Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced that a Grand Jury indicted three people Friday in two different failed schemes intended to affect the outcomes in two Texas House of Representatives’ local districts during the 2020 election cycle. The impacted districts were HD 132 and HD 142.
“Our democracy depends on keeping our elected officials safe from coercion and our elections free from illegal manipulation,” Ogg said. “Those indicted today crossed the line from dirty politics to criminal activity and they will pay the price.”
Democratic political consultant Damien Jones was indicted for Coercion of a Public Servant and False Caller Identification Information Display for an anonymous threat texted to then State Representative Gina Calanni in an attempt to coerce her into resigning her position in HD 132, instead of running for re-election. The threat was made on Dec. 2, 2019 just days before the 2020 election filing deadline. Instead of resigning, Calanni reported the threat to the Texas Rangers, who in conjunction with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Public Corruption Division, investigated the complaint. If convicted of the two Class A misdemeanors, Jones faces up to a year in the Harris County Jail and up to a $4000 fine or both.
Just days later, a second scheme intended to impact the election in HD 142 unfolded when a person using a false name, Natasha Ruiz, filed for election against longtime State Representative Harold Dutton. She did not, however, act alone. Natasha Demming, along with Richard Anthony Bonton, also a candidate for HD 142, were indicted today for Election Fraud related crimes.
Bonton, who had previously run for HD 142, conspired with Demming to file her ballot application in HD 142 under a false name, Natasha Ruiz. Bonton’s motive appears to have been to manipulate voters into supporting a Latino candidate to dilute incumbent Harold Dutton’s voter base in a district with a growing Latino population. Dutton is African American, as is Demming and Bonton. While the scheme did not elevate Bonton’s candidacy as intended, it did impact the election, resulting in a runoff between Dutton and another candidate, Jerry Davis.
For his role, Bonton is charged with Tampering with a Governmental Record, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years, and two Class A misdemeanors, each punishable by up to a year in jail.
For her role, Demming is charged with two counts of Tampering with a Governmental Record, both state jail felonies and three Class A misdemeanors: Perjury, Election Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Tampering with a Governmental Record, all of which are punishable by up to a year in jail.
Per District Attorney Kim Ogg, “Those who run for the responsibility of making our laws are expected to follow the law.”
The Public Corruption Division does not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation until and if a criminal charge is filed. This is done out of fairness of all parties potentially involved in any matter.