Criminal JusticeElections 2022Local NewsTarrant County Sheriff’s Office Declines to Investigate Videos About Possible Election Fraud

In response to recently found body camera footage, Sheriff Waybourn’s office suggested the attorney general is the best to investigate possible crimes.
October 13, 2022
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A few weeks ago in Tarrant County, a police body camera video surfaced from January 2020 of a homeless man, later identified as Charles Nathan Jackson, claiming he had been involved in a kind of ballot harvesting scheme.

In the video, Jackson suggested that current Democratic county judge candidate Deborah Peoples allegedly paid him $200 cash for each signed absentee ballot he produced before the 2016 presidential election. He said the scheme was targeted at elderly residents.

Jackson claimed on one day he was paid $1200 for the ballots he secured.

Peoples was the chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party at the time.

The videos have created sufficient buzz that Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn and Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Rick Barnes both spoke out about the issue.

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Waybourn’s office posted on Facebook that it had looked into the videos, which it had not seen until late September 2022.

After checking with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Rangers, and the Texas Attorney General’s (AG) Office, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) learned that the man in the video had been successfully investigated by the AG and convicted in an election fraud case in 2016.

Files obtained from the Tarrant County District Clerk’s office by The Texan indicate that Jackson was indicted in 2018 for falsifying a signature on an early voting ballot application that was not actually the signature of the person represented. The records contain no mention of Peoples.

The indictment was for a state jail felony. Jackson could have had his sentence enhanced due to prior convictions, but he entered a plea agreement in which the state agreed to a sentence of 10 days in jail with credit for time served.

Because the AG’s office conducted the original investigation of Jackson, the TCSO determined that the AG would be the “most appropriate agency to investigate this incident based on their experience, the success of the previous case, and other cases related to this video.”

Waybourn is not up for election in November but is involved in local political campaigns — he has endorsed Republican county judge candidate Tim O’Hare — so his office stated, “it is inappropriate to have the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office open an investigation at this time.”

While the Texas Election Code permits the AG to “prosecute a criminal offense prescribed by the election laws of this state,” the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled late last year that the applicable section of the election code is unconstitutional. They said it is an impermissible violation of the separation of powers between branches of government.

TCSO recognized the prosecutorial limits on the AG’s office in its statement, but believes “they do have the authority to investigate” election fraud.

“If it leads to the charge of a criminal offense, Sheriff Waybourn is confident that investigators and prosecutors will work together as the case moves forward,” the statement concluded.

The Texas Legislature passed the Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021 with intent to prevent fraud, prohibit unsolicited mail-in ballot applications, and set additional ground rules for early voting and voter registration.

On September 29, Barnes held a press conference to address the videos.

“Recently surfaced police body cam footage revealed that Deborah Peoples, the Democrat candidate for County Judge, was allegedly implicated in a ballot harvesting scheme in 2016, paying a homeless man hundreds of dollars for each ballot he obtained. When he was arrested it was a close associate of Peoples’ who bailed him out of jail. This kind of corrupt and unlawful behavior has no place within the leadership of our county government.”

Peoples’ campaign did not reply to a request for comment before the time of publication.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.