In Texas, district attorneys have to run for office every four years. According to an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ms. Wilson used her office to solicit campaign donations for a Republican fundraiser. When a special prosecutor was assigned to investigate the issue, Ms. Wilson simply apologized and claimed that she did not realize that she was violating the law. The charges against her were then quietly dismissed.
Rosa Ortega, a permanent U.S. resident and mother of four, was not so lucky. Like District Attorney Sharen Wilson, Ms. Ortega unknowingly violated campaign finance law. Unlike District Attorney Sharen Wilson, however, the charges against Ms. Ortega were not quietly dismissed.
The charges against Ms. Ortega stemmed from her (unknowingly) voting illegally in the 2012 and 2014 elections. According to a New York Times article about the case, it was not until Ms. Ortega contacted the Tarrant County election officials after her ballot was rejected in 2015 that she realized that she may have violated the law. In her conversation with the election officials, Ms. Ortega complained that Dallas County had no issue with the fact that she is a permanent U.S. as opposed to being a U.S. citizen. These are clearly not the actions of a person who intends to break the law.
Nonetheless, DA Sharen Wilson saw to it that charges were filed against her and pressed for the maximum sentence in the name of "protecting the integrity of the election" . Ultimately, Rosa Ortega was sentenced to eight years in prison; in addition, she is facing certain deportation when her sentence is over.
As for DA Wilson's "mistake," Maureen Shelton, the special prosecutor who was assigned to investigate the matter, cited "insufficient evidence of criminal intent" as the reason for dismissing the charges. Apparently, Maureen Shelton and the other people responsible for investigating the matter did not bother to look at DA Wilson's campaign finance reports. If they had, they would have found that DA Wilson has been accepting campaign donations from employees of the Tarrant County DA's office long after she took office in 2015. As the chart below shows, DA Wilson has been accepting campaign donations from employees since at least as early as 2016 when she began gearing up for re-election. With at least one local blog describing DA Wilson as a "horrible boss", one can't help but wonder if any of the people in the table shown below felt pressured to donate money to Wilson' re-election campaign.
Source: Texas Ethics Commission
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