Steve Miller resumes reporting on Woodlands RUD voter fraud and the reversal of Jim Jenkins 2013 conviction..
By Steve Miller | Texas Watchdog
The state’s 14th Court of Appeals ruled a district court failed to inform the jury it could consider the defendant was mistakenly interpreting election law based on information from the state’s Secretary of State and Attorney General.A state appellate court on Thursday reversed the conviction of Jim Jenkins, a Woodlands man who took part in a plan to change the composition of a local road utility district.
To do so would have allowed jurors to consider Jenkins was acting in faith on information he received from state officials regarding voting law.
Jenkins was one of four people convicted of illegal voting in the 2010 election of the Woodlands Road Utility District. He and several others, using the state’s opaque residency laws regarding voter residency, stayed for two nights at a Residence Inn hotel within the district in order to vote in the road utility board election.
Three of the group won seats on the district’s board by voting for each other, but a district judge threw out the results.
In 2012, then-state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office filed felony charges against eight of the people involved in the election.
Through agreements to testify and plea bargains, the group was eventually whittled down to four; Jenkins, Adrian Heath, Sybil Doyle, and her daughter, Roberta Cook.
All four were convicted and sentenced to prison. All four are appealing their cases.
The court ruled that the “trial court erred by denying Jenkins’s requested jury instruction on the statutory defense of mistake of law … the reasonableness of Jenkins’s beliefs and conduct was an issue for the jury to decide.”
The case was heard in Montgomery County by visiting District Judge John Stevens Jr. of Jefferson County.
The state would not comment on its next move in the case. It can retry the case or appeal it to a higher court, which would be the Court of Criminal Appeals.
“It will depend now on what the state wants to do,” Jenkins said. “I expect this will eventually be in federal court.”
Jenkins was convicted in June 2013 and sentenced to three years in prison and fined $10,000.
After the Woodlands election and the tossing of results, most thought the case was finished. But then state Sen. Tommy Williams, who was elected in the district, helped utility district officials push for voter fraud charges. Williams and Abbott received tens of thousands of dollars from the law firm that serves as counsel for the road utility district.
Jenkins and Heath contend their prosecution was at the hands of a powerful political cabal seeking to appease its supporters.
A juror in Jenkins’ case said in a 2013 story on the case that “it was clear this was some kind of political vendetta. In my heart, I felt these guys had ruffled the feathers of someone and, I don’t know, these guys in this RUD had money and came back with a vengeance. But that never came across in the trial.”