Gregg County judge sets trial date for 4 accused in vote harvesting scheme

Shannon Brown, Marlena Jackson, Charlie Burns, and DeWayne Ward
Shannon Brown, Marlena Jackson, Charlie Burns, and DeWayne Ward((Source: Gregg County Judicial Records))
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 1:49 PM CDT
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GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - A Gregg County judge has set a trial date for the four people, including a county commissioner, who are accused of being part of an organized vote harvesting scheme during the 2018 Democratic primary election.

Gregg County Commissioner Shannon Brown, Marlena Jackson, Charlie Burns, and DeWayne Ward appeared in Judge Alfonso Charles’ 124th Judicial District Court Friday morning.

During the hearing, Charles set the trial date for Jan. 31, 2022, for all four suspects.

According to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, Gregg County commissioner Shannon Brown, Marlena Jackson, Charlie Burns, and DeWayne Ward were arrested.

A press release said to increase the pool of ballots needed to swing the race in Brown’s favor, the group targeted young, able-bodied voters to cast ballots by mail by fraudulently claiming the voters were “disabled,” in most cases without the voters’ knowledge or consent. Under Texas election law, mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are physically ill and cannot vote in person as a result.

The release said in total, the state filed 134 felony charges against the four defendants, including engaging in organized election fraud, illegal voting, fraudulent use of an application for a mail-in ballot, unlawful possession of a mail-in ballot, tampering with a governmental record, and election fraud. Penalties for these offenses range from six months in state jail to 99 years in prison.

A grand jury returned indictments on 23 felony counts against Commissioner Brown, 97 felony counts against Marlena Jackson, eight felony counts against Charlie Burns, and six felony counts against DeWayne Ward. The Office of the Attorney General was assisted by the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office during the investigation. The Texas Attorney General will prosecute this case alongside the Gregg County District Attorney.

According to a joint press release from state Sen. Bryan Hughes and state Rep. Jay Dean, 366 mail ballot applications, all based on disabilities, were requested in Precinct 4, while a total of 12 were located in all other Gregg County precincts. While Kasha Williams defeated Brown by more than 20 votes in in-person voting, 73 percent of the 366 mail ballot votes were cast for Brown, who won the election by five votes.

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