Political candidates receive support for various reasons. Some supporters are friends of the candidate. Others share a common belief or cause. In Harris County, most political consultants employ political operatives to support their candidates and take down the opposition – no matter the cost. In some cases, these operatives serve as precinct and SREC chairs – leaders in the Harris County Republican Party. These folks use their positions to spread (mis)information about their slate of candidates and the opposition without disclosing the true reason for their support. Instead of justice, it is all about money, power, and cliques.
There is one recent example to illustrate this point. In January, when Belinda Hill resigned as judge of the 230th Criminal District Court to accept the First Assistant position at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, a vacancy was created. Very quickly, Brad Hart was appointed to complete the remainder of Hill’s term in the 230th. In November 2012, Hart was the Republican nominee for the 339th Criminal District Court and was one of three Republicans to lose in the criminal court races. Hart, a former Harris County prosecutor, worked in the Special Crimes Division at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office with Ryan Patrick, son of Dan Patrick and judge of the 177th Criminal District Court.
Prior to the vacancy in the 230th Criminal District Court, Joan Campbell, the longtime judge in the 248th Criminal District Court announced that she would resign her bench effective January 2013. Soon thereafter, Roger Bridgwater, a former criminal court judge, bureau chief at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and deacon at First Baptist Church, was asked to introduce Rick Scarborough at the Texas Tea Party Republican Women’s November 2012 meeting. At the event, Kay Smith introduced Roger and announced that he was submitting his application to the Governor for the vacancy in the 248th Criminal District Court. During the crowd’s applause, Valoree Swanson, an SREC chair, stood up and shouted that she was supporting Brad Hart for that vacancy.
For Valoree, this is a family business. She worked with Mary Jane Smith for years to support Smith’s candidates through the election process. During the 2010 Republican Primary, Valoree strongly supported Marc Brown, husband of Susan Brown, infamous judge of the 185th Criminal District Court. This support included wearing her official SREC badge while accosting voters at the Humble early voting location. While there, she told the opposing candidate’s wife that she was going to “wipe that smile off her face.” Classy lady.
Now that Smith is out of the political consulting business, Valoree is working with Jessica Colon. As you may have guessed, Hart is a Colon client. As I said, this is a family business for Valoree. And, you may have heard of Valoree’s aunt, Norma Jeter, the communications director for the Texas Tea Party Republican Women and another employee of Colon. At Texas Tea, Norma informs all of the membership and visitors with information about Colon’s clients.
When the 230th became vacant, not surprisingly, Hart also received support from Dan Patrick, Valoree’s State Senator in Senate District Seven. Colon, famous for supporting red light cameras and Prop1 (Rain Tax), worked with this group to promote Hart for the 230th.
As an aside, Colon has been on the wrong side of many local issues. During the Prop1 “Rain Tax” fight, Colon worked with Houston City Councilman Stephen Costello to propose a resolution to the Harris County Republican Executive Committee to support the new rain tax. While the resolution overwhelmingly failed, the rain tax passed in the city of Houston. How is that rain tax working for you? Our streets have never been in worse shape, very irritating.
You likely saw the news about a recent capital murder at Denny’s. On August 26, 2013, Robert Placette was murdered as he dined at the Denny’s near Memorial Park. Three men entered the restaurant, demanding money from the patrons and employees at gunpoint. Placette, a 64 year-old business owner, was shielding small children when his life was taken. One of the defendants, Kenya Jackson, was on bond for involvement in another murder when he committed this senseless capital murder.
On January 31, 2013, Jackson was charged with tampering with evidence in the 230th in relation to the murder of Chase Walker, a 20 year-old young man who was found lying on the side of the road after being shot in the head. Jackson’s bond was set at $100,000 on January 31, 2013. On February 26, 2013, Brad Hart, judge of the 230th, lowered Jackson’s bond to $5,000, which Jackson made on February 27, 2013. Jackson was placed on pre-trial supervision, which meant that he was monitored by pre-trial services. On April 16, 2013, Jackson reportedly violated his bond due to a curfew violation.
Again, on May 7, 2013, Jackson had another curfew violation.
Despite these reports of non-compliance, Hart continued to allow Jackson to be on bond. Last week, Jackson surrendered to law enforcement after an intense manhunt. Thanks to the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force for keeping us safe from these criminals even when the criminal judiciary has failed.
Senator Patrick’s connection to this group began when Ryan worked as a prosecutor in Susan Brown’s court. You will remember that Brown is the judge who allowed a grand jury to be used for a political purpose. She also filed a completely bogus contempt charge against two prosecutors with impeccable credentials. Ryan’s dad, joined the gang to support Marc Brown in his campaign for judge. And, Dan stepped in to support Hart for the 230th.
About twelve hours before the capital murder, Corey Hilton, another of the four defendants and a felon, appeared in County Criminal Court 5 where the judge is Margaret Harris, another Brown friend. That morning, Hilton received time served on a criminal trespass case. In November 2011, Hilton was placed on probation in the 262nd District Court for possessing a short barrel shotgun.
A few months later, he was sentenced to the minimum punishment, two years in prison.
From now on, whenever Valoree, Norma, Jessica, or Dan asks for your support or vote, remember who and what they have already supported. Nepotism should have no place at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center. When Ryan Patrick was appointed to fill Kevin Fine’s vacancy, I had to see if he was even eligible to serve as a district court judge because he only had a few years of experience. You now see how arrogant political power by Senator Patrick and his cronies directly affects the criminal justice system here in Harris County. Senator Patrick’s desire to involve himself, once again, in courthouse politics has made a negative impact on our community. The criminal courthouse has fallen victim to nepotism and patronage. Sadly, movements like the right to life have become lost in the vetting process, which is now purely political and consultant-based. Gang justice cannot be allowed to continue.