An air-conditioning repairman was driving his truck through Houston in late October when a black SUV suddenly slammed into his tail. When he got out, the SUV’s driver leaped out and pointed a gun at his head, police said.
That story was totally bogus, police say. The man’s truck was full of nothing but A/C parts, and the gunman — Mark Anthony Aguirre, a former Houston Police Department captain — had been paid more than $250,000 by a right-wing organization to pursue far-fetched voter-fraud conspiracy theories.
On Tuesday, Aguirre was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as part of a “bogus voter-fraud conspiracy,” the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
“He crossed the line from dirty politics to commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no one was killed,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg (D) said in a statement.
An attorney for Aguirre, 63, disputed the charges, calling the case “political.”
“I think it’s a political prosecution. I really do,” Terry Yates told KTRK. “He was working and investigating voter fraud, and there was an accident. A member of the car got out and rushed at him and that’s where the confrontation took place. It’s very different from what you’re citing in the affidavit.”
The bizarre tale of Aguirre’s alleged assault comes as President Trump and his allies continue to spread baseless claims of mass election fraud, and features a direct tie to a group of Texas Republicans who unsuccessfully sued to toss out nearly 127,000 Harris County ballots.
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Police said that Aguirre had received $266,400 from the Liberty Center for God and Country, a Houston-based organization funded by Republican megadonors. The group’s chief executive is Steven Hotze, a prominent Texas right-wing activist who joined other GOP activists in the ballot lawsuit filed in late October.
“His alleged investigation was backward from the start — first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened,” Ogg said of Aguirre.
Aguirre spent 24 years in the Houston Police Department, the Houston Chronicle reported, before he was fired in 2003 over his role in a failed raid in a department store parking lot.
The case involving the air-conditioning repairman, whom police didn’t name, began in mid-October, police said, when Aguirre called the Texas Attorney General’s Office asking authorities to conduct a traffic stop for his personal “investigation.” When a lieutenant told Aguirre that he could not get police involved, Aguirre responded that he “would conduct the traffic stop himself and make a citizen’s arrest,” according to court records.
Then, around 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 19, Aguirre rammed the man’s truck, ordered him to get on the ground, placed a knee on his back and “held a gun to him,” an affidavit says. Unnamed associates of Aguirre then searched his truck and drove it away.
When officers arrived, Aguirre still had his knee on the man’s back, courts records said. Aguirre told an officer that he and his “friends,” were “investigating a voter fraud conspiracy” operated by the man at his home and inside a backyard shed.
Aguirre added that his group had been surveilling the man’s home for four days, and said he “knew” the man had hundreds of thousands of “fraudulent ballots in his truck and his home,” according to the affidavit. He claimed he was “using Hispanic children to sign the ballots because the children’s fingerprints would not appear in any databases.”
“I just hope you’re a patriot,” Aguirre told the officer interviewing him, the affidavit said.
Aguirre later took police to the air-conditioning repairman’s home and showed an officer where he had parked to surveil him, according to the affidavit.
But police said Aguirre’s allegations didn’t check out. Police found “no evidence of voter fraud or ballot harvesting” after the technician allowed them to check his property.
“There were no ballots in the truck. It was filled with air conditioning parts and tools,” Ogg’s office said in the release.
Police later found Aguirre had received three wire transfers from the Liberty Center for God and Country, including $211,400 transferred the day after the incident.
Jared Woodfill, the president of Liberty Center and Hotze’s attorney, confirmed to the Texas Tribune that the organization had hired a company led by Aguirre to investigate fraud claims ahead of Election Day. The company hired about 20 private investigators to work on claims of fraudulent ballots in Harris County and other parts of Texas, the Tribune reported.
Hotze “did not direct or lead any of the investigations,” Woodfill told the Tribune. The Liberty Center “employed the investigation team that looked into the allegations.”
Hotze sent tips and information to the group of private investigators, who would decide how to proceed, Woodfill told the Tribune. He also told KTRK the center would not support anything like what Aguirre is accused of doing.
“I’d be shocked if that’s what happened,” Woodfill told KTRK.
After an investigation by the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Election Security Task Force, Aguirre’s claims of election fraud “were found to be baseless,” the district attorney’s office said.
Despite claims made by Trump and other conservatives, courts and law enforcement officials have found no evidence of any widespread fraud in the November election. All lawsuits filed by the president’s legal team in multiple states have been tossed out.
Aguirre was released after he posted a bond of $30,000. He is expected back in court on Thursday, court records show.
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