HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo fired back Friday after the Texas Rangers opened a new public corruption investigation tied to “concealed” records subpoenaed during a grand jury’s review of the federal indictments of three of her high-level staff members.
The records subpoenaed are related to the investigation launched last year into how the county’s nearly $11 million COVID-19 outreach contract was awarded to a local woman’s LLC.
In a news conference streamed live on Click2Houston.com, Hidalgo said she wanted to call out the truth, as well as “what’s false.” She accused Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg of abuse of power, saying the DA is pulling a “stunt” in an effort to get re-elected.
“The same thing has happened throughout the past year, maybe two that we’ve been dealing with this – the timing, right?” Hidalgo said. “She could have just sent a sealed subpoena for this but she chose to do it this way so she could leak it.”
Hidalgo said Ogg created a “false story” with detailed statements for the public to get alarmed about.
“When it comes to the substance, many times we’ve already seen there’s nothing there,” Hidalgo said. The judge listed examples, including the 2022 indictments of staffers Alex Triantaphyllis, Aaron Dunn, and Wallis Nader.
“This is just the same dirty politics she’s been playing at for years, and her patterns are extremely clear. There’s a lot of evidence of that,” Hidalgo said. “It’s no coincidence this comes out in the middle of now her re-election and one that’s not going well for her. She’s up for election March 5 and I happen to know her opponent, Sean Teare. He is a well-respected, very experienced, strong opponent who not only just released a poll showing that he’s ahead, but he has severely outraised her.”
Hidalgo called the new tampering investigation disruptive and accused Ogg of using her office for political gain.
Hidalgo said she was warned by her political advisors that Ogg would reportedly make her re-election efforts about the judge and said her endorsement for Teare made it easier.
“Because she can then say, ‘Well, the only reason Lina Hidalgo is supporting my opponent is because we are investigating her office,’” Hidalgo said. “She can make it about me because the judge hasn’t yet heard the merits of the case against my staff members and so she hasn’t yet — and the operative word here is yet — fallen flat on her face like she has with every single other one of her political vendettas.”
The judge accused Ogg of releasing stories that sound compelling initially but are “riddled with exaggerations, with falsehood, with conspiracy theories.” She said Ogg’s “coping strategies” serve as an outlet for what she called “political anger.”
Hidalgo said she’s determined to continue to speak out against Ogg.
“We’re not scared. We care about Harris County and we’re not going to let a thug run her office in this way and harm the people in this way,” Hidalgo said.
Ogg released the following statement after Hidalgo’s news conference:
“County Judge Hidalgo’s outburst today was nothing more than an attempted deflection from the facts and evidence that led to the initial indictment of her staffers. She conflated an ongoing Texas Rangers criminal investigation with her political endorsement of my challenger and engaged in a childish exercise in name-calling that has become all too common in our political process. Using her status as county judge to launch this diatribe is an unfortunate attempt to taint the investigative process and to confuse the public. It also serves her indicted staffers very poorly. My office pursues evidence-based prosecutions, regardless of political party, and we look forward to resolving this case in court.”
According to previous search warrants, investigators were looking for any communications or files that may show Triantaphyllis, Dunn, and Nader revealed non-public information to Felicity Pereyra, the founder of Elevate Strategies. The county reportedly awarded the business a multi-million-dollar contract but revoked it after concerns came up about how it was rewarded. A new search warrant showed Texas Rangers are looking into whether Hidalgo’s office tampered with evidence during the 2022 investigation into those claims.
Texas Ranger Daron Parker wrote in the search warrant that “it was discovered that numerous documents and communications that were ordered to be produced by Grand Jury subpoena had been concealed and made unavailable during the earlier Grand Jury proceedings.”
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