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Judge tosses case against Black Texan accused of felony voting fraud

A ruling that the Texas attorney general lacks authority to independently prosecute election fraud cases led to the dismissal of Hervis Rogers' indictment.

HOUSTON (CN) — A Black man who was facing 40 years in prison for voter fraud in a felony indictment secured by the Texas Attorney General’s Office after he stood in line for hours to cast his ballot had his case dismissed this week, his attorneys announced Friday.

Hervis Rogers, 63, voted in the March 2020 Democratic primary at a Houston university after waiting more than six hours to submit his ballot.

A genial man with an easy smile, Rogers was interviewed at the polls by reporters from several media outlets and his story of determination – he reportedly voted around 1 a.m. and had to be at work just five hours later – became national news.

But all the attention backfired when a grand jury in Montgomery County, just north of Houston’s Harris County, indicted him in June 2021 on two felony counts of illegal voting, with each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The Texas Election Code allows prosecutions for voting law violations to be pursued in the county where the events occurred or an adjacent county.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who has been accused of overzealously pursuing voter fraud cases against minorities, or someone in his office, had apparently delved into Rogers’ background and discovered his criminal history. And Paxton's prosecutors convinced the grand jury to indict Rogers.

When Rogers submitted his ballots in the March 2020 primary and the November 2018 midterms, his indictment stated, he knew he was ineligible because he was on felony parole from a 25-year prison sentence for burglary of a building.

But after Rogers was arrested in July 2021, with his bail set at $100,000, he said he had not known he was ineligible to vote. The Bail Project, a California nonprofit that provides bail assistance and advocates for an end to cash bail, paid for his release.

A ruling last December by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals undermined Rogers’ indictment, as the court, in an 8-1 decision, ruled that the attorney general lacks independent authority to prosecute election fraud cases and must first obtain the permission of local prosecutors.

The court denied Paxton’s motion for a rehearing last month, leading Texas 221st District Court Judge Lisa Michalk, a Republican, to dismiss Rogers’ indictment on Oct.12.

His attorneys with the ACLU of Texas broke the news on Friday morning.

“Hervis Rogers’ case has been dismissed! Mr. Rogers … never should have been prosecuted in the first place. The court’s decision allows him to move on with his life after suffering through this ordeal,” the group wrote on Twitter.

Rogers also expressed his relief: "I am thankful that justice has been done. It has been horrible to go through this, and I am so glad my case is over. I look forward to being able to get back to my life,” he told the Houston Chronicle.

In-person early voting for this year’s midterm elections starts next Monday in Texas.

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