Taral Patel, the Democratic candidate for Fort Bend County Precinct 3 commissioner, was arrested June 12 and charged with online impersonation and misinterpretation of identity, according to arrest records from the Fort Bend County Texas Department of Public Safety.

This comes after Patel secured his bid in the March Democratic primary. He’s set to face off against Republican incumbent Andy Meyers in the Nov. 5 general election.

How we got here

Patel is accused of using a false Facebook profile to attack himself and other opponents, according to the arrest warrant affidavit. Online impersonation is a third-degree felony, while misinterpretation of identity is a Class A misdemeanor.

According to the affidavit, Meyers requested the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s office investigate the identity of Facebook user “Antonio Scalywag” in October, with Meyers saying he was concerned about multiple “racist” online attacks against Patel made by the account.

Prior to Patel joining the race, Meyers claims he was also attacked by the same profile name, which then switched to supporting Meyers' campaign, according to the affidavit.

Through the investigation by Evett Kelly, peace officer with the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office, it was also revealed the profile photo for the “Antonio Scalywag” profile was of Needville resident Patrick Ernst. Through Kelly’s investigation, she determined Ernst was not connected to the account and instead his photo was used to create the false account, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit claims investigators were able to tie Patel to the Facebook account by confirming the email attached to the profile, which ultimately led Kelly to Patel’s IP address, phone number and address, including email accounts from when Patel served as Fort Bend County Judge KP George’s former chief of staff.

What else

Following the June 12 arrest, Patel was released June 13 on a $20,000 bond for the felony charge and a $2,500 bond for the misdemeanor, according to arrest records.

Patel is set to first appear in court for the felony charge July 22, and an arraignment has been scheduled for Sept. 13 regarding the misdemeanor charge, according to arrest records.

Punishment for a third-degree felony ranges from two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, while a Class A misdemeanor can earn up to 365 days in county jail and/or a fine up to $4,000, Wesley Wittig, second assistant district attorney for Fort Bend County, said in an email.

Other considerations include prior criminal history, which can affect if the accused is eligible for probation, including deferred adjudication.

Community Impact reached out to Patel and the Fort Bend County Democratic Party, but did not receive a response before press time.

At the polls

Even with the investigation ongoing, it’s unlikely the court proceedings will wrap up ahead of the November election, Wittig said.

“Only a final felony conviction precludes eligibility for office, and only then if ‘the person has not been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities,’” he said, citing Texas election code.

Texas Local Government code states a person won’t be removed from an elected position if they’re convicted of a crime after taking office, if the crime was committed before being elected to the position, Wittig said.

Looking ahead

Early voting for the election is set to run from Oct. 21-Nov. 1, concluding with Election Day on Nov. 5, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s website.