HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Five months after one of the most "bizarre" incidents in an already bizarre election season, an air conditioning repair man is blaming a well-known GOP activist for a faked accident that ended with the repair man face down with a gun to his head.
In a newly filed lawsuit on Tuesday, the repair man, David Lopez, alleges longtime GOP Activist Dr. Steven Hotze approved of, paid for and directed a private investigator's allegedly violent actions in a "bizarre and unfounded" voter fraud investigation.
Lopez's attorney, Dicky Grigg, said the civil suit was filed to hold Hotze accountable for his alleged role in the incident that resulted in the arrest of former Houston Police Department Captain Mark Aguirre.
"(Aguirre) was just a puppet and what our lawsuit is, is trying to hold accountable the puppet master, Dr. Hotze, the man that was actually pulling the strings," Grigg told 13 Investigates. "... You cannot hire a rogue cop who's been fired, from the HPD for his actions, give him $300,000 to go out and investigate these claims, you know, pay money, and then say, 'Whoa, we're not responsible for what he did.'"
Jared Woodfill, Hotze's attorney, said the GOP activist is "absolutely not" responsible for Aguirre's actions.
"Dr. Hotze financed a project to investigate allegations of voter fraud. What an independent contractor chooses to do is not Dr. Hotze's responsibility any more than if you or I were to hire an investigator or a contractor to do something for us and while doing it, they did something inappropriate," Woodfill told 13 Investigates on Tuesday, after the lawsuit was filed.
Lopez is an air conditioning repair man, but according to the lawsuit, he was somehow identified as a key suspect in a well-funded and ultimately unsuccessful voter fraud investigation run by Hotze and the Hotze-funded Liberty Center for God and Country. For four days in mid-October, the lawsuit and court documents reveal a team of private investigators followed Lopez around the clock. Court documents make it clear that Aguirre was convinced Lopez was at the center of a massive voter-fraud ring that could have harvested as many as 750,000 false ballots. There's still no evidence of that.
READ MORE: Former HPD captain charged with holding air conditioning man at gunpoint in fake voter-fraud conspiracy
Woodfill said Aguirre was one of 20 investigators that were hired to look into potential voting misconduct nearly every day leading up to the election.
Woodfill said prior to Lopez being stopped, Hotze was aware of that alleged harvesting scheme. He said it was the investigators' job to identify and pursue the leads, like the harvesting one, that were provided to Hotze, and to do so within the confines of the law.
At 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 19, court documents say private investigator and Aguirre ran into Lopez's air conditioning repair truck. When Lopez got out to see what happened, court documents say Aguirre held Lopez at gunpoint while other private investigators searched Lopez's truck for up to "fraudulent ballots." Lopez told police he "feared for his life."
While he was on the ground at gunpoint, the lawsuit says Aguirre directed unnamed accomplices to search Lopez's truck. Not a single ballot was found.
Hours later, an affidavit from an HPD officer says Aguirre told him, "(he and his team) are investigating a voter fraud ballot harvesting conspiracy that (Lopez) is operating ... (Aguirre said) he knew (Lopez) had fraudulent ballots in his truck and at home."
Searches of Lopez's home with Lopez's permission yielded none of the "750,000 fraudulent ballots" Aguirre told HPD they would find there.
In the lawsuit filed in Harris County court Tuesday morning, Lopez says Aguirre was acting at the direction of and with the approval of Hotze, a longtime Harris County GOP activist. The suit alleges, "Mr. Lopez had been falsely and wrongfully identified and targeted by the Defendants (Dr. Steven Hotze & the Liberty Center for God and Country) as a key figure in Defendants' bizarre and unfounded claims of massive voter fraud and Defendants' well-funded efforts to expose baseless, non-existent claims of voter fraud."
It goes on to say Hotze paid Aguirre $266,400 for the operation, included $211,000 "the day after Aguirre's assault on Lopez." The lawsuit claims the payment after the alleged assault is proof Hotze approved of Aguirre's actions.
Woodfill said those funds were not paid as a result of the traffic stop, but for work that had previously been performed by the team of 20 investigators.
When asked why Lopez was the target of this investigation, Woodfill said he didn't know and that it's a question for Aguirre.
13 Investigates reached out to Aguirre's criminal attorney, both by phone and email, and didn't hear back.
"For some reason, Capt. Aguirre believed that he was an individual who was part of this ballot harvesting ring," Woodfill said. "These were contractors, individuals that were tasked with doing their job and Dr. Hotze stands back (and says) do your job. You're the investigators. I'm not an expert in this area."
The suit accuses Hotze and the Center of false imprisonment, assault and civil conspiracy.
Hotze is no stranger to court, but not often as a defendant. This fall he brought several suits, including one federal case that sought to throw out more than 100,000 drive-through ballots. It was not successful.
Lopez's lawsuit mentions that "Hotze filed numerous unfounded lawsuits challenging measures intended to expand voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including a rejected effort to toss 127,000 legitimate Harris County votes."
Woodfill says the mention of those past, unrelated lawsuits is "completely unrelated" and "clearly shows a motivation by Democratic operatives who are clearly using (Lopez) for a larger agenda."
Woodfill adds that Lopez's lawsuit is "politically motivated," pointing to the Democratic connections of Lopez's attorney.
Griggs says Lopez is "a common citizen with no political affiliation."
"This whole case is about responsibility, accountability, that you're responsible for reactions, doesn't matter how bizarre or unfounded your opinions may be," Griggs said.
Aguirre is facing felony charges for alleged aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but is not named as a party in the lawsuit. In court documents, prosecutors allege Aguirre "attempted to use his status as a retired Houston Police Department Capt. to influence responding officers." Aguirre is free on bond awaiting trial.
Note: The video above aired on December 19, 2020, when Aguirre was initially charged.
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