Rangers who launched an investigation with the Harris County DA’s Public Corruption Division, which led to the eventual indictment by the Harris County Grand Jury.
The two charges are Class A misdemeanors and if convicted, Jones could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
In a strongly worded statement released from Jones’ attorney Oliver Brown regarding the indictment, Brown states:
“My client, Damien Jones, is deeply dismayed in the fraudulent and laughable charges levied against him today. He never has or never will engage in any type of election fraud. Let’s be clear, he proudly speaks truth to power in a way that empowers those that are overlooked in our communities, and in politics that has put an unfair target on his back. While the murder rate in Harris County skyrockets, Kim Ogg chose to use taxpayer funds to pursue a personal attack. Since being elected in 2016, DA Kim Ogg has abused the power of the office and only sought justice when it was politically expedient for her, while claiming to reform our racist and unjust system. Mr. Jones has been very critical of Kim Ogg’s work and he will not stop today. What Kim Ogg did today is public corruption at its finest and we will work with Federal authorities to bring justice. Harris County deserves a top cop who is focused on justice, not political favors. Mr. Jones appreciates your prayers and support as we fight back and expose the corruption in the Harris County District Attorney’s office.”
In another scenario involving Harris County Grand Jury indictments, two individuals have been indicted – Richard Bonton and Natasha Demming – related to charges that they both conspired and executed a plan to better their chances to overthrow Rep. Dutton in his quest for re-election for the House District 142.
According to Ogg, then-candidate Bonton recruited Demming to throw her name in the hat to be a candidate in the race, only they are alleging that Bonton helped Demming file for her candidacy under a false name – Natasha Ruiz.
It is believed that Bonton sought to have Ruiz (Demming) appear on the ballot as a way to manipulate voters into not only believing that she was a viable Latino candidate, but to also vote for her in order to eat into Rep. Dutton’s base of support and force a runoff. The strategy worked, in that Rep. Dutton was eventually forced into a runoff, but not with Bonton or Ruiz (Demming).
Ruiz (Demming) received 20 percent of the vote, which was way more than Bonton, and Rep. Dutton went on to face Jerry Davis in the runoff and came out victorious to retain his seat.
Dutton pursued an investigation, which led to the two indictments of Bonton and Demming.
Bonton has been charged with conspiracy to commit tampering with a government record, tampering with a governmental record, which is a felony, and election fraud. For the tampering with a Governmental Record charge, which is a state jail felony, Bonton could be looking at up to two years in jail, a $10,000 fine or both, as well as up to a year in jail for each of the other two charges.
Demming has been charged with two counts of tampering with a governmental record, which is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail, a $10,000 fine or both for each, as well as misdemeanor perjury, election fraud, and conspiracy to commit tampering with a governmental record. Demming could face up to a year in jail for each misdemeanor charge, if convicted.
This should be interesting and the Forward Times will continue to follow this story and these cases to provide updates on the status of all three.