A Houston-based physician and conservative activist is facing serious criminal charges following a 2020 incident tied to a botched voter fraud probe.
A grand jury handed down an indictment to Steven Hotze, MD, this week on felony charges of unlawful restraint and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to records from Harris County District Court. The charges stem from Hotze’s alleged involvement in an air-conditioning repairman being held at gunpoint during a search for hundreds of thousands of fraudulent mail ballots that actually didn’t exist.
Hotze, 71, whose legal counsel adamantly denied the charges against him, has long led efforts to push conservative issues, including helping to secure the 2015 defeat of Houston’s anti-discrimination ordinance, which the physician denounced as “pro-homosexual,” the Texas Tribune reported. He also opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage, and unsuccessfully sued Harris County in 2020 in an attempt to have 127,000 ballots cast by voters at drive-thru locations invalidated.
The felony charges center on an incident that occurred during the lead-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election. On Oct. 19, 2020, during a search for fraudulent ballots, an air-conditioning repairman was run off the road and had a gun pointed at his head, the Harris County District Attorney said in a statement issued shortly after the incident. Though former Houston Police Capt. Mark Anthony Aguirre was arrested and charged for the offense, Aguirre told police that he was part of a group of private citizens, known as “Liberty Center,” who were conducting a civilian investigation into an alleged voter fraud scheme.
Hotze leads the Houston-based nonprofit Liberty Center for God and Country, which allegedly paid Aguirre $266,400, including $211,400 just 1 day after the incident, prosecutors said.
Aguirre ran his personal SUV into the back of the repairmen’s truck to get him out of his vehicle, according to prosecutors. After the repairman got out of his truck, Aguirre allegedly pointed a handgun at him, forced him to the ground, and put a knee on his back. Rather than the 750,000 fraudulent ballots that Aguirre said he had been searching for, the repairman’s truck contained air-conditioning parts and tools, prosecutors said.
Court filings this week stated that Hotze, even in his absence from the scene, recklessly exposed the repairman to a substantial risk of serious bodily injury.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and neither did attorneys for Hotze. However, Gary Polland, one of Hotze’s attorneys, told the Texas Tribune that the charges against his client are “outrageous,” and that his client had no knowledge of the incident involving the repairman until reading media reports of Aguirre’s arrest.
Polland “said Aguirre asked Hotze for funds to investigate alleged election fraud, Hotze agreed, and that was the extent of his involvement in Aguirre’s affairs,” according to the Tribune.
Polland further told the Tribune that Hotze has no plans to stop monitoring election activity in Houston.
Bond for Hotze was set at $18,500, which he posted.
Amid the charges, Hotze’s medical license remains active, and without any action against it, according to the Texas Medical Board’s online records.
The physician’s Hotze Health & Wellness Center has claimed that it has helped more than 33,000 patients “get their lives back using bioidentical hormones that restore hormones to optimal levels, strengthen immune systems, and increase energy levels.” The center’s website states that “we support you if you have decided not to take the experimental COVID-19 injection.”
A December 2020 warning letter from the FDA directed the center to cease selling unapproved and misbranded products, including vitamins, for COVID-19.