A Texas judge pleaded guilty to tampering with government records to secure a spot on the state’s March 6 primary election ballot. This follows a criminal investigation over complaints he forged dozens of voters’ signatures to ensure ballot access.
Russ Casey, Northeast Tarrant County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace, admitted his guilt before District Judge Wayne Salvant on Monday. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Salvant sentenced Casey, a Republican, to two years in jail, which was commuted into five years of probation.
“I apologize to the citizens of Tarrant County, the Tarrant County Republican Party, my family and friends for the way I have ended my judicial career,” said Casey in a written statement that followed the court hearing. He also thanked the citizens of the county for allowing him the “privilege” to serve as justice of the peace.
He also wrote, “Today’s proceedings have begun my transition from public to private life. I ask for forgiveness and respect for our privacy as we got through this transition.”
In addition to five years of probation, Casey agreed to resign, pay a $1,000 fine, and stay away from the offices he occupied at the Southlake Government Complex and Tarrant County Northeast Courthouse, according to The Dallas Morning News. Casey, originally elected in 2007, was slated to serve through the end of 2018.
“No one is above the law in Tarrant County,” said Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson in a prepared statement.
Tim O’Hare, chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, also issued a statement, according to the Dallas newspaper. He said the county’s Republican Party would be “better off with a new Justice of the Peace and [I] look forward to seeing that come to fruition.”
The Tarrant County Commissioners Court will consider a replacement for Casey at their May 1 meeting, noted the Star-Telegram. In Texas, Justices of the Peace handle cases involving truancy, traffic, Class C misdemeanors, some civil cases, and landlord or tenant disputes.
Accusations over voter fraud surfaced in January when Lenny Lopez, one of Casey’s GOP challengers, accused the sitting JP of defrauding voters by faking signatures on a re-election ballot petition, according to NBCDFW.
Lopez took his concerns to Direct Action Texas, a Dallas-Fort Worth political advocacy non-profit organization. Breitbart Texas reported that during the 2016 presidential election, this watchdog group uncovered alleged mail-in ballot irregularities in Tarrant County and it led to the largest voter fraud investigation in the state’s history.
Casey contested the tampering accusations, saying that O’Hare was “so biased” against him that “he will stop at nothing to prevent” his re-election, according to the Star-Telegram. A subsequent investigation found that many of the signatures on the petition were faked, although Casey apparently signed an affidavit saying he witnessed all the signatures placed on the form. He then dropped out of the race, ending his re-election bid.
The Fort Worth newspaper indicated that Casey previously filed a lawsuit asking that Lopez and another GOP challenger, Bill Brandt, be thrown off the ballot for an invalid number of signatures. Brandt, an Air Force veteran, won the March primary. As he had no Democrat challenger, Brandt will take office in January 2019.
Last year, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded Casey over an alleged improper sexual relationship with a woman who served as his chief clerk and court manager from 2009 to 2014.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.