Conservative activist Steven Hotze on Wednesday was indicted on two felony charges related to his alleged involvement in an air conditioning repairman being held at gunpoint in 2020 during a bizarre search for fraudulent mail ballots that did not exist, according to his attorney, Gary Polland.
Hotze, 71, was indicted by a Harris County grand jury and faces one count of unlawful restraint and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Court filings in the case were not available Wednesday evening. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg declined to comment.
The charges stem from Hotze's hiring of more than a dozen private investigators to look for voter fraud in Harris County ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
One of the investigators, former Houston police captain Mark Aguirre, was arrested in December 2020 and charged with aggravated assault. Prosecutors said Aguirre used his vehicle to run an air conditioning repairman off the road before dawn on Oct. 19, 2020.
Aguirre then detained the repairman at gunpoint and ordered an associate to search his truck, according to court filings. When a Houston police officer happened upon the scene and stopped to investigate, Aguirre said the truck contained 750,000 fraudulent mail ballots prepared by Democrats.
The truck contained only air conditioning parts and equipment. Hotze's investigators have not produced any credible evidence to support allegations that Democrats orchestrated a wide-ranging mail ballot scheme in Harris County during that election.
Polland said the charges against Hotze are "outrageous" and his client had no knowledge of the roadside incident until he read media reports of Aguirre's arrest. He said Aguirre asked Hotze for funds to investigate alleged election fraud, Hotze agreed, and that was the extent of his involvement in Aguirre's affairs.
"All I know is Hotze didn't aid or abet this in any way," Polland said. "The donation of funds was for a righteous activity of rooting out ballot fraud."
Grand jury subpoenas in Aguirre's case show that Hotze paid Aguirre $266,400. Most of that sum, $211,400, was paid to Aguirre on the day after the alleged holdup.
Aguirre remains free on bond awaiting trial. One of his conditions of release is that he no longer work for Hotze.
Hotze, however, plans to continue monitoring election activity in Houston. At a "Freedom Gala" fundraiser Hotze hosted on April 2 with Attorney General Ken Paxton, Hotze said donations would be used to investigate voter fraud in Texas.
Also attending the event was Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who has promoted the baseless theory that former President Donald Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Polland said Hotze does not plan to alter his plans because of the indictments.
Hotze, a physician, has long advocated on behalf of conservative issues. He was instrumental in the 2015 defeat of Houston's anti-discrimination ordinance, which he derided as "pro-homosexual." He opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage spurred by a Supreme Court ruling earlier that year.
In 2020, he unsuccessfully sued Harris County in an attempt to have 127,000 ballots cast at drive-thru locations thrown out.
His far-right beliefs have sometimes led to disputes with other Republicans. In June 2020, during protests following the police killing of George Floyd, Hotze left a voicemail with Gov. Greg Abbott's chief of staff urging the governor "to shoot to kill if any of these son-of-a-bitch people start rioting." U.S. John Cornyn called the remarks "absolutely disgusting and reprehensible."
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/04/20/steve-hotze-houston-indicted-voter-fraud/.