Harris County Republicans will have one race of critical importance in the 2024 election. The race for Harris County Sheriff directly impacts the county criminal justice system as the leader of county law enforcement and manager of the Harris County Jail. For years, the leftist media has criticized jail management and this critique has not abated with Ed Gonzalez. For the last few years, the Harris County Sheriff’s most important job has been the role of defendant in the leftist bail bond litigation in the Southern District of Texas.
The Harris County Sheriff has become an important pawn of Marxists out to destroy the criminal justice system. Yes, there are Marxists in county government (think Rodney Ellis, Lina Hidalgo, Adrian Garcia, Lesley Briones) working to destroy the jail, the judiciary, and policing functions of the Sheriff’s department. Here is where you need to know that Harris County County Commissioner [then Senator] Rodney Ellis conspired with other Marxists to file what is known as the ODonnell misdemeanor bail bond lawsuit in 2016 and later the companion litigation the Russell felony bail bond case in federal court. Remember, when the ODonnell lawsuit was filed in 2016, the Marxists were on the outside of Harris County government – Republicans controlled commissioners court and the Sheriff’s department. The claim in the lawsuit was that Ms. ODonnell, the plaintiff, and others were being unjustly held in the Harris County Jail because they could not afford bail. With ODonnell, she could not afford the $2,500 bail set in her driving while license suspended case. The Sheriff (Ron Hickman), misdemeanor judges (Republicans at the time), and Harris County (led by County Judge Ed Emmett) were all defendants in the ODonnell suit.
- On March 2, 2016, Maranda ODonnell, then an employee at Cracker Barrel on the Gulf Freeway, was arrested by La Porte police for misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance (carisoprodol). Her bond was set at $500 and she made bond on March 3, 2016. As a condition of her release, she was ordered not to consume/possess/use drugs. A Bond Condition Violation Report was filed on March 23, 2016 stating that she tested positive for THC (marihuana), benzos, and cocaine. On that date, the presiding judge ordered her bail revoked and raised to $1,000; an alias capital issued for ODonnell. On April 24, 2016, ODonnell was arrested by Deer Park police for driving while license invalid and possession of marihuana. Bail was set at $5,000. On April 26, 2016, she pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, driving while license invalid, and possession of marihuana and received 15 days Harris County Jail. On May 18, 2016, ODonnell was arrested by officers with the Precinct Eight Constable for driving while license invalid. Bail was set at $2,500.
On May 19, 2016, ODonnell filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Harris County, Texas, the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, and the misdemeanor judges. Federal intervention on anything is rarely a good thing and the Tenth Amendment provides that state lawmakers get to decide bail policies for their state.
ODonnell’s latest criminal charges confirm a pattern of driving around impaired and stealing stuff. The left’s hill to die, Ms. ODonnell, is the example why both of these bail bond cases were complete nonsense costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Her latest arrest for theft and DWI occurred years after the original ODonnell Bail bond case was filed in 2016. This is the left’s poster child for bail bond reform.
Commissioners Court hired lawyers to represent the county when the case was first filed in 2016. The Republicans held a majority on Commissioners Court at the time. The model for the Marxists was New York where they were well on their way to destroying the New York criminal justice system. This was being done through the ballot box. Rikers Island had been a target of litigation for “poor jail conditions.” This should sound familiar if you are listening to media reports of the Harris County Jail. Marxists like the chaos created by criminals – it helps with the narrative to reshape the criminal justice system in their image.
The Marxists’ goal in Harris County is to make our jail unconstitutionally cruel punishment. This allows leftist lawyers the ability to seek federal intervention. Marxist Alec Karaktsanis, the lawyer who filed the ODonnell litigation, wrote about it here. He details his plan very carefully. If you really don’t want to damage your brain, I do not suggest reading it. The theme is that everyone in the criminal justice system is racist. Poor black defendants are disproportionately jailed and therefore the whole system is racist. The Yale Law Review is always quick to denounce this nonsense and point out to folks this is not them. The Marxist diatribe explains how everyone in the judicial process is a racist and white people are responsible for the crime in minority communities.
Remember, the Sheriff runs the jail. The fact that he is Hispanic never comes up for this argument. Rodney Ellis is Black, and Lesley Briones, Lina Hidalgo, and Adrian Garcia are Hispanic. These are the members responsible for the horrendous conditions in the jail. Commissioners Court could fund the jail if they wanted to. Basic income is a priority over jail funding. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez could, if he wanted to, point out who is responsible for the deplorable jail conditions. The media knows who funds the jail. Yet, media report after media report never mentions the simple fact that the minority members of Commissioners Court fails to fund the jail. Remember, the goal is to get rid of the jail, à la New York.
The Marxists’ goal is to create such a hell hole that it violates constitutional standards and shame any judge who would dare send a criminal defendant into such an awful place. Understand, Lina Hidalgo, Rodney Ellis, Lesley Briones, and Adrian Garcia could hire additional jailers, expand the jail, or build a whole new jail if they wanted to be responsible. Harris County has needed new jail facilities for two decades. They could provide a safe and secure environment for defendants. This is not the plan. The objective of Rodney Ellis, Lina Hidalgo, Lesley Briones, and Adrian Garcia is to close the jail. Local media is ablaze with the awful jail conditions, which is simply furthering the Marxist narrative. Every time someone dies in the jail, it is front page news. Local media outlets run story after story about something that happened in the jail, but never a word about those actually responsible. Again, the blueprint for this is Rikers Island.
This gets us back to the Harris County Sheriff’s race. The Harris County Sheriff is a defendant in the Russell felony bail bond lawsuit. Our current Sheriff, Ed Gonzalez has a lawyer, Murray Fogler, who shows up every time there is a hearing in the ODonnell and Russell bail bond cases. He is an outside counsel whose job is to defend the Sheriff. Fogler’s other client is Arnold Ventures. Fogler promotes the interests of John and Laura Arnold. During COVID, Fogler actually submitted a motion on behalf of Sheriff Gonzalez to release 4,000 very dangerous inmates. The jail was just too dangerous for these violent felons and they may catch COVID. The Arnolds have promoted the idea that pre-trial detention should be prohibited. See how this works.
All Harris County Republican Primary voters have a job. When you see the Harris County Sheriff candidates on the stump, ask them about the Arnolds and the status of the bail bond cases. Some major Republican donors like Dick Weekley are tied to the Arnolds. Weekley is responsible for the impeachment of Ken Paxton. You may want to explore the candidate’s ties to Weekley. Bring up the fact that Ed Gonzalez is using the Arnold’s lawyer as his counsel in the Russell case. Ask about the attempted release of thousands of dangerous felons on behalf of the Harris County Sheriff. No Republican Sheriff candidate should allow this to go on one second after elected.
Be informed as the Harris County Sheriff race progresses. There are several announced candidates. Watch to see if candidates are talking about Arnold Ventures and their influence over the the Sheriff and the bail bond cases. There has been no greater impact on the criminal justice system than the destruction of our bail system and Sheriff Gonzalez’s involvement in “bail reform” represented by the Arnold’s lawyer. The Arnold’s work in the Texas Legislature and their legislative operatives are furthering the lawless agenda in Harris County. The Harris County Sheriff’s race is a step toward the Marxist agenda of destroying our criminal justice system. You the voter need to choose wisely and carefully – ask questions.
Further Reading I wrote this the about the hearing before the consent decree was signed. Since Franklin Bynum has been voted out of office and Darrell Jordan looks to be Rodney’s candidate against Kim Ogg in the Democratic primary for Harris County District Attorney.