What Is Considered A Public Servant In Texas?
In Texas, a public servant is an individual who holds a position or office within a government agency, department, or organization, and is responsible for carrying out public duties and providing services to the community or the public at large. Public servants can include individuals employed by various levels of government, including federal, state, and local governments, as well as special districts and public entities.
Some examples of public servants in Texas can include elected officials. These are individuals who are elected by the public to hold positions such as governor, lieutenant governor, state legislators, mayors, city council members, county commissioners, and judges.
Also appointed officials that hold to specific positions within government agencies or organizations, such as department heads, directors, and commissioners.
Law enforcement officers such as police officers, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, and other law enforcement personnel who work to maintain public safety and uphold the law.
Firefighters and emergency services personnel such as the individuals who respond to fires, medical emergencies, and other crises to protect and assist the public.
Teachers and educators, administrators, and other education professionals who provide instruction and guidance to students.
Healthcare workers like public hospital employees, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff who provide essential healthcare services to the community.
Civil servants such as government employees who work in various administrative, technical, and support roles to ensure the proper functioning of government agencies.
Transportation individuals who work in public transportation, road maintenance, and other transportation-related roles to ensure safe and efficient travel.
Social workers who work to provide social services, assistance, and support to individuals and families in need.
Environmental and conservation workers are those who work to protect and manage public lands, natural resources, and the environment.
Correctional officers are individuals who work in correctional facilities to ensure the safety and security of inmates and the public.
These are just a few examples of the wide range of individuals who can be considered public servants in Texas. The roles and responsibilities of public servants are crucial to the functioning of government and the well-being of the community. Keep in mind that specific definitions and classifications can vary based on state laws and regulations.
Frederick Frazier Case
Frederick Frazier was a Texas House candidate and a police officer who received backing from notable figures such as former President Donald Trump and top Texas Republicans.
Frazier was indicted on charges of impersonating a public servant, a third-degree felony. Specifically, he is alleged to have impersonated a McKinney city code enforcement employee on two separate occasions. The impersonation incidents reportedly took place late in the previous year and then again in early February. During these incidents, Frazier allegedly instructed individuals to “remove campaign signage.”
Frazier’s primary runoff opponent, Paul Chabot, claimed during their campaign race that Frazier had posed as a city code enforcement officer to persuade a Walmart store to remove Chabot’s campaign signs from its property. One of the individuals identified in the indictments, who had interactions with Frazier, matches the name of a store manager for a Walmart located in the area of the House district.
Frazier voluntarily turned himself in to the Richardson jail and subsequently posted bond. In response to the indictment, Frazier’s campaign pointed fingers at Chabot, accusing him of trying to overturn the election results by bringing forth “trumped complaints” to law enforcement and testifying before a grand jury. Frazier’s legal representative, Robert Rogers, expressed confidence that the charges “will not hold up in court.”
John Thomas, a consultant for Chabot, stated that Frazier’s “lying and deceit knows no limits” and called for Frazier to withdraw from the race. Frazier had previously won the Republican primary runoff for House District 61, an open seat in Collin County. He had received endorsements from prominent figures like Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and state House Speaker Dade Phelan. The Democratic nominee in the race, Sheena King, expressed concerns that the charges against Frazier would be a “major distraction” if he were elected.
During the runoff, Chabot had raised concerns about the alleged theft of several of his campaign signs. He mentioned an incident where a Walmart store manager informed him that someone claiming to work for city code compliance had instructed the store to remove Chabot’s signs due to their illegal placement. Chabot reported this to the police, and the Texas Rangers subsequently investigated his claims. Chabot later obtained a report from the Rangers that indicated they had investigated Frazier in February for potential violations related to impersonating a public servant and possible theft.
El Paso Firefighter Incident
Raymond Gino Estrada, a 35-year-old firefighter from El Paso, Texas, was involved in an incident at a bar named Coconuts, which is located behind the police headquarters.
Estrada confronted police officers at the bar when they arrived to conduct an occupancy and noise check. He asserted to the officers that only Fire Marshals were authorized to perform such occupancy checks.
Estrada was arrested after he claimed to be a fire marshal. The El Paso Police Department clarified that while Estrada was employed as a firefighter with the El Paso Fire Department, he was not employed as a fire marshal. His claim of being a fire marshal was equated to impersonating an officer of the law.
Estrada was arrested on November 16 and was booked into the El Paso County jail with a bond set at $1,000. As of the time of the report, online jail records did not indicate that he was still in custody.
The El Paso Fire Department stated that its fire marshals are “certified” law enforcement officers. Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino issued a statement emphasizing that the El Paso Fire Department does not condone such behavior and takes the matter seriously. In addition to the criminal charges, the incident was also under investigation by the fire department.
Henderson County Case
A man in Henderson County, Texas, was found guilty of impersonating a public servant. Following a three-day hearing, a Henderson County jury found Travis Michael Torgeson guilty on two counts: impersonating a public servant and misrepresenting himself as a peace officer.
The jury ruled that Torgeson should serve six years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and pay a fine of $8,500 for the impersonation charge. Additionally, he received a 90-day sentence in the Henderson County jail and a $500 penalty for the misrepresentation charge.
The proceedings took place in the courtroom of 392nd District Court Judge R. Scott McKee, with First Assistant Daniel Cox and Assistant District Attorney Katy Colts advocating for the State.
District Attorney Jenny Palmer expressed her pride in the team’s dedication, acknowledging the support of Sheriff Botie Hillhouse. Major David Faught, along with him, remained until the jury’s sentencing decision at 8:05 p.m. Other notable mentions include Log Cabin Chief of Police Sam Commino, Caney City Chief of Police Charles Gregory, William Thornton of the Mabank Police Department, and several other Henderson County officers who stayed late. Palmer emphasized the commitment to collaborate with law enforcement to ensure justice in Henderson County.
Lubbock Incidents Involving Donn Wojtowicz
Donn Wojtowicz, a 52-year-old man from Lubbock, Texas, has had multiple run-ins with the law related to impersonating a public servant.
On July 2, 2022, police were alerted to the West End shopping center, specifically the Sketchers Outlet, where Wojtowicz was reportedly acting aggressively towards passersby. He was asking people for money, shoving his shoes in their faces, and was suspected of being intoxicated. He was also reported to be aggressive towards the staff of the businesses.
When the police arrived, they found Wojtowicz in the bathroom of the World of Beer. He became argumentative and hostile when questioned. Although he was cooperative initially, he resisted when directed to leave the patio area of the business. During this interaction, he claimed to be a federal agent and stated that the officer was under arrest and that he (Wojtowicz) should be released. He reiterated these claims on the way to the Lubbock County Detention Center.
Wojtowicz was arrested and taken to the Lubbock County Detention Center. His bond was set at $11,500.
In 2018 Wojtowicz followed a former Lubbock city council member to the Costco on 34th Street and West Loop 289. He drove erratically and confronted the council member in the parking lot of the superstore. During this confrontation, he claimed to work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The council member reported the incident to the police, leading to Wojtowicz’s arrest shortly after. In 2019, he was sentenced to four years in jail after pleading guilty to a third-degree felony count of impersonating a public servant. As part of his plea deal, a second case of impersonating a public servant was dismissed.
Corpus Christi Police Officer Incident
A Corpus Christi police officer, Senior Officer Norma DeLeon, who had been with the department for 10 years, was accused of impersonating a Child Protective Service (CPS) case worker.
DeLeon allegedly posed as a CPS case worker and attempted to conduct a welfare check. The specifics of the incident were not disclosed in the report.
The Corpus Christi Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division initiated an investigation into the matter. As a result, DeLeon was placed on administrative leave.
The Nueces County District Attorney’s Office accepted the case, and DeLeon was subsequently indicted by a grand jury on charges of impersonating a public servant. The indictment specifically states that on November 29, DeLeon misrepresented herself as a CPS case worker to a man, informing him that “child protective services needed to perform a welfare check on his child.”
Following the indictment, a warrant was issued for DeLeon’s arrest. She was taken into custody and faced charges of official oppression which was a Class A misdemeanor and impersonating a public servant which is considered a third-degree felony.
According to the Texas Penal Code, a public servant commits official oppression when they intentionally subject someone to mistreatment, arrest, detention, search, or seizure that they know is unlawful. The offense also includes unlawfully denying or impeding someone’s rights or privileges.
DeLeon’s bail was set at $30,000 for the impersonation charge. DeLeon remained on administrative leave while an “administrative review process” was underway.
Social media posts suggested that DeLeon and another Senior Officer, Tommy Cabello, might have been in a relationship. Cabello was also on paid administrative leave with the department due to accusations of family violence.
What Is The Punishment For Impersonation Of A Public Servant?
In Texas, under the Penal Code Section 37.11, a person commits an offense if they impersonate a public servant with the intent to induce another to submit to their pretended official authority or to rely on their pretended official acts.
The crime of impersonating a public servant in Texas is classified as a third-degree felony. Those convicted of a third-degree felony in Texas can face:
A term in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice ranging from 2 to 10 years. They may also be subjected to a fine not to exceed $10,000.
It’s also worth noting that the specific circumstances of the crime, such as the intent behind the impersonation and any harm or potential harm caused, can influence the severity of the punishment. Additionally, any prior criminal history of the offender can also play a role in the sentencing.
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Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know that is facing criminal charges unsure about the court system. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain the result of the charge to you and guide you in the best possible way.
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