Judge Lina Hidalgo responds to bid-rigging scandal following new evidence tampering search warrants

Saturday, November 11, 2023
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo responds to DA Kim Ogg after investigation into COVID-19 contract bid-rigging scandal
Following the allegations accusing Judge Lina Hidalgo of possibly tampering with evidence, five additional search warrants accuse Hidalgo of using the winning bidder's name while drafting the scope of the contract.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After new search warrants accuse Judge Lina Hidalgo of possibly tampering with evidence, she responded by lashing out at the district attorney by labeling her a "bully."

A feud between the county judge and district attorney reached a boiling point Friday. "It's no coincidence this comes out in the middle of her re-election, when it's not going well for her," Hidalgo said.

Weeks after Hidalgo returned from mental health leave herself, she also questioned the DA's mental health.

"Her coping strategy is to go make the prosecutors that work for her, the investigators that work for her, all these people, and waste their time, as an outlet for her political anger," Hidalgo said.

Ogg wasn't at the news conference, but she responded.

RELATED: Texas Rangers launch new investigation into bid-rigging scandal within Judge Lina Hidalgo's Office

Ogg released the following statement after Hidalgo's news conference:

"County Judge Hidalgo's outburst today was nothing more than an attempted deflection from the facts and evidence that led to the initial indictment of her staffers. She conflated an ongoing Texas Rangers criminal investigation with her political endorsement of my challenger and engaged in a childish exercise in name-calling that has become all too common in our political process. Using her status as county judge to launch this diatribe is an unfortunate attempt to taint the investigative process and to confuse the public. It also serves her indicted staffers very poorly. My office pursues evidence-based prosecutions, regardless of political party, and we look forward to resolving this case in court."

For more than a year, Ogg's office has investigated Judge Lina Hidalgo's office over a controversial contract. In fact, Elevate Strategies was awarded an $11 million contract two years ago.

Documents accuse the judge's team of steering the contract toward a certain company. Three of the judge's staffers were charged.

Five new search warrants released on Thursday showed more of Hidalgo's involvement. They accuse the judge of using the winning bidder's name while drafting the scope of the contract.

The search warrants also accuse staffers, as well as the judge of possibly tampering with evidence and withholding documents. Attorney Steve Shellist said that's a serious accusation.

"It's a felony. If that's the only evidence is that the documents were missing and they say it wasn't intentional, it was inadvertent, then no, it wouldn't be a good case," Shellist said. "However, usually law enforcement has other evidence like witnesses."

Hidalgo denied any wrongdoing. She hasn't been charged with anything.

"I can tell you with absolute certainty that she is concerned and scared to death," Shellist said.

Hidalgo may be smiling for the cameras, but legal experts say the mood could be different behind the scenes.

Political analyst Court Koenning questions Hidalgo's strategy.

"If you're innocent, you're going to say, 'I'm waiting for my day in court.' Going against the district attorney, who holds all the cards and all the power, is a very risky strategy," Koenning said.