Tommy Ramirez, local attorney and Justice of the Peace will be back in the courtroom facing and battling charges as the State of Texas filed what some call a “do over”, and at a time when the laws have recently changed as to who can file criminal charges.
Tomas Ramirez III, Justice of the Peace Precinct 4, turned himself into the Medina County Sheriff’s Office this past Saturday, January 5th upon being charged and indicted a second time for the same alleged election code violations. As you may recall, he was charged with violations of the election code back in February 2018. The case was filed in Bandera County at that time, where all charges were dismissed by the Presiding Judge Rex Emerson of the 198th District Court as of this past December 21, 2021. Ramirez’s case will now be heard in Medina County for the same accusations.
There are 17 ballots being questioned, whose envelope/ballots are named in the 34 counts on the indictment (2 for each).
After more than 3 years in limbo, Ramirez’ case was dismissed in Bandera County. Then three days later Judge Ramirez was reinstated back in the Justice of the Peace’s seat on Dec. 24.
Then on December 27, 2021 the defense was notified that Mark Haby, District Attorney of Medina County had signed a motion to recuse himself on December 21, 2021 as the same charges had been brought to Medina County and were filed on December 20 (the day before the dismissal in Bandera). A document from the Ramirez’ defense attorney alleges, “The Texas Attorney General had no right to initiate and pursue the prosecution against Tomas Ramirez in 2018. It had no right to file a complaint and information on January 21, 2021. And it had no right to present the case to the Bandera County Grand Jury and obtain the indictment of February 9, 2021.”
After being notified of the new case being filed in Medina County, the defense attorneys also wrote, “The defense made inquiries and learned that new information, signed by assistant Attorney General Cullen Kiker, had in fact been filed in Medina County on December 20, 2021. This new information alleges the identical conduct alleged in the indictment out of Bandera County that had been dismissed by Judge Emerson on December 21. The new information was based on a complaint, and Todd Forister, the same investigator who signed the earlier complaint in Bandera County also signed the new complaint in Medina County on December 20; the new complaint charges the same facts as did the earlier one.”
A recent supreme court case (Stevens) ruled that said the State’s Attorney General could not supersede local officials by directly prosecuting cases like this. The new ruling led to the dismissal of the case in Bandera County and the dismissal of information and complaint on January 5, 2022 in a Medina County hearing.
Local Medina County District Attorney, Mark Haby, recused himself from the case from the very beginning, due to the fact that Ramirez is a fellow local elected official. The State AG’s office is prosecuting the case in Medina County and tried to in Bandera County.
A grand jury in Medina County was held on Friday, January 7, 2022, during which Ramirez was indicted.
Sheriff Randy Brown could not say much, but commented that “The charges filed this time are the same, except that some of them are enhanced to state jail felony charges. While the grand jury would have been locals, the case will be investigated and prosecuted by the AG’s office, and it will be a visiting judge who tries the case. This case has really been a roller coaster for everyone.”
Local authorities cannot say much about the case due to the fact that it is being prosecuted by the State Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Office, not Medina County.
Ramirez resumed his JP duties when the dismissal came from Bandera County, and has already declared his intentions to seek re-election in the upcoming March 2022 Republican Primary Election.
The charges filed this January 2022, are the same charges that were filed previously in February 2018, except for the enhancements, according to Sheriff Brown. Ramirez is again charged with Engaging in Election Fraud, Unlawful Possession of ballots/ballot envelopes, and Unlawfully Assisting Voting by Mail.
As of this past October, Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, was prosecuting over 500 felony election fraud offenses in Texas courts, according to a press release by the AG’s office (see separate story).The Ramirez case has continued to linger on, and it was previously noted that State prosecutors never sought an arraignment or pretrial docket that would bring the case into court.
Medina County is the county that Ramirez practices law in, was elected Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 in, and the original county that DA Haby asked to be recused of the case, so it was sent elsewhere (Case ended up in Bandera County). Now the the case and charges have been filed in Medina County, the home county. District Attorney Haby again has recused himself.
Dismiss – Last week, on January 6, 2022 a motion was granted to dismiss the information and complaint as follows…. “Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the information and complaint and said motion of cause # 21-12-14276-CR (filed on December 20, 2021) was granted by District Judge Powell at 11:34 a.m. in a courtroom in Medina County in the District Court, 454th Judicial District. The offenses stated were: engaging in organized election fraud, unlawful possession of a ballot/ballot enveloped, and unlawfully assisting voter voting ballot by mail. (The same ones as filed in Bandera County.)
Timeline of events in this case:
Election March 2, 2018 -Republican Primary for the Justice of Peace Precinct 4 position between Tomas “Tommy” Ramirez and JP4 Phillip Montgomery. Ramirez was elected Justice of Peace, Precinct Four, Devine, Medina County by a vote of 724 to Montgomery 651. According to Medina County Elections results online the Voting totals were: Election Day 230 Ramirez/146 Montgomery; Absentee -69 Ramirez/23 Montgomery; Early Voting – 405 Ramirez/482 Montgomery; Total 724 for Ramirez vs 651 Montgomery. A total of 1375 votes counted. Undervotes were 5 on Election Day, 2 absentee, 13 early voting, a total of 20 undervotes. Total of 1395 ballots submitted.
April 13, 2018 – Texas Attorney General’s Office, Sgt. Todd Forister, was first assigned to investigate allegations of election fraud in Medina County.
January 1, 2019 – Ramirez took the bench of JP4.
January 15, 2021 – Assistant Attorney General Levi Fuller and his colleague Halie Daneils, first received the case file.
January 21, 2021 – Complaints filed in Bandera County. Election fraud allegedly occurred between dates of January 23, 2018 and March 2, 2018.
February 9, 2021 – Assistant Attorney General presented case to a Bandera County Grand Jury, which returned an indictment, cause No. CR21-021 that day.
February 11, 2021 – Mr. Ramirez was advised he had been indicted and he surrendered and posted bail in Bandera County that morning.
February 23, 2021 – Mr. Ramirez was suspended without pay, by the State Commission of Judicial Conduct, from his judicial office of JP4 based solely on the indictment of Feb. 9.
March 15, 2021 – The suspension decision was upheld following a post – suspension hearing held four days earlier.
December 20, 2021 – Same charges filed in Medina County.
December 21, 2021 – Ramirez’s case was dismissed in Bandera County, after 3 years and 9 months in limbo.
December 24, 2021 – Judge Ramirez was reinstated back in the Judge’s seat in Devine, Pct. 4 Medina County.
December 27, 2021 – the defense was notified that Mark Haby, District Attorney of Medina County had signed a motion to recuse himself on December 21, 2021, as the same charges had been brought to Medina County and were filed on December 20 (the day before the dismissal in Bandera).
January 6, 2022 – a motion was granted at hearing to dismiss the information and complaint as follows…. “Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the information and complaint and said motion of cause # 21-12-14276-CR (filed on December 20, 2021) was granted by District Judge Powell in Hondo. Noted was that the laws have changed since this case started and who can initiate a criminal case, the power was taken away from the Attorney General’s office (See vs case). The counties must initiate criminal cases themselves.
January 7, 2021 – Assistant Attorney General presented case to a Medina County Grand Jury, which returned an indictment, cause No # 21-12-14276-
January 14, 2022 – Tommy Ramirez surrenders and posts bail at Medina County Sheriff’s Office.
February 14, 2022 – Case to be heard by Judge Hilbig.
By Kathleen Calame