Mexican National Gets Eight Years For Illegal Voting

February 9, 2017
By David Lee

FORT WORTH (CN) – A Mexican citizen confused by the difference between being a legal resident and a citizen was sentenced to eight years in state prison Thursday for voting illegally in Texas.

Rosa Maria Ortega, 37, of Grand Prairie, was convicted Wednesday on two counts of felony illegal voting by a Tarrant County jury.

Her attorney, Clark Birdsall in Dallas, told jurors Ortega mistakenly thought she was stating “resident” when she answered she was a citizen on voter registration forms. Ortega is legally in the country as a resident, but is not a citizen.

Birdsall said she was abandoned by her mother after being brought to the United States as a child and did not known how to categorize her citizenship status.

Tarrant County Elections Clerk Delores Stephens testified that Ortega called her in March 2015 about being rejected after checking a box that she was not a citizen. Stephens testified that Ortega sent in another application with the box unchecked and that the office was unsure what to do.

Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said Ortega voted at least five times, most recently in the 2014 Republican primary runoff in Dallas County.

Prosecutors said she also voted in the 2012 general election. They brought the case in neighboring Tarrant County because that is where the voter registration application was rejected.

Boone Caldwell, an investigator with the Texas Attorney General’s office, testified that Ortega lied about her citizenship status. An audio recording was played in court in which Ortega answered “yes” to the question whether she is a citizen, then said “Mexican” when asked if she is a U.S. citizen.

On cross-examination, Caldwell told Birdsall that he did not tell Ortega the conversation was being recorded.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said safeguarding the integrity of elections is “essential to preserving our democracy.” His office prosecuted the case alongside Tarrant County prosecutors.

“This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure, and the outcome sends a message that violators of the state’s election law will be prosecuted to the fullest,” Paxton said in a statement Thursday.

Attorney Paul Saputo, of Dallas, said Thursday the case was “an enormous waste” of court resources.

“In a felony court that more frequently handles murders and violent crimes, this case should have come to some kind of negotiated resolution,” he said.

President Donald Trump has claimed 3 million people voted illegally in the general election, costing him the popular vote. He has called for an investigation of voter fraud that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, balked at paying for Monday.

From Courthouse News.

Tarrant County Missed 450 Blue Votes, Democrats Say

March 4, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) – Texas elections officials failed to count about 450 Democratic primary votes Tuesday because a ballot reader was not turned on, the Tarrant County Democratic Party chairwoman says.
Deborah Peoples filed an application under the Texas Election Code on Thursday, asking the Tarrant County elections administrator to count the unrecorded votes in four precincts.
Peoples says an audit determined the votes were “erroneously placed” in a sealed ballot box.
“The cases are locked and secured as required by law,” the 5-page application states. “The law requires a court order for the case to be unlocked so that the records may be retrieved and the remaining official duties relating to the election can be properly performed.”
A precinct election judge reported that the case containing the ballots were delivered to Tarrant County elections officials after the polls had closed.
“There is no information that any of these ballots have been lost or damaged: they are believed to be safe and complete,” the complaint states. “However, they were erroneously locked in a transfer case instead of being run through the E-Scan on Election Day.”
Peoples seeks an order for the case to be opened and the ballots counted on March 7 at the Tarrant County Election Center.
Tarrant County Elections officials could not be reached for comment after business hours Thursday.
Peoples is represented by Stephen C. Maxwell in Fort Worth, the Tarrant County seat.

From Courthouse News.

Dallas Debate Brouhaha Leads to Lawsuit

March 2, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – The race for Dallas County Commissioner has taken a nasty turn as two lawsuits were filed before Super Tuesday, one over a shoving match that broke out between candidates at a debate last week.
George Nash, of Arlington, sued Commissioner John Wiley Price in Dallas County Court on Monday. Nash is a volunteer for candidate and former Dallas mayor Dwaine Caraway and attended the debate between Price, Caraway, former Dallas City Councilman Cedric Davis and Micah Phillips at gospel radio station KHVN-AM on Feb. 22.
Nash says at some point during the radio appearance, the debate “devolved into personal attacks on character” and insults were exchanged.
“The exchange escalated into a physical confrontation with plaintiff Nash attempting to act as a barrier between defendant Price and Mr. Caraway,” the 4-page complaint says.
“Defendant Price reached for plaintiff Nash and yanked him by his left arm, shouting profanity at him and placing him in apprehension of imminent bodily injury. Mr. Price then grabbed plaintiff Nash by the throat and lifted him off the floor, causing him injury.”
Nash seeks damages for assault and battery. He is represented by Kristin A. Regel in Richardson.
Also Monday, Phillips filed a defamation lawsuit against Caraway over statements Caraway purportedly made to Fox-affiliate KDFW-TV three days after the debate.
“In that interview, which was broadcast by the TV news station and published on its website, defendant Caraway falsely stated Mr. Phillips was a gangster, that he was involved in shooting up the defendant’s home and bus and that he was a con artist who could not be trusted,” Phillips’ 5-page complaint says. “As a result of defendant Caraway’s affirmative statements of fact, plaintiff Phillips has incurred substantial loss of his reputation and emotional distress.”
Phillips is represented by Ben C. Martin in Dallas.
Price has remained county commissioner for District 3 since 1985, running unchallenged in 2012 despite an FBI investigation that was made public at the time. He has since been indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; conspiracy to defraud the IRS; six counts of deprivation of honest services by mail fraud; and three counts of subscribing to a false and fraudulent income tax return.
Calling it a “shocking betrayal of public trust,” federal prosecutors accuse Price of accepting over $950,000 in cash, cars and real estate in exchange for his support for lucrative county contracts.
A resolution to suspend Price as he awaits trial failed in the commissioners court in August 2014 and he has remained in office since.
A co-defendant in the case, political consultant Christian Campbell, pleaded guilty to bribery charges in July 2015 in exchange for a three-year federal prison sentence.

From Courthouse News.

Sanders, Defeated in S.C., Rallies in Dallas

February 27, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Trailing Hillary Clinton into the pivotal Super Tuesday primaries, Bernie Sanders rallied a raucous crowd of 7,000 near Dallas on Saturday by attacking wealthy Wall Street campaign donors.
The over-capacity crowd at the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie patiently waited over three hours for Sanders to speak, enthusiastically chanting his name and shouting slogans including “This is democracy,” and “They got bail outs, we got sold out.” The crowd largely consisted of young people and young families, holding homemade signs saying “Feel the Bern” and “Texas Loves Bernie.”
Sen. Sanders, I-Vermont, told the crowd he thinks “there is a surprise coming on Tuesday.”
“It looks like Dallas is ready for a political revolution,” Sanders said as the crowd roared its approval. “Let me tell you, so are a lot of people all across our great country.”
Brian Crandall, of Fort Worth, brought his wife and young son to hear Sanders speak.
“I saw him speak in Dallas last year and his honesty and directness really spoke to me,” he said. “Bernie is the only politician who seems to genuinely care about people and have empathy for those that are struggling. That’s why he has my support.”
Sanders declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination last year to little fanfare, yet he has quickly built a grassroots effort that went neck-and-neck with Clinton in the Iowa caucuses.
Sanders said his campaign was about “thinking big, not small,” that his campaign was about “revitalizing American democracy.”
“Democracy is not a football game, not a spectator sport,” he said. “All of you are enormously powerful people if you choose to use your power.”
Sanders touted his plan to publicly finance all elections in order to get Wall Street out of politics. He said the current campaign finance system is “corrupt,” where “we have billionaires trying to buy elections.”
“If you do not have the guts to hold a free and fair election, get another job,” Sanders said. “Washington and Congress are much more interested in representing wealthy campaign contributors than the needs of ordinary Americans. We need to turn that around where the needs and pain of the American people are heard, that’s what this campaign is precisely about.”
Sanders denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s “disastrous” ruling in Citizens United v. FEC in 2007, which allows unlimited election spending by individuals and corporations. He also attacked Clinton for being paid for giving speeches to wealth Wall Street banks, challenging her to release transcripts of the speeches.
“They must have been great speeches,” he said. “You must want to share them with the American people.”
Sanders was introduced by populist columnist and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, who denounced the “frackers, bankers and bullshitters” of the establishment.
“Let’s take the power back from the Wall Street greedheads and the Washington boneheads,” he said.

From Courthouse News.

Blasts & Counterblasts in GOP Free-for-All Get Even Hotter

February 29, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Blaming “dishonest” newspapers for “negative and horrible articles” about him, Donald Trump told a Texas crowd this weekend that he would “open up our libel laws” so he could sue newspapers “and win lots of money.”
“I am going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles so we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump told a crowd of supporters in Fort Worth on Friday.
“We are going to open up those libel laws so when The New York Times writes a hit piece – which is a total disgrace – or when The Washington Post – which is there for other reasons – writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re protected.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1964 in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, that to prove defamation, public figures – people who thrust themselves into the public eye – must show the statements were published despite knowledge of their falsity, or with reckless disregard.
Montgomery Public Safety Commissioner L.B. Sullivan claimed that a paid ad in the Times defamed him with false statements about Montgomery police actions against civil rights protesters. Sullivan won a $500,000 judgment in state court, but the Supreme Court ruled, unanimously, that the standard for public figures was necessary to preserve vigorous debate about subjects of public importance.
Although Trump could not override Times v. Sullivan, he would be able to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, if he wins the Republican nomination and the presidential election.
“We are going to have people sue you like you have never been sued before,” Trump told the crowd.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia hedged on the Times v. Sullivan ruling in a 2011 speech. Republican senators have vowed not to call a hearing on any nominee President Obama chooses to replace Scalia.
In his speech at the Aspen Institute 2011 Washington Ideas Forum at the Newseum, Scalia said: “Now, the old libel law used to be (that) you’re responsible, you say something false that harms somebody’s reputation, we don’t care if it was told to you by nine bishops, you are liable.
New York Times v. Sullivan just cast that aside because the court thought in modern society, it’d be a good idea if the press could say a lot of stuff about public figures without having to worry. And that may be correct, that may be right, but if it was right it should have been adopted by the people. It should have been debated in the New York Legislature and the New York Legislature could have said, ‘Yes, we’re going to change our libel law.’ But the living constitutionalists on the Supreme Court, the Warren Court, simply decided, ‘Yes, it used to be that … George Washington could sue somebody that libeled him, but we don’t think that’s a good idea anymore.'”
Trump’s threat to “open up” libel laws was quickly overshadowed by his refusal to disavow an endorsement from white supremacist and former Klan leader David Duke. When criticized even by fellow Republicans for that, Trump backpedaled on Sunday, saying he didn’t know who Duke was, then sent a Tweet saying “I disavow.”
That flurry of controversy quickly buried an aggressive Friday attack from Marco Rubio, who called Trump a “ con man ” who may have wet his pants during the Republican candidates’ debate Thursday night.
Sen. Rubio, R-Florida, told supporters at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas that Trump had a “meltdown” backstage during the Thursday night commercial breaks.
“He has called me Mr. Meltdown. Let me tell you something … he had this little makeup thing and applying makeup around his mustache, because he had one of those sweat mustaches,” Rubio said with a grin. “He then asked for a full-length mirror. I do not know why because the podium goes up [to his chest]. Maybe to make sure his pants were not wet, I do not know.”
Several hundred Rubio supporters rumbled with laughter at the 10-minute attack that at times sounded like a comedy roast.
Donald Harris, of Dallas, said he was a Jeb Bush supporter until Bush dropped out of the race. Harris said he liked how Rubio was “taking it” to Trump now.
“Jeb was too timid and too slow in fighting back,” Harris said at the Friday rally. “I like how Rubio kept jabbing at him last night and I’m glad to see he isn’t backing down today.”
One hundred fifty-five Republican delegates are at stake on Super Tuesday in Texas, which is seen as a must-win state for Sen. Ted Cruz.
But it’s Rubio who’s increasingly seen as so-called establishment Republican’s last chance against Trump. Party regulars were energized by Rubio’s vigorous attacks on Trump past week, mocking his history of hiring illegal immigrants and being sued repeatedly for his so-called Trump University.
Rubio kept the heat on Friday in Dallas. “Friends do not let friends vote for con artists,” he said as the crowd cheered.
Holding a smartphone onstage, Rubio asked if the crowd wanted to “have some fun,” then mocked Trump’s poor spelling and grammar in his Twitter posts.
“Trump said, ‘Wow, every poll said I won the debate last night.’ No, this is what he said about himself, OK? He said ‘Great honer.’ I think he meant to say ‘great honor.’ I do not know how he got that wrong because the e and the o are nowhere near each other on the keyboard. This guy tweets so badly, I can only reach two conclusions. Number 1, that’s how they spell those words at the Wharton School of Business where he went. Or number 2, just like at Trump Tower, he must have hired a foreign worker to do his own tweets.”
Thirty miles west in Fort Worth, Trump supporters in line at the Fort Worth Convention Center cheered the news that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has endorsed Trump.
Saying he was “proud” to endorse Trump, Christie said: “He is a good friend, he is a strong and resolute leader and he is someone who is going to lead the Republican Party to victory in November against Hillary Clinton, which is the single most important thing we can do.”
Trump then turned his attention to Rubio, saying he was “under a pile of makeup” at the latest debate.
“I said ‘Marco, easy with the makeup,’ you do not need that much,” Trump said. Then he praised Christie for going after Rubio’s rehearsed lines and talking points in earlier debates.
“I thought he was going to die,” Trump said. “Good going, Chris.”
Speaking to several thousand of his supporters, Trump again mocked Rubio’s excessive sweating while taking a sip from a water bottle.
“Oh look, it’s Marco,” Trump said before spilling the bottle’s contents on stage, then tossing the bottle over his shoulder as the crowd cheered.
He called Rubio a “lightweight senator from Florida who is losing in the polls.”
Outside the rally, several shouting matches erupted between white Trump supporters and protesters.
An unidentified white man in a purple shirt and sunglasses yelled “Go back to Mexico” several time to a Latina protester who screamed profanities as he walked into the rally.
Inside the building, several protesters were escorted out of the rally after holding up signs saying Trump is anti-Muslim.

From Courthouse News.