(The Center Square) – The head of the Houston Police Officer’s Union had a message for Harris County voters: if you want to reduce violent crime in Texas’ most violent county, vote out judges in November who release violent offenders.
Harris County is the most violent county in Texas, based on crime data. That’s not because police aren’t doing their jobs, Ray Hunt, executive director of the Board of the Houston Police Officer’s Union (HPOU), told The Center Square. It’s because of “Democrat activist judges” who release violent offenders, who then go out and commit more violent crimes.
Victims continue to be killed by violent repeat felony offenders after criminal district court judges release them on small bonds, he said. Nothing will change unless the incumbent judges who continue to release them are voted out of office, he added.
“The best thing” voters can do to reverse this trend “is to kick out every single one of these Democratic judges that are sitting in Harris County, Texas. I don’t say that across the board,” Hunt told The Center Square. “There are great Democrats all over this place. One of our best friends is Sylvester Turner, Democrat mayor. Our other best friend is Democratic state Senator John Whitmire.”
Houston began 2022 leading the U.S. in homicides. In 2021, 473 people were homicide victims in Houston, an 18% increase from 2020 and a 71% increase from 2019, according to the Houston Police Department. In 2020, there were 400 murders, a 42% increase from 2019.
“The police, we’re doing our job,” Hunt told The Center Square.
“How could we have arrested more felonies last year than the previous year if we’re not doing our jobs? The answer is we keep arresting the same people over and over and over.”
According to Houston Crime Stoppers, over the past three years, 156 people in Harris County were killed by individuals already charged with murder, who were then released after posting low bonds; 58 had been charged with capital murder.
“Even more disturbing is over a dozen of the defendants on this list are actually out on bond again,” Andy Kahan, Crime Stoppers’ director of victim’s services, said in a statement.
Part of the problem is that judges have increasingly dismissed cases brought against violent repeat felony offenders declaring no probable cause when probable cause is presented – and even after attorneys on both sides reached an agreement, he said.
In 2015, judges dismissed 786 felony cases in Harris County for no probable cause, Hunt added. In 2021, they dismissed 1,497 felony cases.
“These are violent offenders repeatedly coming through the court system,” he said. “Every time someone shoots an individual, they have a list of felony convictions longer than my arm.”
In the 180th District, incumbent Judge DaSean Jones freed six alleged murderers who were later charged with committing nine murders, the HPOU PAC said. He faced no Democratic challengers in the primary, but in November faces Republican Tami Pierce, a criminal defense and personal injury attorney from Humble.
In the 182nd, incumbent Judge Danilo “Danny” Lacayo has freed 11 defendants, “giving them the opportunity to kill nine other victims,” the PAC states. Lacayo, a Nicaraguan immigrant, was a prosecutor and public defender before running for judge. He faces Republican Rob Jackson, an Army veteran, retired Houston Police Officer and attorney, in November.
In the 184th, Judge Abigail Anastasio, who released seven defendants who later allegedly killed 10 more people, lost her Democratic primary race to challenger Katherine “Kat” Thomas. Thomas, a prosecutor, will run against Republican prosecutor Lori DeAngelo in November.
In the 208th, Judge Greg Glass, who freed five defendants who later allegedly murdered nine individuals, lost his primary election. His two challengers are heading to a May 24 runoff election: Beverly Armstrongand Kimberly “Kim” McTorry. Whoever wins will face Republican prosecutor Heather Hudson.
In the 228th, Judge Frank Aquilar, whom Fox26 Houston identifies as having released violent offenders, narrowly defeated his challenger and will run against Republican Andy Taylor in November.
In the 230th, Judge Chris Morton “freed eight defendants on bond, seeing them commit seven additional murders,” the HPOU PAC states. He defeated his Democratic primary challengers and faces his predecessor, Republican Brad Hart, in November.
In the 232nd, Judge Josh Hill freed eight offenders on low bonds who later went on to allegedly kill six more people, the HPOU PAC states. Hill didn’t have a primary challenger but will face Republican Joshua Norman in November.
In the 248th, Judge Hillary Unger freed nine accused murderers who were later charged with committing seven additional murders, HPOU PAC reports. She defeated her primary challenger and faces Republican attorney Julian Ramirez in November.
In the 262nd, Judge Lori Chambers Gray freed 10 defendants who were later charged with committing 11 murders after posting bonds, HPOU PAC reports. She didn’t have a primary challenger but faces Republican Tonya McLaughlin in November.
In the 263rd, Judge Amy Martin, who’s released seven defendants who later allegedly killed eight people, HPOU PAC reports. She narrowly lost to Democrat Attorney Melissa Marie Morris. Morris faces Republican Amber Cox in November.
Hunt compares Harris County’s criminal judicial process to a flooding house.
“If your pipe bursts in your house and is flooding your house, and your wife tells you, ‘Hey, go get the water cleared up off the floor.’ You don’t start mopping until you go stop the problem coming out of the wall. Otherwise, it’s futile,” he said. “That’s how we feel. We catch them. We put them in. They let them right back out before we’ve even done the report.”