‘We will hit the pervert line so hard he’ll run screaming’ texted man hired to plan surveillance of rival
Former U.S. Congressman Steve Stockman funneled thousands of dollars of charitable funds into a covert surveillance operation inside the Austin halls of state government in 2013 attempting to uncover “salacious” gossip about a potential political GOP rival, according to testimony Thursday in his federal corruption trial in Houston.
Stockman is being tried for 28 criminal counts, including allegations that he illegally used major charitable donations to cover personal and political expenses.
According to texts, emails and testimony from witnesses, Stockman, a Republican then serving in Washington, hired a political operative named Benjamin Wetmore in 2013 to dig up dirt on an fellow Republican from East Texas whom Stockman thought was considering a primary bid for his congressional seat.
The potential rival, St. Rep. James White, R- Woodville, testified in Stockman’s trial Thursday that he had been approached by a lobbyist to consider a bid for Congress but decided not to run. He told the jury he knew nothing about being secretly filmed while at work in the state capitol in Austin.
MORE: Megadonor says he thought former U.S. Congressman Steve Stockman was ‘trustworthy’
Sitting with his arms folded on the witness stand, Wetmore confirmed he had testified at a grand jury hearing that Stockman hired him to find “salacious things about White.”
Wetmore said he hired Oluwaseun “Shaughn” Adeleye to pose as an unpaid intern in White’s office. The funds paid for audio equipment, along with a watch and pen that were equipped to record conversations.
“White screaming and cursing at you would be excellent footage,” Wetmore told Adeleye, in an email, according to testimony
Adeleye told the jury he spent three months in the office and heard White use profanity on a few occasions. There was some back and forth with Wetmore about whether White did or did not have a messy car.
RELATED: Former Congressman Steve Stockman ran ‘massive scam’ with donations, prosecutors said
But Adeleye testified that the request Wetmore made on behalf of his client seemed weird — since his “undercover citizen journalism” business was set up to catch fraud, waste or abuse in government.
“He wanted me to catch him cursing,” Adeleye said.
Stockman told Wetmore via text he was concerned about tracking White’s movements.
MORE: Stockman fraud case ‘not about fur coats, Rolexes and Mercedes Benzes,’ lawyer says
“Republicans love black conservatives. I’m worried,” said the 2013 text from Stockman to Wetmore.
But Wetmore was sure he’d find something if Adeleye kept at it.
“We will hit the pervert line so hard he’ll run screaming,” Wetmore texted back.
Gabrielle Banks covers federal court for the Houston Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and send her tips at email@example.com.