Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Gary Ritchie’s former court administrator Shelly Ables has been sentenced to 42 months in prison. Ritchie’s 23 year employee, campaign treasurer, and close friend received her sentence for stealing over $65,000 in cash from the court in which she worked.
Direct Action Texas first broke this story in July of 2017 when Tarrant County Auditor Renee Tidwell submitted an audit of JP Ritchie’s court initially showing $19,000 worth of missing funds. Then in September of 2017, Shelly Ables was indicted on 7 counts including unlawfully acquiring property valued between $20,000 and $100,000, mishandling property for which she was a fiduciary, and multiple counts of making a false entry on a governmental record with intent to defraud. Ables pleaded guilty to one count of theft by a public servant, one count of misapplication of fiduciary property, and five counts of tampering with a government document.
Ables committed her crimes between April 2015 and October 2016, right under the nose of her close friend and employer, Gary Ritchie. Under Texas statute, Judge Ritchie is liable for all activities in his court, yet no charges have been filed against him. All the blame has fallen on the shoulders of Ables who has made full restitution and will now spend three and a half years in prison.
While Ritchie remains clear of criminal prosecution, the voters have held him accountable. Ritchie failed to secure the Republican nomination, finishing last behind the two other candidates. Republican Jason Charbonnet now faces Democrat Deborah Hall and Libertarian Derek Thorn for the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 6 seat.