Jason Hopkins, DCNF
- Codias Brown was arrested for allegedly stalking a woman, but his phone location data later showed he was nowhere near the area of the alleged crime.
- Brown’s legal team believes the woman’s attempts to obtain a U-visa are related to her making the now-dismissed accusation against him.
- Brown, a longtime political activist and operative, is calling on the Trump administration to reform its visa laws to prevent the incentive for U-visa fraud.
A longtime conservative operative is calling on the Trump administration to reform the country’s visa laws after he was falsely accused of a crime he said an illegal alien charged likely in order to score a visa.
A woman in late 2016 claimed Codias Brown harassed and exposed himself to her over a two-week period and said he was seeking her out in public places, according to an arrest affidavit. The accuser, Rosa Patino-Herrera, claimed she encountered Brown — someone she didn’t know personally — around eight different times and believed he was seeking her out around the city of Austin, where he also lived.
The forensic data proved to be a game-changer. Disclosure of Brown’s phone location data showed he was nowhere near any of the locations Patino-Herrera claimed the events took place, according to court documents reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The charges were ultimately dismissed — but not until April 2018.
During the court proceedings, Patino-Herrera admitted she was an illegal immigrant. Work from a private investigator also discovered she was actively seeking a U-visa. Brown’s legal team believes she accused him in order to obtain a U-visa.
Brown, now completely exonerated of the charges, is using his experience to push for reform. The Republican organizer is calling on President Donald Trump and lawmakers in Congress to block the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act until it’s changed to mandate a criminal conviction before the issuance of a U-visa. Such an amendment, he argues, would incorporate constitutional due process rights not currently embedded in the U-visa application process.
“I hope to work with the Trump administration and lawmakers to reform the laws and policies that made this ordeal possible,” Brown told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Established in 2000, the U-visa program was intended to incentivize immigrants into helping law enforcement catch and prosecute criminals. Foreign nationals who are victims of a crime can apply for a U-visa, allowing them to remain in the country and assist police.
Interest in the U-visa program has exploded in popularity. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received 10,937 petitions for U-visa status in the 2009 fiscal year. By the 2016 fiscal year, however, the number of petitions ballooned to 60,710, according to information compiled by Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Immigration experts said the U-visa program is inadvertently designed to attract fraud, and actually does little to help law enforcement.
“The program’s vague standards and lucrative perks, make it a prime target for and abuse by well-meaning, but misguided law enforcement agencies — particularly those in so-called ‘sanctuary jurisdictions,’” said Matthew Tragesser, communication specialist for FAIR. “Though the program may offer some help to some aliens who have been exploited by criminals, there is little data suggesting that the program significantly improves the prosecution of crime in immigrant communities, or that it has had a measurable impact on human trafficking.”
Jessica Vaughan, a director with the Center for Immigration Studies, told TheDCNF the U-visa program has become a means for foreign nationals to “launder their status,” with many law enforcement agencies signing off on their applications without any due diligence.
“In the blink of an eye, an illegal alien — aided by social justice warriors parading as cops, prosecutors, and judges — nearly destroyed everything I worked for,” Brown told TheDCNF, describing the day he was arrested.
As Brown and his wife were walking from their Austin, Texas, home to a local grocery store Dec. 9, 2016, he said he was suddenly flanked by a police task force, arrested and sent to jail — where he remained for four days until he was able to be released on $75,000 bond. Even after he was let go from detention, Brown, who said he had no prior criminal history, said he was forced to wear an ankle monitor for several months.
The allegations came with serious consequences. If Brown were convicted, he faced the possibility of up to 10 years in prison. Furthermore, Patino-Herrera was granted a protective order against Brown.
However, Brown was unequivocal in his defense: Not only did he claim he never stalked Patino-Herrera, he said he had never met the woman in his life.
“Brown should never have been arrested because there was no evidence to corroborate these baseless accusations, the accuser made numerous inconsistent and illogical statements throughout the proceedings, and forensic data ultimately proved Brown was not even in the vicinity of the alleged incidents,” said Benjamin Lange, Brown’s attorney.
Numerous inconsistencies emerged as Brown fought for his innocence, according to his legal team. Patino-Herrera, for example, testified she had several conversations with Brown that lasted up to five minutes in length. However, her English was so limited she required an interpreter during court proceedings. Brown, on the other hand, does not speak Spanish.
That the case lingered for so long has been a point of contention for Brown’s legal team.
“The fact that these allegations made it past the investigative stage, let alone through a Texas grand jury is a travesty. What is particularly concerning is that, even after the forensic evidence proved Brown was not in the vicinity of the alleged incidents, the lead prosecutor in this case, Beverly Mathews, continued the prosecution for nearly a year,” Lange said.
TheDCNF reached out to Beverly Mathews, the assistant district attorney of Travis County, multiple times for comment on this story. However, a spokeswoman for her office eventually said Mathews declined to respond. The office of Detective Scott Donovan, who arrested Brown, did not respond to multiple requests for comment either.
Brown’s legal team raised other red flags while the case lingered on.
A private investigator discovered the social security number apparently being used by Patino-Herrera was issued several years before her listed birthday in court documents, a strong indication she was illegally using someone else’s. Questions over her legal status were confirmed when she voluntarily admitted during a civil protective order hearing she was an undocumented alien.
Another detail emerged that drew the attention of Brown’s team: Patino-Herrera admitted to a private investigator that she was actively seeking a U-visa. Brown’s team believed the issue to be relevant.
“Travis County law enforcement has been actively promoting U visa benefits to illegal aliens for years,” Lange said about the connection. “Shortly after Brown’s local counsel began inquiring into whether the accuser had applied for a U-visa, prosecutors dismissed the case. Later, the accuser admitted to a private investigator that she had been pursuing a U-visa.”
Notably, prosecutors dismissed the charge against him shortly after they asked the court if his accuser had filed for a U-visa. It was months after the dismissal when the investigator prompted Patino-Herrera to admit she was actively seeking a U-visa. Days later, Travis County prosecutors recommended an immediate expunction for Brown.
TheDCNF was not able to reach Patino-Herrera for comment on this article.
Whether she accused Brown in order to obtain a U-visa is unknown, but Brown said the connection is hard to ignore. If true, Brown would not be first person to have fallen victim from U-visa fraud. Other reports have detailed the stories of people facing spurious accusations from foreign nationals applying for the same visas.
U-visa abuse has also been promulgated by police officers themselves. Four law enforcement officers in March, for example, were charged with involvement in fraudulent U nonimmigrant visas. An indictment in that case alleges the officers took bribes in return for creating fraudulent incident reports.
Brown is no stranger to politics. For nearly 10 years, he managed Republican campaigns, working to put conservatives in elected office. Brown’s career as a political operative reached a milestone when, after being tapped by Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential team, he led the former senator’s ground game in the Iowa caucuses and delivered an upset victory.
Brown gained notoriety more recently for his work in the tech world. The Texas Republican in September 2016 launched the eponymous online platform known as “Codias.” A social network geared solely for conservatives, Codias allows like-minded citizens, candidates and organizations to communicate and organize with each other without fear of censorship.
The emotional toll of the ordeal still runs deep for Brown and his family. Personally, he was forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending himself in court. Professionally, he said he was unable to raise capital or market his startup company, Codias, for a long time, dealing a devastating blow to his work.
However, the Republican operative said his faith and his loving family kept him going.
“I could not have endured this without a gracious God, a strong and loyal wife, and a faithful circle of family and friends. This experience has only served to strengthen my faith and family as we prepare for more profound battles that lie ahead,” he said.
“We’ve only just begun to fight.”
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