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Good Intentions Gone Bad: What Lessons the Rest of Texas Can Learn from Harris County’s “Bail Reform”



PolitiFix - Good Intentions Gone Bad: What Lessons the Rest of Texas Can Learn from Harris County’s “Bail Reform”




The start of the new year began with much promise. But that was before the coronavirus began to spread. Although a popular movement throughout the country in recent years, a colder reality has hit more recently as the solutions put forth in jurisdictions where it has been implemented have proven to be less successful than originally conceived.

Here in Texas, the citizens of Harris County are learning the hard lessons of good intentions gone bad as a result of federal litigation in the case of O’Donnell v. Harris County — something the remaining Texas should be aware of as advocates push ahead with their agendas.



Maranda O’Donnell was arrested for driving with a suspended license, no insurance and having accumulated nearly $1,500 in unpaid tolls. Having lost her license due to prior convictions involving the use of controlled substances, her attorneys argued that she was unlawfully denied the right to bail because of her inability to pay the amount indicated by Harris County’s set bond schedule.

The O’Donnell case began in May 2016 with a complaint, motion to certify class and a motion for a temporary restraining order filed against Harris County, Sheriff Ron Hickman and five other defendants.

After litigating motions to dismiss for failing to state a claim, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in September 2016, which added as defendants all 16 criminal court misdemeanor judges in Harris County. It was alleged that the judges were acting as policy makers for purposes of establishing jurisdiction in federal court since they had all signed a standing order adopting a bail schedule. The complaint alleged that poor defendants were not given an opportunity to request a deviation from the bail schedule when they first saw a judge and that this violated equal protection and due process requirements under the federal Constitution.

The trial court entered two preliminary injunctions that were appealed to the Fifth Circuit which issued multiple opinions reversing and/or staying the trial court’s orders. In August 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed portions of a second preliminary injunction holding that there is no fundamental right to be free from any form of wealth-based detention.

According to opinions issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Harris County was required by the Texas Constitution to hold a hearing within 48 hours of arrest for anyone claiming poverty and an inability to pay for a bond set pursuant to the bail schedule. Further, the Fifth Circuit, held that once a hearing was granted, the level of scrutiny by the federal courts would be lowered to a rational basis review.

Therefore, providing a hearing within 48 hours of arrest would provide the county and taxpayers the maximum discretion to ensure that constitutional requirements were met.


A Turn in the Road

Harris County was on track to win the federal court litigation.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs recently made a public admission that they knew they could not win the case on the strength of their legal arguments. Instead, they took a different strategy, looking to achieve victory through the only means possible: through the ballot box, by replacing the judges in Harris County with those who would provide the plaintiffs what they wanted in settlement since they could not get it through the legal process.

During the 2018 election campaign, proponents insisted that a settlement was necessary because of Harris County’s expenditure of more than $8 million in legal fees. Their tactics worked and a new slate of judges, who promised sweeping changes, was voted onto the bench.

The aftermath of the election revealed that the same advocates who criticized spending $8 million in legal fees were now calling for a down payment of more than $95 million to carry out the measures set forth in the proposed settlement agreement.

The settlement authorizes a defendant to be released in many situations without ever seeing a magistrate. Also, it allows these individuals to miss court at least two times without penalty. Further, the settlement raises the burden of proof higher than set forth in both state statutes and the Texas Constitution, making it more difficult to detain anyone without bail. It also calls for the county to agree to perform a study on why people fail to appear for court — and will fund whatever the recommendations. If the study concludes that people miss court because they do not have a ride to court, lack daycare or cannot afford a cell phone, the county has agreed it will provide these things free of charge.


Lessons Learned

The Harris County experience has many lessons for the taxpayers of the rest of Texas.

The first is “do no harm.” In reforming one system that has been in existence for hundreds of years, it is unwise to make changes that actually make the system worse. In Texas, the Office of Court Administration has reviewed the settlement in Harris County and has concluded that it opposes the system and does not want it implemented in any other county. Legal experts in the state have determined that the settlement “does harm” to other parts of the criminal justice system which they find unacceptable. Other Texas Counties would do well to heed this same advice. Any attempts to reform a bail system that has been working for several hundred years should be reviewed with a wary eye regarding what unintended consequences would be unleashed.

The second lesson of the Harris County experience is that bail reform is expensive. Critics of the litigation attacked the county for spending over $8 million in legal fees defending a system that they believed needed reform. The former judges would have readily agreed with the reforms identified by the Fifth Circuit, but the plaintiffs required that any settlement include much more, including items to which they were not entitled based on the merits of the trial.

Now, as a result of the settlement, taxpayers are being forced to reach into their wallets to make a down payment toward the settlement in the amount of more than $95 million. In the remaining counties in Texas, taxpayers should be wary of allowing civil plaintiffs to collude with politicians in an attempt to weaponize federal litigation in order to mandate political agendas.

The third lesson is that the Harris County criminal justice system is under stress and in danger of collapse. The American criminal justice system is based upon the concept of accountability, but this settlement removes it to a great degree. As a result, more defendants are missing court without consequences. Therefore, their cases are put on hold until — or if — the defendant returns. Case backlogs are increasing while officers, on average, are arresting the same number of individuals annually.

For example, in May of this year, Alex Guajardo was arrested for a DWI, the second time he had been arrested on this charge. He was granted a PR bond, but in late July, he was arrested again, this time for assault on a family member — his pregnant wife, Caitlynne. A day later, the trial court entered a protective order for Caitlynne and released Guajardo on another PR bond. Three days after that, Guajardo was arrested yet again. The charges? Capital murder for killing his wife and unborn child. According to investigators Guajardo stabbed Caitlynne 20 times. Guajardo told them that he deliberately stabbed her in the abdomen to make certain no other man would raise his child even if Caitlynne survived the attack.

Guajardo was denied bond for the charge of capital murder. But amazingly, a short time afterward, a general order bond was entered in the earlier case in which he allegedly assaulted Caitlynne, plus a second general order bond for his DWI charge. As difficult as it may be to believe, Guajardo would have been released yet again except for the “no bond” tag on his capital murder charge.

Also, these reforms are having a negative impact on public safety. While elected officials claim that these changes will make us safer, the numbers show a much different story.

The Harris County Police Officers Union has done the math, and this is what their numbers reveal…

Harris County: 2019

Burglary of a Motor Vehicle up over 30%
Burglary up 12%
Theft up 10%
Auto Theft up 25%
Murders up 23%
Robberies up 21%
Aggravated Assault up 26%
Kidnapping up 68%

When considering any reforms of its criminal justice system, the people of the remaining Texas Counties should keep in mind that the purpose of bail is to release defendants from jail with sufficient assurances that they will return upon the call of the trial court to answer the charges against them. If accountability is removed, then chaos will not be far behind. A criminal justice system without accountability is only voluntary. A defendant would have to agree to be punished before it could actually be meted out because the individual could simply avoid it by failing to appear.



There are occasions when the criminal justice system is the final opportunity for a wayward individual to be turned into a productive citizen. To be sure, we live in challenging times. Drug use is growing, while families continue to fail. Meanwhile, school dropout rates are increasing, with more and more people feeling left behind and without hope of economic opportunity. However, we cannot blame the failings of society on the criminal justice system and then try to address them through bail reform.

The bail system used throughout the United States has been around for hundreds of years. It has withstood the test of time because it is a system built on accountability with the singular job of getting people to court in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, as we have seen throughout the country, good people on all sides of the issue have been attempting to tweak or “reform” bail, often to address matters that were never a part of the bail process at all. When this happens, all too often we are seeing reforms going wildly off track, with the net results reflecting far more harm done to society than any good. The remaining counties in Texas should be mindful to tread carefully in the area of bail reform and to learn the lessons of what has not worked or their leaders may wind-up following in Harris County’s footsteps, much to the disservice of its residents and taxpayers.




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U.S. Politics

Lisa Michelle: Sexual Assault Survivor Turned Activist



PolitiFix - Lisa Michelle



The trauma of being sexually assaulted can leave someone feeling scared, ashamed, and plagued with recurring and upsetting memories that can often last a lifetime. It is unfortunate that sexual violence continues to be prevalent in this country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that nearly one in five women in the U.S. have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, often by someone they know and trust.

Sexual assault is a dehumanizing act of violence perpetrated by one human being on another. After such a traumatic experience, it takes survivors years to regain their sense of control, rebuild their self-worth, and learn to heal. Although most survivors choose to stay silent, there are a few who choose to take a public stand, share their story, and challenge others to rise above the pain.


Lisa Michelle’s Story

Lisa Michelle is the social media entrepreneur behind the beauty brand Lily & Co., which provides funding to safe houses globally through the sale of products handcrafted by sexual assault survivors. She is the founder and executive director of No Strings Attached Ministries, a nonprofit that exists to guide sexually exploited women and children into healing through intervention, prevention, and outreach. No Strings Attached Ministries also offers aftercare to women and children on a consistent basis. Lisa Michelle is also an ordained minister under the Patricia King Ministries and has dedicated her life to healing the sexually exploited, bringing awareness to sexual assault and abuse, and opposing human trafficking.

Lisa Michelle is a survivor of sexual abuse and exploitation. She was sexually abused by her biological father and trafficked by a well-respected businessman who ran a funeral home in the neighborhood where she grew up. As a survivor, she knows firsthand how overwhelming it is for most survivors of sexual abuse to ask for help. Lisa Michelle ministers to young women in the sex industry (mostly strip clubs in the San Antonio area) to remind them of their self-worth and potential in the hope that they will voluntarily leave the sex industry. She also works with various other nonprofits dedicated to rescuing women and children from human trafficking.

As an advocate, Lisa Michelle encourages those who have been victimized to speak their truth to end the false sense of shame that many carry with them. She has dedicated her life to sharing her own story in the hope that it will help other survivors rise above the abuse they have endured. To Lisa Michelle, staying silent only reinforces and elevates victimhood. Ministering to young women in the sex industry about their self-worth and partnering with other nonprofit organizations fighting to combat human trafficking has allowed her to redirect the rage she once felt toward her abusers.


Facing Her Abuser

Lisa Michelle recalls standing by the side of her father’s hospital bed and no longer feeling afraid and helpless in front of the man who had once tormented her. She now saw a powerless man who she felt was still worthy of God’s grace and salvation.

“I’m often asked how can I choose to forgive someone who hurt me so deeply? The answer is simple; forgiving my father that day as he laid in the hospital bed was the only way I could continue to truly move forward with my life,” Lisa Michelle stated.

Lisa Michelle shared with Politifix News that she has not only chosen to forgive her two abusers, but she has also allowed herself to not be consumed by hate.

“I was once focused solely on survival and self-preservation. Learning to forgive the men who hurt me freed me from the rage that was once consuming me,” stated Lisa Michelle.

Forgiveness in no shape or form justifies the wrongdoing one human being does to another, but it can clear someone’s outlook in life. Lisa Michelle is living proof of that. Her story is one of hope, undying faith, and the power of forgiveness and redemption. Whereas some choose to let their pain consume them, others choose to let their pain transform them into something greater.





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U.S. Politics

Heath Barnes: As a Gay Republican Man the LGBT Community No Longer Represents Me



PolitiFix - Heath Barnes



Many Gay Americans are faced with rejection, abuse, and are often times disowned by their family members when they choose to come out “of the closet,” so to speak. Often times due to their sexual preferences they will find themselves being excluded from social gatherings. In the political spectrum coming out as a gay Republican can be just as equally as frightening and lonesome.

Heath Barnes, a gay Trump supporter claims that coming out as a Republican man was more difficult for him than coming out as gay man. Barnes claims that coming out as a Gay Republican Trump supporter has subjected him to being ostracized by members from his own community.

In 2019, Miss Gay America, a national pageant for female impersonators, removed Barnes from their organization due to his political stance and his outspoken support for president Trump. Barnes was not an impersonator but he owned several pre-preliminaries where he sponsored contestants to compete in nationals. He won pre-preliminary of the year in 2019 largely due to his contributions to the organization throughout the period of 4 years. Four months later Barnes was asked to resigned due to his outspoken support for president Trump via social media.

Barnes political beliefs have made him a prime subject of personal attacks from the side he claims is supposed to be advocating for inclusiveness and equality; yet deliver the complete opposite.

“The champions of tolerance have now become the intolerant,” exclaimed Barnes.

On social media alone he has been subjected to repeated online lynching, from members within his own LGBT community.

“I have been told I should kill myself and to jump off a bridge. I’ve been told I should lay on a train track and wait until I’m taken out by the train. The daily messages I receive from members of my own community are sickening,” exclaimed Barnes.

Barnes blames the mainstream news media for the hate filled rhetoric he’s been subjected to.

“The mainstream news media has deliberately provided misinformation about president Trump and has depicted him as someone that hates homosexuals. This isn’t true at all. What you’ll never hear from the mainstream news media is that he’s the first president to enter the White House already supporting gay marriage unlike Joe Biden and Barrack Obama who campaigned against it,” stated Barnes.

Barnes goes on to mention how President Trump is the most inclusive president that the Republican Party has ever had.  Earlier this year President Trump named Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, acting director of national intelligence which Barnes states, this should not have only been a historical moment for the LGBT community but it should’ve been celebrated. As of June of this year Grenell has resigned. Barnes also goes on to mention how President Trump is the first Republican to start an LGBT Coalition-and yet is still dumbfounded on how he can be considered “homophobic.”

“The left hates president Trump because he is giving the power back to the people. The problem with the left is that they will force you to believe (with the help of liberal media bias) that you are no more than your sexuality, your gender, your race, etc. They want you to live in a constant state of fear that someone is constantly coming for your rights. Especially if you’re within a minority group. That’s part of the Democrat propaganda:  Republicans are going to take away your rights and we’re the ones trying to protect you from them,” stated Barnes.

Barnes hopes that by sharing his story it will inspire others in the gay community to be more outspoken about their support for president Trump.




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U.S. Politics

Anna Paulina Luna: Discipline, Duty, and a Commitment to Country Before Politics



PolitiFix - Anna Paulina



Anna Paulina Luna, a conservative political activist and Air Force veteran, is running for US Congress in 2020 for Florida’s 13th Congressional district against incumbent Democrat Rep. Charlie Crist, whose current term ends on January 3, 2021. Luna is on the ballot in the general election on November 3, 2020. She advanced from the Republican primary on August 18, 2020.

Raised by a single mother of three in the low-income neighborhoods of Southern California, Luna grew up in a life of poverty as the daughter of an absentee father who struggled with drug addiction. The challenges Luna faced during her childhood did not stop her from wanting to aim high, fight, and win. At just nineteen years of age, she made the bold decision to enlist in the United States Air Force. Serving in the military helped Luna develop strength and courage. It also provided the structure she lacked in her early family life, and it enabled her to earn a steady income to support her family financially and to seek professional help for her father. Luna has spoken of the humility she gained while in the Air Force from working closely with people from all walks of life toward a common goal. She thanks her military experience for her success in life today.

Additionally, Luna was able to attend college through her military service and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of West Florida. She had always dreamed about becoming a doctor so she could help support her family and accomplish her ultimate goal of opening a clinic for low-income patients. When she was accepted into medical school, a doctor and mentor told Luna she could help more people in politics than as a doctor because she would have a bigger impact on people’s health care through legislation. As a result, Luna turned down the opportunity to attend medical school because she feared the direction the country was headed. She decided at that moment to put aside ten years of effort in becoming a doctor to instead serve her country by entering the ring in what could be the fight of her life—defeating an incumbent, entrenched democrat in the world of politics.

Sought out by PragerU and Turning Point USA, Anna Paulina Luna is a fast learner who has soaked in facts, statistics, and policies while quickly developing public speaking skills and amassing a large number of contacts, supporters, and channels to create her path to Washington.


If elected, Luna will do the following:

  • Solidify and expand conservative outreach to Hispanics and or/Latinos nationally
  • Advocate for the national reciprocity of concealed carry gun permits
  • Bring back school choice and return control of education to the states
  • Advocate for completing the border wall and securing America’s border


Luna’s commitment to her country is represented by the oath she took to defend the United States Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. She believes there is no greater honor than to serve your country- in fact, she shared with Politifix News that serving her country was an honor, not an obligation. She further stated that by serving her country, she was also serving humanity as a whole.

Luna is concerned that our country’s freedoms are slowly being dismantled by left-wing politicians who wish to strip Americans of their individual freedoms in their ultimate quest for greater power and control. She believes that government should be limited—not expanded. To Luna, limiting the power of government prevents excessive control over people’s freedoms, actions, and lives.

In Luna’s own words, “Our constitutional rights as Americans aren’t secure if they are continuously being violated by politicians who only wish to extend their political power over Americans’ individual freedoms.”

Luna sees herself as a non-politician—one not controlled by special interests but who cherishes the opportunity to serve her district as well as her country once more. She’s ready to fight for our “God-given rights,” as she boldly expressed. Overcoming significant obstacles during her early years made her want to keep fighting, not just for herself but also for others.

Luna is a fighter. She’s focused, committed, and resilient. She will not give up and will always fight for what is right.


For more information on Anna Paulina Luna and to support her run for Congress, please visit her official webpage.


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