Texas’ first black female sheriff indicted on campaign violations

Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens. (County photo)
Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens. (County photo)(KWTX)
Published: Apr. 27, 2018 at 11:57 AM CDT
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The first black woman to be elected sheriff in Texas and two other candidates for the post have been indicted for criminal violations for fraud related to campaign contributions, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Friday.

The indictments were handed up by a grand jury in Chambers County.

Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens, 52, who was elected in 2016, was named in an indictment charging one count of tampering with a government record, a state jail felony, and two counts of accepting cash contributions exceeding $100, both class A misdemeanors, Paxton said.

The two other candidates, Ray Elliott Beck, 67, and Joseph Sterling Stevenson, 59, were both indicted on one count of accepting a cash contribution exceeding $100, a class A misdemeanor.

Beck was also indicted on one count of failure to return a political contribution, which is also a class A misdemeanor.

Stephens told Beaumont television station KFDM that nothing was done intentionally and she's innocent.

The indictments stemmed from an investigation by the Texas Rangers and the Attorney General’s Office with assistance from the Chambers County District Attorney’s Office that started after the offenses were discovered during an unrelated federal investigation, Paxton said.

“No one is above the law. The conduct of the people indicted by the grand jury is illegal and erodes the public trust. Working with local and state law enforcement, my office intends to hold them accountable,” Paxton said Friday.