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I Know Bullshit When I See It

February 17, 2017

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is a despicable man who should be in prison where he belongs. I hope that anyone who does a Google search for “Ken Paxton + despicable” will find this story right up top.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is a despicable man who should be in prison where he belongs. I hope that anyone who does a Google search for “Ken Paxton + despicable” will find this story right up top.

Paxton exulted when a Texas jury sentenced a Mexican-born mother of four U.S.-citizen children to eight years in prison for the despicable crime of voting, because she didn’t know the difference between being a citizen and a legal resident of the United States.

Rosa Maria Ortega, 37, was brought to the United States as an infant by her mother, who abandoned her. Now Ortega’s four children, ages 13 to 16, will go through adolescence without their mother.

Ortega, a legal U.S. resident, will almost certainly be deported after she serves her time in unconstitutionally abusive Texas prisons. But the trial record, and Texas court history, show unequivocally that Ortega is not a criminal: She is a woman with a sixth-grade education who was merely confused.

A recording played for her Tarrant County jury showed that Ortega answered “yes” when asked if she is a citizen, then said “Mexican” when asked again.

Ortega, by the way, voted Republican. She even voted for Paxton.

Paxton, who faces felony securities charges that could send him to prison for life, said that this insane and unconstitutional eight-year sentence “shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure.”

With all due respect, Mr. Attorney General Paxton (and none is due), that’s caca de vaca.

Ortega’s attorney Clark Birdsall told The New York Times, correctly, that the sentence was inflicted to score political points.

“She can own property; she can serve in the military; she can get a job; she can pay taxes. But she can’t vote, and she didn’t know that,” said Birdsall, who previously oversaw prosecution of voter fraud in Dallas County.

Let’s look at the record.

In 2012, a Texas woman received five years' probation for voting five times by absentee ballot.

In 2015, a Fort Worth woman received probation for vote fraud after asking her son to cast a ballot for her husband, who also voted that day.

Four of Donald Trump’s top political appointees registered to vote in two states at once: his Rasputin, Stephen Bannon; press secretary Sean Spicer; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; and son-in-law Jared Kushner. No prosecutions there, though.

Now Rosa Maria, who was merely confused, will do eight years in Texas prisons for trying to do her civic duty.

Come on, America. You know as well as I do: Rosa Maria’s crime was being Mexican, in Texas.

And what does Texas do to people who disenfranchise tens of thousands of citizens who should be allowed to vote, but happen to be poor and dark-skinned?

It elects them to high office.

The Fifth Circuit last year found that Texas voting laws unconstitutionally discriminated against minorities, but Texas’s indicted attorney general continues to inflict harm upon poor people with brown skins.

Paxton is charged with pumping the stock of a Texas technology company, Servergy, by falsely claiming he had invested in it, without telling investors he would be paid commissions on the money they forked over.

Paxton was a member of the Texas House at the time, and had not registered with the Texas State Securities Board. He was charged with two first-degree felony counts of securities fraud and a third-degree felony count of failing to register with the State Securities Board.

Now Paxton is crowing about sending a mother of four to prison for eight years.

What good will it do Texas, the United States, you, me or anyone to have Rosa Maria’s children grow up without a mother?

The only one for whom it may possibly do any “good” is Paxton, and his vile political career.

Rosa Maria’s prison sentence will surely inflict more harms of all our sorts upon our country than any so-called harm Rosa Maria ever did: the costs of her incarceration, Paxton’s legal bills to defend her cruel and unusual punishment, not to mention the harm done to four children whose crime was to be born in Texas.

I helped defend Central-American torture victims in U.S. immigration prisons under the Reagan administration. When we’d nearly lost hope of ever winning a case, we came up with a slogan: “It’s a great appeal.”

Rosa Maria has a great appeal: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

I hope Paxton meets Rosa Maria in prison. Maybe she could teach him Spanish, or the Eighth Amendment. Though I doubt it. I think Paxton is beyond hope.

I hope he goes to prison and dies there, beyond hope, and that Rosa Maria wins on appeal and is returned to her children.

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