- Mark Aguirre, a 63-year-old man accused of holding an air conditioner repairman at gunpoint in an attempt to prove an outlandish election fraud conspiracy theory, had his arraignment hearing postponed after he tested positive for COVID-19.
- The judge overseeing the case asked if the arraignment could be rescheduled for Friday on Zoom, but according to Aguirre’s attorney, Aguirre is not “doing well,” does not own a phone, and may not own a computer.
- According to prosecutors, Aguirre believed the repairman he targeted had been hoarding 750,000 fraudulent ballots which he maintained had all been signed by Hispanic children “because the children’s fingerprints would not appear in any databases.”
- After tracking the repairman for four days, Aguirre attempted to make a citizen’s arrest on Oct. 19 by slamming into the man’s truck and faking an injury before pulling a gun on him while two co-conspirators searched the truck.
- Aguirre is being charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, a second-degree felony. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Ex-Houston Cop Charged In Attack Over Bogus Election Fraud Plot
The Thursday arraignment hearing for a former Houston police captain, who was arrested after acting on what may be one of the most bizarre election fraud conspiracy theories to come out of 2020, has been postponed because he’s now tested positive for COVID-19.
According to his attorney who presented the test results in court, that man — 63-year-old Mark Aguirre — “wasn’t doing well” as of Thursday night.
The judge presiding over the case asked if Aguirre would be able to appear Friday on a Zoom call. While Aguirre’s attorney said he would try to make that work, he also claimed that Aguirre does not own a phone and said he was not sure if Aguirre owns a laptop, either.
On Tuesday, Aguirre was arrested nearly two months after he violently held a man at gunpoint while trying to prove that the 2020 Presidential Election had been rigged against President Donald Trump.
According to prosecutors, in October, Aguirre and two other unidentified people reportedly tracked a man for four days on the suspicion that he was hiding 750,000 fraudulent ballots in his truck and home. Prosecutors have also claimed that Aguirre believed these ballots had all been signed by Hispanic children “because the children’s fingerprints would not appear in any databases.”
Aguirre also allegedly believed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had given the man, David Zuniga, $9.37 billion for “ballot harvesting.”
With that information in hand, Aguirre then reached out to three different Texas law enforcement agencies — the Texas Office of the Attorney General, the Texas Rangers, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. His concerns were rejected by all three.
Following Aguirre’s call with the attorney general’s office, Lt. Wayne Rubio alerted police that Aguirre might try to “handle” the situation on his own. In fact, according to prosecutors, that’s exactly what he did.
Early in the morning on Oct. 19, Zuniga noticed a black SUV swerve into his lane while he was driving. According to prosecutors, Zuniga just barely avoided getting hit by the SUV.
A few seconds later, the SUV then allegedly slammed into the back of Zuniga’s truck. From there, Zuniga pulled off the side of the road and got out of his truck to check on the SUV driver. That’s when Aguirre reportedly stepped out of the SUV while faking an injury.
“He said, ‘Help me! Help me!’ with his hand inside his coat,” Zuniga told KPRC News. “Then when I tried to help him, he pulls out a gun. That is when I was told to get on the ground.”
As Zuniga complied, Aguirre then pushed his knee into Zuniga’s back as two other unidentified co-conspirators arrived on the scene and searched Zuniga’s truck before driving away with it.
The truck was later found abandoned a few blocks away, but notably, no ballots were ever discovered in Zuniga’s truck or home. In fact, the Harris County district attorney’s office has described Zuniga as an “innocent and ordinary” air conditioner repairman.
Aguirre now faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Aguirre Was Paid $266,000 to Investigate Fraud
Aguirre is believed to have been paid $266,400 by the group Liberty Center for God and Country to investigate election fraud claims. Court records indicated $211,400 of that was given to Aguirre on Oct. 20, one day after he held Zuniga at gunpoint.
The group’s CEO, Steve Hotze, is an active GOP donor and was a major figure in trying to restrict 2020 voting efforts in Texas.
Alongside State. Rep Steve Toth (R), Hotze joined a lawsuit that unsuccessfully attempted to throw out nearly 127,000 Harris County ballots just before Election Day. Notably, those ballots were cast at drive-thru polling sites, which were established to provide a safe voting experience for people who might be nervous about going to traditional polling locations during the coronavirus pandemic.
In another lawsuit, Hotze failed to stop Gov. Greg Abbott (R) from extending the state’s early voting period, which was also a response to the pandemic. At the time, Aguirre provided an affidavit with that lawsuit, claiming he was investigating a “wide-ranging and fraudulent ballot harvesting scheme” in Harris County.
In 2017, Hotze — who is intensely opposed to same-sex marriage and trans rights — also backed an unsuccessful piece of Texas legislation aimed at keeping transgender people from using restrooms that align with their gender identity.
During this past summer’s protests over the in-custody killing of George Floyd, Hotze infamously left a voicemail for Abbott’s chief of staff, in which he said:
“I want to make sure that [Abbott] has National Guard down here and they have the order to shoot to kill if any of these son-of-a-bitch people start rioting like they have in Dallas, start tearing down businesses — shoot to kill the son of a bitches. That’s the only way you restore order. Kill ’em. Thank you.”
Unlike Aguirre, the Liberty Center for God and Country hasn’t been implicated in the attack against Zuniga. Reportedly, Aguirre was only one of 20 investigators it hired to look into election fraud claims in Texas. As Hotze’s attorney also claimed, the CEO “did not direct or lead any of the investigations.”
“Unless there is evidence that tends to connect Dr. Hotze or anybody else to the commission of this aggravated assault, that is the beginning and the end of this matter,” Brian Wice, a legal analyst for KPRC News, said.
What About Aguirre’s Conspirators?
Attorneys are still trying to determine the identities of Aguirre’s co-conspirators, but that’s been made difficult because since being arrested, Aguirre has claimed he doesn’t know who they are.
“This is a political prosecution,” Aguirre’s attorney said of the charges against his client. “Retaliation for the investigation that was being done.”
Aguirre worked for the Houston Police Department for 24 years but was fired in 2003 following a controversial raid at a Kmart parking lot.
On Tuesday, the same day he was arrested for the attack against Zuniga, Aguirre was released from jail on $30,000 bond.
See what others are saying: (KPRC) (CNN) (Texas Tribune)
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot.
- So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Florida Requires Proof of Residency
Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.
Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it.
According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers.
Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited
Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north.
“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
- Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
- Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.
Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017.
Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony.
“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”
Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.
“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”
What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”
Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing.
“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”
Nation Impressed by Gorman
“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”
Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration.
Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation.
Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day.
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.