John Stafford

John Stafford, pictured in a file photo

A grand jury in Collin County indicted a Plano man on suspicion of a misdemeanor violation of state election law, a spokesman from the Plano Police Department confirmed to the Plano Star Courier.

The indictment came as Plano police investigated a series of clandestine text messages purported to be from Plano City Council candidates. Candidates named in the texts, including 2021 mayoral candidate Lily Bao, denied any involvement with the texts and contend that they were from an external source.

The text messages garnered community attention for being sent to thousands of Plano residents’ phones from mysterious phone numbers and for hitting on partisan beats.

One of the text messages read, “Make Plano Great Again. Vote For Donald Trump Co-Chair Lily Bao for Mayor.”

Authorities are connecting the text messages to Plano resident John Stafford, who has served as the fundraising director for the Collin County Democratic Party and is running for the Collin County Commissioners Court’s Precinct 4 seat.

A warrant for Stafford was furnished on Monday.

Plano Police Officer Andrae Smith confirmed to the Plano Star Courier that Stafford was indicted on a charge called “True Source of Election Communication,” a Class A misdemeanor.

“A lot of times, from a police department, we investigate a case, we file the case, we issue an arrest warrant,” Smith said. “With the DA’s office, typically, [when] we have a case of significance like this, we submit it to the DA for grand jury referral or submit it to the grand jury for review, and they are the point of contact at that moment to follow up on any charges and allow that individual through indictment to turn themselves in.”

When reached for comment, Stafford said, “That a Republican operative would initiate a complaint with the Plano Police Department about me has everything to do with their fear of losing one-party control of Collin County. As a resident of the City of Excellence, I have the utmost confidence in the Plano Police Department and trust their ability to sort baseless allegations from real ones.”

He continued, “There was an indictment that came down after I filed to run for county commissioner. This is 100% political. This is the Collin County Republican Party fearing the one Democrat that they think can actually win a seat in Collin County.”

Stafford’s attorney, Kyle Therrian, confirmed that Stafford turned himself in and posted bond after the warrant was filed. Court records indicate that Stafford posted a $1,000 bond on Wednesday.

“I think it’s pretty unusual for somebody to be indicted on a misdemeanor. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around why it went that way, but I have serious concerns about law enforcement getting involved in politics, especially something that appears to be an exercise of free speech,” Therrian said. “I think that we should all expect government to exercise a lot of caution and restraint before they get into the realm of choosing winners and losers in an election.” 

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