Texas Politics

Tarrant County picks replacement for disgraced judge who got probation for rigging election

The Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals have joined together to create a commission that will focus the attention of the highest judicial officials in the state on mental health.
The Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals have joined together to create a commission that will focus the attention of the highest judicial officials in the state on mental health. Thinkstock

One week after Tarrant Justice of the Peace Russ Casey resigned and pleaded guilty to tampering with a government record, county leaders named a replacement.

Bill Brandt, an Air Force veteran who in March won the Republican primary election for this post, on Tuesday was picked by the Tarrant County Commissioners Court to serve as the interim Precinct 3 justice of the peace.

"I think Bill is going to do a great job," Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said.

Casey last week drew massive media attention for receiving probation after local women convicted of voter fraud received jail time for their crimes.

This post, which serves northeast Tarrant County, pays $125,911.76 a year.

Brandt bested GOP challenger Lenny Lopez for the party's nomination for this seat in the March 6 primary after Casey's name was removed from the ballot. There is no Democrat seeking the job in November.

"I'm deeply honored to have the confidence of the citizens of northeast Tarrant County ... and of the commissioners," Brandt said. "I don't intend to let them down."

Brandt, whose campaign website noted that he is "committed to the Rule of Law," also states he is a 30-year Republican activist, licensed attorney and Eagle Scout mentor.

Other cases

Casey last week was sentenced to two years in jail that was probated over five years.

This case, which stems from claims earlier this year that Casey turned in fake signatures to secure a place on the March 6 primary ballot, sparked an outcry from many who say local women convicted of voter fraud received much harsher punishment than Casey did.

In March, a judge sentenced Crystal Mason of Rendon to five years in prison for illegally voting in the 2016 presidential election while she was on probation from an earlier fraud conviction.

And in 2017, Rosa Maria Ortega, a Grand Prairie mother of four, was convicted of illegally voting and sentenced to eight years in prison. Ortega, who has a green card, was sentenced for illegally voting in the 2012 general election and the 2014 Republican primary runoff.

"We know that there is a great amount of racial disparity in sentencing, but this is a pretty stark comparison to illustrate that," Emily Farris, a political science professor at TCU, has told the Star-Telegram. "We know that voter fraud is fairly uncommon and pretty rare.

"I find it a little disheartening when there is a real case of fraud ... abusing the public's trust, that this incident has a different outcome than the other ones."

Casey's case

Earlier this year, a petition was filed to remove Casey from the ballot amid the allegations of false signatures. Casey withdrew his candidacy, ended his re-election bid and the case was turned over to law enforcers to investigate.

Casey, first elected in 2007, has a history of making headlines. Last year, he was reprimanded for having an "improper sexual relationship" with a former clerk by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Part of Casey's plea agreement calls for the former judge to no longer frequent the Southlake Government Complex and Tarrant County Northeast Courthouse in Hurst, where he had judicial offices.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Russ Casey, Tarrant County Precinct 3 J.P., resigned immediately after his conviction Monday morning, April 23. He was accused of falsely witnessing all signatures on his petition for election.

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