It’s unknown how the two felony charges filed last week against Paul Tyus will eventually play out. But one thing that is certain is that his name will still be on the ballot as an independent candidate running for sheriff in the Nov. 3 election.
Tyus, who filed to run for sheriff against the Republican incumbent, Matt Coates, is accused of falsifying information on the election petition he filed to get his name on the ballot. Tyus turned himself in last Friday morning (Sept. 4) at the Erath County Jail as a result of the two criminal warrants being issued.
Erath County Clerk Gwinda Jones was asked by the Empire-Tribune this week about the status of the ballots for the Nov. 3 election and she said they are currently being printed. But Tyus would remain on the ballot regardless of that situation because he is presumed innocent until proved guilty in court — and has not even been indicted by a grand jury.
While Tyus is still free to remain in the race, when the E-T contacted him Thursday evening he declined to comment on whether he will continue with his campaign efforts. He also declined the chance to make a statement to the newspaper about the charges he faces.
"I have nothing to say at this time," Tyus said, noting that response was on the advice of his attorney.
Edward Gordon, an investigator for Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash, stated that on Aug. 20, County Tax Assessor Jennifer Carey noticed "inconsistencies" on the petition Tyus submitted, and called Nash. According to the D.A.’s news release, it was found that two signatures on the petition submitted by Tyus were forgeries of two deceased residents.
The investigation also found similarities in the handwriting of dozens of signatures on the petition, and some voters’ birth dates were incorrect, according to the D.A.
"In addition to the two deceased persons whose names were on the petition, of the first 63 persons interviewed by the D.A. Investigator, Edward Gordon, 56 verified that the signatures purporting to belong to them were forgeries," Nash stated.
The news release also notes that the petition includes an "Affidavit of Circular" containing an oath signed by Tyus, verifying that he had observed each signature as it was added to the petition.
That oath reads: "I called each signer’s attention to the above statements and read them to the signer before the signer affixed their signature to the petition. I witnessed the affixing of each signature. The correct date of signing is shown on the petition. I verified each signer’s registration status and believe that each signature is the genuine signature of the person whose name is signed and that the corresponding information for each signer is correct."
POTENTIAL PENALTY RANGE
A first-degree felony charge of fraudulent use or possession of identifying information was filed against Tyus, along with a state jail felony count of tampering with a governmental record.
Conviction of a first-degree felony in Texas carries a range of punishment of five to 99 years or life in prison. The range for a state jail felony conviction is from 180 days up to two years in a state jail facility.
After his attorney, Heath Allen, was contacted by the Erath County District Attorney’s Office, Tyus arrived with Allen at the Erath County Jail on the morning of Sept. 4. Tyus was then arraigned, posted a total of $25,000 bond for both charges and released the same day.
The D.A.’s news release notes that if any person has information regarding the scope of and parties to the fraudulent activity, they can contact Gordon by calling 254-965-1462.