Editor’s Note: The following report regarding the investigation of James Elliott and his indictment stems from information garnered by The County Gin from Texas Public Information Act requests to the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office and the 23rd District Court. All individuals are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
A former Wharton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) deputy was indicted on two charges by the Wharton County Grand Jury on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
While the exact charges have not been made available to the public, the sealed indictment of James Edward Elliott, 58, of El Campo, stems from an investigation by the Texas Rangers into allegations of continuous sexual abuse of a child.
Elliott has not yet been arrested on these charges and the indictment remains sealed.
The investigation by the Texas Rangers follows an incident on July 17, when deputies responded to a report of a domestic dispute at 360 Brent Street in El Campo.
The victim (who will not be named in order to protect her privacy) subsequently came forward with claims of continuous sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather and the former deputy that allegedly span more than a decade.
Elliott has served in various capacities at the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office since May 1, 1996, according to his personnel file obtained by The County Gin.
Two separate internal investigations were conducted by the agency following allegations of sexual harassment in 2004 and in 2018.
The first incident included two allegations by the complainant, a telecommunications officer.
According to the WCSO Internal Affairs Investigation conducted by Lt. Daniel Marek, one of the allegations from November of 2004 involved inappropriate language over the Nextel phone by Elliott to the dispatcher.
“James Elliott called me from his house on the Nextel and wanted to run (driver’s license) and registration, so I ran them,” the victim stated in her affidavit. “He then asked, ‘When are you going to let me take you out dancing, get you drunk and get into your pants?’”
The second allegation involved inappropriate touching toward the same dispatcher by Elliott between 3-5 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2004.
“James Elliott came in dispatch after getting his coffee,” the complainant said in an affidavit. “(Later,) Elliott started singing the ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ and came over to me, grabbed my head, pulled it down to his crotch and said, ‘Pop goes the weasel.’”
Elliott denied the allegations, according to his voluntary statement.
Polygraph examinations were administered to both Elliott and the complainant on Jan. 5, 2005.
According to the results, “James Edward Elliott showed deception in his responses to the above relevant questions,” while the answers provided by the victim “showed no deception.”
A Discipline Action Notice stated Elliott violated two of WCSO’s policies, citing sexual harassment and unbecoming conduct.
He was suspended for five days without pay from Jan. 2-11 and was also ordered to attend mandatory sexual sensitivity training.
The document stated, “Future complaints of sexual harassment will be met with automatic termination.”
However, another allegation of sexual misconduct would arise years later following a July 20, 2018, incident involving another telecommunications officer. An internal investigation was conducted by Capt. Jason Mican.
“On Friday, July 20, 2018, Deputy James Elliott hit (the victim) on her butt with the backside of his hand while holding mail and stated, ‘Cheer up, don’t make me spank you,’ or, ‘I’ll spank you.’ (The complainant) advised that she felt the sting (and) advised him to never do that again,” Mican summarized in the WCSO report. “(She) was so upset by the action that she had to take a leave of absence.”
Elliott admits to the accuracy of the account, but claimed his actions were playful in nature.
“My interactions with (the complainant) were not implied to be nothing more than horseplay/joking around as in the past,” he said. “I never have, nor do I now, hold any bias toward (the victim) and consider her my friend and coworker.”
Elliott was suspended on Aug. 6, 2018, for sexual harassment and prohibited conduct for three days without pay and placed on a six-month probationary period.
Three days following the July 17 incident involving his stepdaughter, the former deputy was placed on suspension and effectively retired on Aug. 13.
That same day, his wife and the victim’s mother, Misty Jensen Elliott, 44, of El Campo, was arrested after the Wharton County Grand Jury handed down a sealed indictment.
She was charged with abandoning or endangering a child criminal negligence and released on a $15,000 bond later that day.
Following the July 17 incident, the sheriff’s office recused itself from the investigation and prosecution.
“Any time an allegation of felony status is made against an employee, the WCSO refers these cases to the Texas Rangers (or another agency other than itself) to investigate,” WCSO Sheriff Shannon Srubar told The County Gin. “This has been a standard that has been around for many years.”
As of the time of this reporting, Srubar declined to comment on any information regarding Elliott’s personnel file or the criminal investigation, though Srubar noted he may issue a statement in the future.
The Wharton County District Attorney’s Office also recused itself from the prosecution of charges against Misty Elliott and James Elliott on Aug. 5.
The following day, an oath of office was taken by District Attorney Pro Tem Gabrielle Massey of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, who will prosecute the case.
A protective order was also issued against James Elliott on Aug. 17 and will remain effective for two years.
Misty Elliott appeared before the 329th District Court at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 20 to issue a plea of not guilty. The date of James Elliott’s arraignment is currently pending.
The victim’s family has declined to comment on advice from the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
The County Gin will continue to report on relevant information as it becomes available.
Jessica Hartman also contributed to this article.