A campaign official working for Texas congressional candidate Mike Siegel ran into trouble with the law after telling police his candidate is a Democrat at the county courthouse, according to TPM’s Josh Marshall.
Marshall chased down the story after stumbling upon Siegel’s tweet stating: “Just learned that my field director was arrested while delivering our letter. He told police he was working for me and the officer asked, “what party is he?” Now Jacob is under 48 hour investigatory detention in Waller County.”
What follows is a disturbing account.
> In the 10th district, there’s a historically black university called Prairie View A&M University. There’s a long history of the local county government (Waller County) trying to prevent the students there from voting. There was even a big Supreme Court case about it in 1979. This year local officials have put a new set of obstacles in the way of the students voting.
> As Siegel explained to me, Siegel’s campaign wrote a letter proposing a solution to the problem and sent a campaign staffer, Jacob Aronowitz, to deliver it to the County Courthouse in Waller County. In Texas, the County Judge (in this case Waller County Judge Carbett “Trey” J. Duhon III) is actually the county executive, not a judge as we usually use the term. In any case, Aronowitz presented the letter to a member of the County Clerk’s staff and then took a picture of himself submitting the letter as a sort of proof of service. It’s not clear whether this was County Clerk Debbie Hollan or another member of the clerk’s office. Whoever it was got upset that he’d taken a picture and called over a bailiff – she apparently thought her privacy had been violated by taking the photograph.
Aronowitz proceeded to exit but was stopped by a county sheriff’s deputy who wanted to know who he was and what business had brought him to the courthouse.
> Soon enough Aronowitz is surrounded by a court bailiff, a sheriff’s deputy and a city police officer. Aronowitz asks whether he is free to go or whether he’s under arrest. He also calls the candidate, Mike Siegel, who’s also a civil rights attorney. So Siegel is listening to the conversation and advising Aronowitz what to do as he’s being questioned and not allowed to leave.
> Siegel didn’t say this to me in so many words. But from his description of the back and forth, it seems like that the law enforcement officers weren’t happy with Aronowitz but weren’t clear what exactly they could charge him with or if they could arrest him. After Aronowitz explained what he was at the courthouse to do and then identified himself, one of the officers asked Aronowitz which party his candidate was with.
Not long after Aronowitz informed the officers that Siegel is a Democrat, the phone went dead and he was arrested for a “48 hour investigative detention.”
> A local lawyer was called in and Aronowitz was released a relatively short time later. But that wasn’t the end of it. He was charged with a misdemeanor for failing to identify himself to a law enforcement officer – something Siegel said he heard Aronowitz do prior to being arrested. His court date, ironically, is November 7th, the day after election day.