Former Solicitor General and Senate candidate Ted Cruz is being accused by a Super PAC supporting his Republican primary opponent, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, of helping to cause a young man’s suicide.
The latest ad from the pro-Dewhurst Texas Conservatives Fund features Sandy Fonzo, who claims her son never recovered from his time at a for-profit juvenile detention center that was built with the help of real estate developer Robert Mericle. As an attorney, Cruz defended Mericle in a civil suit – an appeal of a breach of contract case between Robert Mericle and a private insurance company – but he was not involved in any criminal suit against Mericle.*
In the ad, Fonzo says her son was put in that facility by the corrupt judges, and when he was released, he committed suicide, shooting himself in the heart.
“Ted Cruz says that his client should not have to pay, that the IRS was the victim and not the kids here … Ted Cruz should be absolutely ashamed of himself, I don’t know how he can sleep at night,” Fonzo says in the ad.
In the suit in which Cruz represented him, Mericle pleaded guilty to not disclosing tax fraud committed by others to the IRS. The quote from Cruz was made in the context of this particular guilty plea.
It’s an arresting statement in a race that has gotten increasingly negative in the final days. Voters go to the polls on July 31; early voting began Monday.
In 2011, the Associated Press reported that Fonzo had confronted the judge who sentenced her son, who was brought up on a minor drug charge, and accused him of holding responsibility for her son’s death. She went to the courthouse on the day that Mark Ciavarella was found guilty on several counts of racketeering, and reportedly, just “lost it.”
“My kid’s not here anymore!” she screamed. “He’s dead! Because of him! He ruined my … life! I’d like him to go to hell and rot there forever! Do you remember me? Do you remember me? Do you remember my son, an all-star wrestler? He’s gone. He shot himself in the heart. You scumbag!”
The Cruz campaign issued condolences to Fonzo, but decried the ad as misleading.
“Our hearts go out to Ms. Fonzo, who suffered every parent’s worst nightmare,” emailed James Bernsen, Communications Director for Cruz.
“David Dewhurst’s disregard for the truth is as well established as is the fact that Ted in no way whatsoever represented Robert Mericle in any criminal matter related to the Pennsylvania prison tragedy,” Bernsen continued. “Texans are rejecting Dewhurst’s shameless and desperate campaign of dishonest character attacks and are instead focused on sending a proven conservative to the US Senate who will reduce the size of government and restore the Constitution.”
*The post has been updated to more clearly reflect the fact that Cruz represented Mericle in a civil lawsuit, not a criminal suit.