HOUSTON (CN) — A former Houston police captain accused of pulling a gun on a man he thought was involved in a ballot-harvesting scam said he is giving up private investigative work at a bond hearing Friday.
Attempting to make a citizen's arrest, Mark Aguirre, 63, rear-ended an A/C repairman's truck with his SUV around 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 19, then pointed a pistol at the man and ordered him to get on the ground while his associates searched the truck, which they believed contained thousands of fraudulent ballots, Houston police say in a probable cause affidavit.
But all police found in the truck was A/C equipment.
Aguirre told police he was part of a group investigating voter fraud for the Liberty Center for God and Country, an organization run by Christian Republican activist Dr. Steven Hotze, and he and his team had been conducting 24/7 surveillance for four days on the home of the repairman, identified as DL in court records.
"The defendant stated that he knew that DL had fraudulent ballots in his truck and his home," the affidavit states. "The defendant stated that DL has approximately seven hundred and fifty thousand fraudulent mail ballots and is using Hispanic children to sign the ballots because the children's fingerprints would not appear in any databases. The defendant stated that [Facebook founder] Mark Zuckerberg had given $9.37 million for ballot harvesting.”
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg spoke about the case at a news conference Tuesday following Aguirre's arrest.
“He crossed the line from dirty politics to commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no one was killed. His alleged investigation was backward from the start – first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened," Ogg said.
Aguirre, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, was released Tuesday after posting $30,000 bail bond.
Prosecutors filed a motion for bond restrictions, asking that Aguirre be ordered not to have any contact with DL or DL's family, not possess any firearms and wear an ankle monitor.
Aguirre's bond-conditions hearing had been set for Thursday, but it was pushed back a day after his attorney disclosed Aguirre had been diagnosed with Covid-19.
Appearing via Zoom on Friday before Harris County District Judge Greg Glass, Aguirre agreed not to be involved in any further investigations, especially regarding voter ballot fraud and originating from the Liberty Center for God and Country.
"I won't do any investigations. Not for them or anybody else," Aguirre said.
Standing before the judge, his attorney Terry Yates said, "You're not going to work? This could go on for a couple years."
"No sir," Aguirre said.
Steady income is apparently not a concern for Aguirre right now, as his subpoenaed bank records showed he had received $266,000 in wire transfers from the Liberty Center for God and Country, including $211,000 the day after the alleged assault.
Hotze, an allergy doctor, confirmed the Liberty Center had made the payments to Aguirre at a news conference Wednesday in which he called the case against Aguirre "bogus."
"That gentleman was charged two months after an incident, which raises, or should raise, a real flag with everyone in the press,” Hotze said.
Yates said at Friday's hearing Aguirre is not a continuing threat and has no criminal history.
Glass declined to order Aguirre to wear an ankle monitor, but ordered him to surrender his guns. "I'm going to take them. I'll secure them for him," Yates said after the hearing.
Police seized cellphones from Aguirre when they arrested him. Prosecutors and the judge agreed to Yates' suggestion that a special master be appointed to review Aguirre's phone records.
"He'll decide what's relevant to the case and what's protected by attorney-client privilege," Yates said after the hearing.
Aguirre's arrest caps a busy year for Hotze in which he challenged numerous Covid-19 shutdown orders in court this spring, then shifted to election litigation in the late summer.
Facebook reportedly took down Hotze’s post after he stated in May that masks "create serious risks to the wearer" on the Conservative Republicans of Texas' page.
After large protests over police killings of Black people broke out across Texas in early June, Hotze called Republican Governor Greg Abbot's chief of staff and left a message telling Abbott how to handle the protesters, according to the Texas Tribune, which got the message through a public-records request.
"I want to make sure that he has National Guard down here and they have the order to shoot to kill if any of these son-of-a-bitch people start rioting like they have in Dallas, start tearing down businesses — shoot to kill the son of a bitches. That’s the only way you restore order. Kill 'em. Thank you," Hotze said.
Hotze's focus turned to the elections in August when he sued Abbott over the governor's order extending early voting for the November election by six days. In late October, Hotze and three Republicans on the November ballot filed a federal lawsuit in which they unsuccessfully tried to invalidate more than 100,000 votes Harris County residents had cast in drive-thru voting booths.
This is also not the first time Aguirre has found himself in the spotlight.
He had worked for the Houston Police Department for 23 years when it fired him in 2003 over his involvement in the arrests of nearly 300 people in a Kmart parking lot on Westheimer Road, a main thoroughfare in Houston, in August 2002.
Houston police were trying to crack down on street racing, but most of those arrested were charged with trespassing or curfew violations before prosecutors dismissed all the charges, the Houston Chronicle reported. The city paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits arising from the arrests. Aguirre was one of 32 officers disciplined for the incident.
Glass on Friday set Aguirre's next hearing in the aggravated assault case for Feb. 23, 2021.
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