Conservative activist charged with aggravated assault over alleged voter fraud

Conservative activist charged with aggravated assault over alleged voter fraud

A prominent conservative activist in Houston has been charged with unlawful restraint and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon over an October incident involving a contractor the activist hired, his attorneys said Wednesday.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office told them Wednesday that Hotze was indicted over charges against a former police officer, Mark Aguirre, who worked for Hotze, according to Jared Woodfill and Gary Polland, attorneys for Dr. Steven Hotze.

Aguirre had been retained to investigate a voter fraud investigation on behalf of the Houston-based Liberty Center for God and Country, a nonprofit organization that Hotze runs.

Woodfill and Polland said they had not seen the indictment and had not been uploaded as of Wednesday afternoon to the Harris County judicial database, but both stated that Hotze is innocent of any crime.

Polland said he is not guilty unless they have criminalized political activity.

A spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney's office didn't want to say anything.

Aguirre was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on December 14 after a man accused him of running him off the road and holding him at gunpoint in an effort to prove what authorities have called a bogus voter fraud scheme.

Aguirre claimed that an air conditioner repairman was the mastermind. The man's truck was filled with fraudulent ballots when he ran into his SUV on October 19, according to authorities.

Aguirre told police he and some friends set up a command post at a Marriott hotel in suburban Houston that conducted 24 hour surveillance on the repairman for four days, according to a police affidavit.

Lt. Wayne Rubio with the Texas Attorney General's Office later told police that Aguirre had asked his office to conduct a traffic stop for his investigation. Aguirre said when Rubio said he could not do that, he would do it himself and make a citizen's arrest, according to the affidavit.

Aguirre ran the man's truck off the road, pointed a gun at him, forced him onto the ground and put a knee on his back, the affidavit said.

The police who responded to the incident searched the truck and found only air conditioning parts and tools, authorities said.

A lengthy investigation determined that allegations of election fraud were unfounded and no evidence of illegal ballots were found, Houston police said.

Aguirre was free on a $30,000 bond. A message to his attorney, Terry W. Yates, was not immediately returned.

Aguirre was paid $266,400 by Liberty Center for God and Country, police said.

Hotze, a conservative power broker, was unsuccessfully trying to stop the extension of early voting in Texas for this year's election. He also sued Harris County to limit in-person and absentee voting, making allegations without evidence that Democrats were involved in ballot harvesting by gathering votes from individuals who are homeless or elderly.

The accusations of former President Donald Trump and others of voter fraud have been refuted by several judges, state election officials, an arm of his own administration's Homeland Security Department and former Attorney General William Barr.

Hotze was part of a group of individuals who tried to challenge the legality of drive-thru voting in Harris County.