Perfect Timing: How Malcontent Wiseasses Tried to Prove a Point About Politics and Ended up Charged as Felons

White conservatives who tweaked an election in The Woodlands were just what Greg Abbott needed to prove he doesn’t prosecute only minorities for voter fraud.

Perfect Timing: How Malcontent Wiseasses Tried to Prove a Point About Politics and Ended up Charged as Felons

Adrian Heath heard the jury on that October morning loud but not clear.

The foreman exhaled the word "guilty," and Heath felt its jarring weight in his head and his stomach as he stood in a Montgomery County ­courtroom.

Heath was now a felon, convicted by the state of Texas for voter fraud, a charge pushed by the voting enforcement unit of state Attorney General Greg Abbott's office.

Adrian Heath never thought he'd end up a convicted felon for getting involved in a local election.
Marco Torres
Adrian Heath never thought he'd end up a convicted felon for getting involved in a local election.
Attorney General Greg Abbott has pledged to fight voter fraud in Texas.
Texans For Greg Abbott
Attorney General Greg Abbott has pledged to fight voter fraud in Texas.

What he couldn't quite figure out was just how he had become a convicted criminal. At 56 years old, the Australian immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen had never been in a criminal court in his life. Now he faced two years in prison, with a judge scheduled to hand down his sentence on January 30.

In May 2010, Heath, along with nine of his fellow suburban neighbors from in and around The Woodlands, gathered at a Residence Inn hotel inside the confines of the Woodlands Road Utility District, a 2,475-acre taxing body that is connected to The Woodlands by a coalition of developers, lawyers and well-to-do local insiders. The group included a retiree, a homemaker, a tile contractor, a salesman and an oil-equipment technician.

Heath and his friends claimed residency inside the district despite staying only two nights at the hotel. They did so to elect three of their colleagues in order to usurp the incumbent balance of power in the district. They believed the district was running up public debt and wanted to stop that.

Heath and his colleagues figured they were standing up for their rights, hoping to be part of a system that was imposing taxes indirectly on them in a commercial area in which they did much of their shopping and dining. And they were certain that their group was working within the very blurry lines of state law regarding residency and voting.

The law they followed says that the voter residency requirement can be determined "by the voter," as Randall Dillard, a spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State's office, stated in February 2010.

Dillard's statement was repeated like a mantra among Heath and his pals in the weeks leading up to the election. They succeeded in getting their own candidates in office by changing their voting registration residences in April 2010.

But as in a scene gone wrong in a caper movie, in June 2010, a district judge ruled the election and the group's part in it invalid and tossed the results.

That might have been the end of it, with a few malcontented wiseasses fruitlessly trying to prove a point.

Instead, as it turned out, the troublemakers had picked a very bad time to make their stand.

One of the first things Abbott did when he was elected attorney general in 2002 was to enhance the office's voter fraud division, saying that for too long, Texas had turned a blind eye to the white-collar crime. In the years since, his troops had focused on South Texas, admittedly a historic hotbed of election abuse, but the result was that while prison sentences were rare, they almost always involved minorities, Democrats and those in lower economic groups.

The Woodlands group was composed of white self-described conservatives, middle-class and above. How much better for Abbott, now running for governor, to prove that he was not biased. Heath became convinced that Abbott thought convicting the Woodlands voters would give his candidacy a boost. In fact, Heath says, that's what state Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican lawmaker from Montgomery County, essentially told him one day.

"Toth said words to the effect, 'I called up there (Abbott's office), and they said, 'We have 150 Democrats and six Republicans; we are not going to let the Republicans go,'" Heath said. (Toth told the Houston Press he didn't recall anyone from Abbott's office telling him that.)

So now the troublemakers, none of whom had ever faced a criminal charge, were being prosecuted by the state on the third-degree felony charge of illegal voting . The Attorney General's Office contends that they intentionally changed their addresses and claimed false residency for political gain, with no intention of living in a hotel. They all had homes elsewhere, some with mortgages, where they had their possessions and spouses.

"It seems strange that we could go to prison and no one would care," said Heath, a salesman by trade who came to the United States in 1983.

"We've been abandoned by the people who go out and say they want more transparent government that is responsible to the people. I thought people from both sides of the political aisle would see this corporatist government using the system to enrich themselves and see us as people who stood up to it."
_____________________

Take exit 76B off Interstate 45 north of Houston and you find yourself smack in the midsection of the road utility district, shortened to RUD when anyone speaks of it. The Woodlands is a super-planned community with perfectly sculptured tree lines, finely measured curbs and an immaculately manicured canal. The place is also money.

Eight-lane highways are flanked by megacorporate interests, more chain eateries and stores than any capitalist could dream of slapping down in one place. Endless miles of streaming traffic whizzes by Starbucks, Target and Best Buy.

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21 comments
fratdawgg23
fratdawgg23

The group seems to have had honorable intentions, but they should have consulted with an election/campaign/political law attorney. There may have been a loophole to exploit.

AdrianHeath
AdrianHeath

http://www.scribd.com/doc/206514363/Application-for-a-Place-on-the-Ballot-Woodlands-Road-Utility-District-1

Please help expose the ludicrous structure and developer oriented existence of the Woodlands Road Utility District #1 by filing for a position on the ballot with me this year. Any resident of the state over 18 yrs qualifies. No requirement to live in the district for board members whereas the district is actually gerrymandered to preclude the involvement of voters in the community. I wish for 1000 applicants.

BobStevens
BobStevens

The people who were indicted in this case were a watchdog group who uncovered illegal activities of the "woodlands elite." Former representative Tommy Williams engaged in illegal activities along with attorney Bruce Tough and others get get these indictments. There were pay offs to the Attorney General office. 

When will Gregg Abbott and his minions prosecute the woodlands millionaires Kate and Dirk Laukien since they both changed their voting addresses to the Woodlands Railroad Utility District like these people did?

SoSezYou
SoSezYou

Hilarious antics of the real voter fraudsters....irrational baggers. Must suck to be stabbed in the back by the worst bagger in the state in Greg Abbot. 

Puller58
Puller58

So now to the appeals courts?

runlola
runlola

"Heath and nine others changed their voter registration addresses in April to 9333 Six Pines Drive, the Residence Inn. Several days later, McDuffee, Goeddertz and Berntsen, all among those changing their voter registration, filed as candidates in the May 8 board election."  


I am still completely baffled by these two sentences.  The deadline to file an application for place on ballot for the May 2010 uniform election date was March 8, 2010 and the deadline to file an application for write-in candidacy was March 15, 2010.  How exactly were they able to file applications for place on ballot in April?  Legally, they would have not been able to be accepted by the designated agent for Woodlands RUD per the Texas Election Code.  

johncoby
johncoby

who in their rightwing mind would even think about changing their voter registration to a hotel to get into office? They should go to jail for stupidity if nothing else.

AdrianHeath
AdrianHeath

The meaning to all Texans of these prosecutions by Abbott is that the will  of corporations, insiders and political cohorts outweigh the rule of law and the Texas constitution. No developer should be allowed to own and operate a political subdivision of the State of Texas for its own ends and out of reach of voters. see Art III Sec 52 (A)

Moreover, diligent citizens who take pains to follow the law by  consulting the highest authorities ( i.e. the SOS) are trampled at the AG's whim.

Republicans and Tea Parties don't want to clean their own house first.

If the AG was a Democrat they would all be on fire.


Think you have nothing to fear from your government? Think again.

joasis1
joasis1

If only they were democrats, then they'd have been applauded for their creativity and good intentions, probably even earning awards from Dear Leader and the ironic or paradoxical Holder Justice Department.

bdamages
bdamages

All this mischief arises from the fact that residents who are not property owners can vote in taxing authority elections, and property-owning non-residents cannot.  Another example:  mineral owners whose property is taxed cannot vote for school boards who set the rates on their property.

larrybradley
larrybradley

There was a time when enforcing an important law would not have warranted such a piece as this. Too bad those days are gone. To quote your heroine, Hillary, "What difference does it make?" what color they were or to which party they belonged? Here's a tip for your next story that deals with a court case, i.e., justice: Laws are made in order to be enforced. Unless there is judicial misbehavior during the trial or it is later proved that the defendants did not do what they were accused of doing, there is nothing to see here. Move along.

Shawn
Shawn

I stopped reading at "White Conservatives." If anyone had ever started an article with "Black liberals" or "Black" anything would be jumped on and make national news over their racism. Double standard that keeps feeding the hate.

tenmen
tenmen

pic of paper ballot is misleading, but the key in voter fraud!!!  we use little plastic voting machines.  Do you really think your vote counts on the plastic voting machine????  Back to paper ballots  where we can have some kind of accountability

AdrianHeath
AdrianHeath

@SoSezYou 1. Standing up to corrupt crony corporatist  local government is not irrational or fraudulent.

2. You got that right. Abbott is the fraudulent one

AdrianHeath
AdrianHeath

@johncoby I don't know who, but I do know that none of those involved in the RUD corruption case did that

BobStevens
BobStevens

@AdrianHeath Please investigate the satanic underworld of the Illuminati. These satanists are everywhere, in government, politics, healthcare, law, etc. Also, the Freemasons are satanists/illuminati. I am praying for you Mr Heath as well as Mr. Jenkins and the rest of your group. Thank you for all the wonderful work that has been done to fight corruption. Please talk to your friends about Jesus coming soon.
 The Peace Deal between Israel and Palestine will be the time of the Rapture. Obama is the anti-christ and pope francis is the false prophet.

alternateworld
alternateworld

@joasis1    The only irony is they were probably republicans and persecuted under a law that was intended to prevent democratic leaning voters from voting.  Let's see, that make 3 prosecutions.  Abbot is definitely catching all those thousands of fraudulent voters isn't he?

 
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