Posted: Saturday, March 10, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 12:17 am, Thu May 3, 2012.
Minutes after filing her application to run against incumbent Tracy Gilbert for 418th state District Court judge, Jessica Siegel found herself in the custody of the Texas Rangers – arrested for allegedly tampering with governmental records.
The arrest took place around 4:30 p.m. at the Montgomery County Republican Headquarters in downtown Conroe as the deadline for candidacy filing drew to its official close. While Siegel’s application was submitted on time, officials with the MCRP later chose to reject it, leaving Gilbert’s 418th position uncontested.
The charge against Siegel was brought forth by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Division, according to First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant. He said he could not provide further comment on Siegel’s pending case.
Jennie Morton, a friend and supporter of Siegel, was with Siegel and Siegel’s 7-year-old son when the arrest took place.
“I was mortified,” Morton said. “They said she was arrested for falsifying her residency on a notarized document (the filing application).”
Stranger, she added, was that this was the second arrest she had witnessed that day of someone involved with Gilbert through legal proceedings or politics.
At 11 a.m. Friday, while accompanying a woman named Trisha Shafer to the 418th District Court, who was there to meet a court employee in reference to personal case research, Shafer, Morton said, was suddenly arrested.
Jail records confirmed Shafer’s arrest related to a warrant for a misdemeanor DWI charge from January 2012.
Still, Morton maintained that Siegel’s charge is verifiably false.
Both Morton and Shafer were involved in child custody cases in Gilbert’s court.
Gilbert Garcia, one of the candidates running against Brett Ligon for district attorney, witnessed Siegel’s arrest and thought the highly public nature of it, in front of so many of the other candidates, could have been handled more appropriately.
“Whenever an officer is in the presence of what they perceive as a violation of law, an arrest is appropriate no matter the location,” Grant said in response.
Dr. Walter Wilkerson, chairman of the MCRP, said Siegel’s application appeared to meet all the necessary requirements for her to run against Gilbert; and even after her arrest, he said she would still be in the running.
However, later Friday evening, at the candidate ballot order draw at the Commissioners Court building, Wilkerson announced the 418th position as uncontested.
“Her candidacy has been pulled,” Wilkerson said.
Steve Simonsen, legal counsel for the MCRP, said the arrest had nothing to do with their decision to reject Siegel’s application; it was due to conflicting information on a previous application, Simonsen said.
Siegel submitted an application at the first deadline in December to run in the 418th election. But that was denied because the information she filled in on the application failed to meet the length of residency requirement to run for office in the county election.
But Siegel contested at the time that she had been living in Montgomery County since October 2010 and inadvertently left the additional two months off the residence section of her application, which would have given her the required length of residency.
Wilkerson provided The Courier a copy of Friday’s application, which listed Siegel’s “length of continuous residence” in the county as a year and five months.
Simonsen said, despite Siegel already having admitted to making an error on the first application, Siegel had sworn under a notarized oath to the length of time she has resided in the county via her application submitted last December.
“Maybe the first (application), she made a mistake, maybe not. I have no idea,” Simonsen said.
The Courier contacted Judge Tracy Gilbert Friday night, but he had no comment regarding Siegel’s arrest and application rejection.
“My only comment is – no comment.”
Siegel could not be reached for comment Friday night.