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.

When he and his friends hatched their election plan, Heath said, he was unaware that interests associated with the Woodlands RUD sent political donations to influential people in Austin, people like state Sen. Tommy Williams, whose district includes the RUD, and Williams's ally Abbott.

Since 2002, Abbott has received $14,500 in campaign contributions from the law firm Schwartz, Page & Harding, which handles legal affairs for the RUD as well as for Woodlands Township and several other districts in The Woodlands.

Williams, who left office in December to take a job at Texas A&M, received $26,500 in political funding from Schwartz, Page & Harding since 2003. The same firm also has donated to the Greater Houston Builders Association PAC, which gave $6,154 to Williams between 2002 and 2012 and an additional $4,500 to Abbott.

Tom Curry (center) is flanked by Pete Goeddertz and Bill Berntsen.
Tom Curry (center) is flanked by Pete Goeddertz and Bill Berntsen.
A website, Montgomeryvoterfrauds.com, popped up accusing Heath and others of voter fraud before they were even charged in the case.
A website, Montgomeryvoterfrauds.com, popped up accusing Heath and others of voter fraud before they were even charged in the case.

The Woodlands Development Company, which helms the development of The Woodlands, is headquartered on the 11th floor of an office tower at 24 Waterway in the middle of The Woodlands, the same place the RUD had met for years until recently. The top floor of 24 Waterway also houses several other groups that are in the business of keeping The Woodlands upscale.

The RUD board passes development plans and issues bonds to pay for them. The development company is on hand to make the plans a reality, with the help of bond financing.

The cozy connections are enough to convince Heath and his band of would-be political change agents that the dogged pursuit of criminal charges against them is rooted in payback.

"It seemed that someone had to be made an example of, to send a message," said Tom Curry, an industrial technician who has had his own business for 22 years. Besides Curry and Heath, the other defendants are Sybil Doyle, Roberta Cook, Jim Jenkins, Pete Goeddertz, Robert and Ben Allison, and Bill Berntsen.

Another of the Residence Inn voters, Richard McDuffee, quickly settled with the state and testified before the county's grand jury. The Allisons followed his lead in taking a deal, leaving seven indictees, dubbed the Woodlands Seven.

"Greg Abbott was asked by Tommy Williams to do this," added Jim Doyle, who didn't participate in the voting maneuver, since he was an election judge in his precinct. To change his residency would have disqualified him from working the polls in his precinct, a duty he takes as seriously as he does his anti­abortion stance. He spent 30 days in jail in 1989 for blocking a walkway leading to an abortion clinic's door.

Doyle, 71, retired in 2005 after 40 years as an aircraft mechanic for Continental Airlines. He had known several of the Woodlands Seven for ten years and believed that the group was on solid legal ground. Jenkins had asked Doyle to be part of it, but Doyle said he couldn't because doing so would make him ineligible as an election judge, so Doyle asked his wife, Sybil, and daughter, Roberta Cook, to be part of the plan.

In the fall of 2010, Doyle said, he ran into Williams at a Montgomery County Republican Party function. In response to a question about the election, according to an affidavit Doyle filed with the county, Williams "in a loud voice...said that he would influence Attorney General Greg Abbott to prosecute the Residence Inn voters to the fullest extent of the law."

Williams was sent a copy of the affidavit by email and asked to verify Doyle's account for this story. He did not respond.

Among the first motions made by the state in Heath's case was to prohibit him or his counsel from making any "allegations or assertions that the prosecution of this cause was pursued, pushed for, or pressured by political officials, including but not limited to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott or Texas State Senator Tommy Williams." The state said such claims "are not provable, not valid..."

David Glickler, the second-chair prosecutor in the cases for the Attorney General's office, said the motion was a response to a subpoena issued to Williams by Heath's legal team. The motion was granted. Jurors never heard mention that any higher-ups had been moving for the prosecutions.

But Williams had pushed along for the prosecutions in any way he could, according to records.

In an email on September 15, 2010, Williams promised James Stilwell, who represented the three ousted RUD board members in their civil case to overturn the election, that he was on the case to pursue criminal charges against the Woodlands voters for what he termed voter fraud. That help included a call to Abbott's office.

"A few moments ago, I concluded a conference call with the attorney general's office on the voter fraud in the 23 June township election," Williams said in an email to Stilwell and Bruce Tough, a local lawyer and a Woodlands Township board member. Williams also offered the use of his legislative director, Jason Baxter, in "making sure this is handed off to the right person," according to the email.

On the same date, Stilwell emailed Williams advising him that he had sent a package of documents regarding the voter fraud allegations to the Texas Secretary of State. "Many thanks for all your help..." Stilwell signed off.

Stilwell did not respond to Houston Press emails seeking comment.

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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 topcommenter

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?

Puller58
Puller58 topcommenter

@AdrianHeath @Puller58 Pity that the appeals process is needed to mitigate prosecutorial misconduct and poorly written laws.

 
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