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District Court Judge Smoots-Thomas accused of wire fraud

Yikes.

Alexandra Smoots-Thomas

A Harris County judge is facing federal charges that accuse her of using campaign donations for personal expenses, including for mortgage payments, private school tuition and travel.

Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas, 44, is charged with wire fraud charges, according to federal prosecutors. She turned herself in to U.S. Magistrate Peter Bray, appearing before him with chains wrapped around her waist and ankles.

She pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the magistrate set a pre-trial conference for Jan. 6.

Wearing a gray and black suit, she kept her head down for most of the arraignment. Smoots-Thomas has breast cancer, and had a round of chemotherapy on Thursday, attorney Kent Schaffer said.

Schaffer denied the charges after the proceeding, alleging that the U.S. Attorney’s Office, under Ryan Patrick, was targeting Smoots-Thomas because she is a black female Democrat.

“She has not defrauded anybody,” he said.

Patrick’s office has been contacted for comment on Schaffer’s allegations.

A federal grand jury on Oct. 24 returned a seven-count indictment against Smoots-Thomas, who presides over the 164th District Court and has jurisdiction over civil cases within Harris County. The indictment was unsealed on Friday.

[…]

The indictment alleges Smoots-Thomas of soliciting campaign contributions on the premise the money would be used to help facilitate her re-election campaigns in 2012 and 2016, prosecutors said. She concealed the expenses from her campaign treasurer and the Texas Ethics Commission by filing false campaign finance reports, according to the charges.

Obviously, this is bad and upsetting. She is of course innocent until proven guilty, but federal prosecutors tend to prefer bringing charges in cases they feel confident about winning.

Judge Smoots-Thomas was first elected in 2008. She was known as Alexandra Smoots-Hogan then; I know she had gotten divorced, and I presume remarried. There’s always a question about whether elected officials who are accused of crimes should resign when that happens. This is where I point out that Ken Paxton is still Attorney General, and I have not called for his resignation because he has not yet been convicted of anything. I’m inclined to believe that Kent Schaffer’s allegation about Assistant US Attorney Ryan Patrick is more defense lawyer strategy than anything else, but if all it took was an indictment to force someone out of office, then it’s certainly possible to imagine a politically motivated prosecutor filing sketchy charges as a partisan tactic. Plenty of people have been unjustly prosecuted in other contexts, after all. It’s a terrible look and I’m sure Republicans are rubbing their hands with glee over the potential attack ads, but even public officials get their day in court.

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7 Comments

  1. Manny says:

    Innocent until proven guilty, interesting.

    When was Yolanda Navarro Flores ever charged much less found guilty?

    When was Abel Davila ever charged much less found guilty?

    When was Diana Davila ever charged much less found guilty?

    Seems there are two standards in play, why?

  2. Mel says:

    I don’t understand the point you are trying to make. Are you attempting to make some sort of equivalency between Diana Davila’s election loss and questions Kuff has raised about elected officials who are under indictment?

  3. Texaslawyer says:

    The fact that Judge Smoots-Hogan was not allowed to participate in a pre-trial diversion program, and repay the money, leads me to agree with her attorney that this is nothing about a politically motivated farce of a prosecution. Is every Texas state judge, whether currently serving or retired, ready to be under the same scrutiny about campaign spending? When her attorney says that Smoots-Hogan paid for campaign expenses out of her pocket, I believe it. I wish her well as she is dealing with this nonsense , and fighting breast cancer.

  4. Manny says:

    Mel, the above are often mentioned as ethically challenged, based on hearsay and bogus investigations.

    Let us say that I stated that Mel was a trying to bribe an elected official to an investigator who does not make me swear that it is true, that never attempts to verify what I state and than a newspaper publishes that. Whenever Mel is now mentioned he is ethically challenged. In this case we have a person that was indicted and charged, does she deserve to be presumed innocent of course she does. But no “Ethically Challenged” is used.

    I want Latinos to be treated the same as others are treated.

    Question is why are some people, Latinos almost the only ones that are presumed to have done something wrong?

    In Davila’s case and unnamed person who will never be named, nor was sworn, made an allegation and the Chronicle and others, like Kuff run with it.

  5. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    Why is that article wrong on the details of this case?
    The indictment was returned on October 30, not October 24.
    The indictment has one (1) count, not seven.

    Texaslawyer, what pretrial diversion program for wire fraud charges do you think exists in federal prosecutions?

  6. Andrew says:

    The indictment was returned Oct 24 but remained sealed until Oct 30. The indictment has seven counts, one for each instance of the alleged misuse of funds.

  7. C.L. says:

    re: “When her attorney says that Smoots-Hogan paid for campaign expenses out of her pocket, I believe it.”

    Exactly, just like the Trump guys’ Attorney, Rudy Guliani ! I certainly wouldn’t expect him to stretch the truth on behalf of his Client !

    By and large, Federal Attorneys don’t file one or seven counts if they had evidence the money came out of her Wells Fargo checking account.