HOUSTON - A grand jury indicted three individuals for two alleged schemes intended to affect the outcomes in two Texas House of Representatives’ local districts during the 2020 election cycle, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced.
According to the DA’s Office, the failed schemes impacted House District 132 and House District 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.”
In connection to one of the alleged schemes, Democratic political consultant Damien Jones was indicted for Coercion of a Public Servant and False Caller Identification Information Display.
The DA’s Office says an anonymous threat was texted to then State Representative Gina Calanni just days before the 2020 election filing deadline in an attempt to coerce her into resigning her position in HD 132.
Instead of resigning, Calanni reported the threat. The Texas Rangers, 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 $4,000 fine or both.
Two others were indicted in a second alleged scheme to impact the election in HD 142.
Natasha 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.
Richard Anthony 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.
The DA’s Office says a person using the false name “Natasha Ruiz” filed for election against longtime State Representative Harold Dutton.
Bonton, also a candidate for HD 142, allegedly conspired with Demming to file her ballot application in HD 142 under the false name.
“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,” the DA’s office said in a release.
District Attorney Kim Ogg said, "Those who run for the responsibility of making our laws are expected to follow the law."