Tarrant County sheriff won’t investigate voter fraud claims in body camera footage

Amanda McCoy/amccoy@star-telegram.com

The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office will not investigate voter fraud claims made in body camera footage about Democratic County Judge candidate Deborah Peoples, according to a press release Monday evening.

Because Peoples is at the center of the claims and Sheriff Bill Waybourn has endorsed candidates on the ballot, the release states that Waybourn believes it would be “inappropriate” for the sheriff’s office to investigate. The statement reads that the sheriff’s office will pass on information to the attorney general’s office.

Waybourn has endorsed Republican Tim O’Hare in the race for Tarrant County judge, as well as other Republican candidates on the ballot. Representatives for Waybourn didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The body camera footage was addressed by the Tarrant County GOP last week after it was pushed out by a conservative news website called Gateway Pundit along with a story. The website claims it shows a man experiencing homelessness who was arrested in 2016 for voter fraud and served 10 days in jail being questioned by a Fort Worth police officer.

The man in the video, dated January 3, 2020, tells a police officer he was paid by county judge candidate Deborah Peoples to harvest ballots.

The Fort Worth Police Department didn’t immediately respond to a records request for the body camera footage.

The Tarrant County GOP has been vocal in speaking out about the claim, though party chair Rick Barnes didn’t answer questions about how the party vetted the claims against Peoples.

Peoples said last week that the Republicans were “disrespecting voters by leaning on false information from an outlet famous for spreading lies to serve an extreme agenda.”

Tarrant County Democratic chair Allison Campolo said in a text to a reporter Monday evening that the party was going to continue to focus on the election in November.

“Voters are ready for candidates who run professional campaigns and don’t resort to these gossip tactics while spreading wild, unsupported claims,” Campolo wrote. “We are glad to see the Sherriff’s office agrees. Our Democratic candidates will continue putting in the hard work to reach every voter in Tarrant to let them know their future representatives support public education, health care, access to basic resources, and safe, accessible voting here in Tarrant County.”

Campolo said the party welcomes any legal entity looking into the “patently false” claims.

“We know what the Sherriff’s investigation will find, which is that no fraud occurred and Tarrant Republicans used an extremely right wing source of misinformation to spread this lie,” Campolo wrote. “When the Sherriff’s office is prepared to formally expose this lie for what it is, we are ready to share their findings.”

Representatives from the attorney general’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Peoples didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and text for comment.