Craig Watkins' Contempt Battle a Silly Distraction in Scary Times

Categories: Schutze

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I'm scared. One, I'm scared because of what's going on in Kaufman County. Two, I'm even more scared because of what's going on here, which seems to be one big stupid-fest.

You will remember, perhaps, that Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins brought criminal charges last year against Al Hill III, a rich guy, for faking up a loan document. The case felt weird from the beginning because Hill didn't profit. Nobody lost a dime.

Hill then brought charges against Watkins for faking up the charges against him as a favor to Lisa Blue, a rich lawyer, who was trying to get money out of Hill for fees. A judge asked Watkins under oath if that's what he did -- brought charges against the rich guy to help the rich lawyer get money out of him. Watkins refused to answer.

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Craig Watkins
Watkins said it was illegal for the judge to try to get a district attorney to talk about how or why he did what he did. But Watkins had already allowed his own staff of assistant district attorneys to talk about how and why he did what he did, so the judge said Watkins had forfeited his right not to talk about it. The judge found Watkins in contempt and threw out the charges against the rich guy.

Watkins demanded a hearing on the contempt charge, which hasn't happened yet, but he did get pissed off in front of the TV cameras last week and called the whole thing "smoke and mirrors."

In the meantime, Texas Lawbook has reported that the Eastern District of Texas of the U.S. Justice Department has an "extremely serious" and "very active" criminal investigation of Watkins under way, based on the rich guy/rich lawyer matter. So that turns the worm over a whole other time.

Maybe Watkins' big high-horse argument about the courts interfering with the operations of a district attorney was the real smoke and mirrors. Maybe the real reason he refused to talk in court was to avoid providing information under oath that would help the feds make a case against him.

That part of it took an increased odor of fishiness when the rich lawyer, Lisa Blue, took the Fifth on all of it. What's she got to take Fifth about? If it's the federal investigation she took the Fifth for, doesn't Watkins have the same Fifth? But instead of taking the Fifth, he got on his high horse and refused to say anything. So now we have fishy smoke and mirrors on top of smoke and mirrors.

Yesterday Watkins filed a notice with the court where he was found in contempt, saying he is going to appeal the tossing out of his criminal case against the rich guy. OK, please bear with me.

For Watkins to appeal his criminal case against the rich guy, he must appeal the tossing out of it. See what I mean: he has to go to the appeals court and say, "That judge shouldn't have tossed out my case just because I refused to answer her questions in court about blah-blah-blah."

So doesn't the appeals court have to ask, "What was the blah-blah-blah?" Then doesn't Watkins or somebody have to say, "It was about blah-blah-blah." And then the court or somebody says, "How do we know it wasn't really about the federal blah-blah-blah?"

Then Watkins get pissed, or perhaps I should say he gets re-pissed. He re-refuses to answer, so the appeals court finds him in re-contempt. Then he runs for re-election.

Sheesh.

Is this pretty much everything that the district attorney of Dallas County will be doing for the better part of the year? In light of everything else going on in Texas right now with law enforcement and district attorneys, is there not some reasonable way unwind it?

Tell me again what it's about? The rich guy overstated his assets on a loan document, but then he paid back the loan immediately when the error was pointed out.

Would it be possible -- obviously I'm not a lawyer, so I'm just tossing this out as a layman -- for Watkins to make the contempt thing go away by pleading to some lesser offense? Instead of contempt of court, could he plead guilty to simple disdain?

Could we say that, instead of taking a bribe from the rich lawyer, he was just being nice to her? To keep critics at bay, maybe he should be found guilty of something a little worse than just being nice but still well within the bounds of clay feet and a fallible human nature, like sucking up to her. Perhaps the court could toss in another item for him to be found also guilty of, like "happily inserting himself into a dispute between a rich guy and a rich lawyer so maybe not being the sharpest knife in the drawer."

Do you think Watkins might be willing to make a statement to the effect that the rich guy, rather than committing fraud on his loan document, was just being a bullshit artist?

Is there some way to make this entire asinine farce go away so that the office of the district attorney of the county of Dallas could address itself in a wholehearted and focused way to the very serious challenges facing us in these times?

Because, otherwise, you know what all of this looks like? It looks like Mongol Hordes at the gates of the city while the champions who are supposed to defend us are running around the coliseum goosing each other and pulling each other's pigtails. The stupider, the scarier.

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25 comments
ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Maybe he should just railroad a bunch of innocent people, and get his name on a building with the word 'Justice'.

cantkeepthetruthdown
cantkeepthetruthdown

It just looks like another corrupt black politician caught with his hand in the public cookie jar. 

Blacks and self hating white liberals will re-elect him though. Up until the point he's actually thrown in federal prison. 

BettyC1
BettyC1

Something strange is going on with the Dallas DA, and it pains me to witness him self destruct.Mortgage Freud is normally in Federal court,as you stated no harm was done ,and error was corrected by full payment of loan,so how are citizens being served by charging Hill?  Someone who cares about DA Watkins as a human should sit him down and explain to him what he is doing to himself and this Community.Please stop cheering him on in these silly games.Grow up before its to late!

James080
James080

Why are you scared Jim, you're the one holding the shot gun?

hilllbillle
hilllbillle

could these 'scary times' be the result of the failed war on drugs? most of the really bad stuff,,,,killings of elected officials, cops have stayed south of the border....not anymore.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

This is Dallas County government.  Why are you surprised at allegations of misconduct, malfeasance and corruption?

arstubblefield
arstubblefield

There is an important principle at stake in what Watkins is arguing.  The independence of the prosecutor's office is key.  As politicized as Texas' judicial system already is, if judges are permitted to delve into the reasons behind any given prosecution as a matter of course, it would amount to cranking the political influence on the judicial system up to 11.  So, in a vacuum, I'd agree with Watkins.  It really isn't any business of this judge how or why his office elected to pursue this particular case (though, in fairness, I'll say there are, of course, some exceptions to that statement).

That having been said, I have to agree with Jim in that this doesn't appear to be an principled argument for the principle's sake.  It has the distinct patina of using the principle to cover some fairly-unprincipled conduct.  And we needn't look any further than the fact that several of the players in this game are talking about 'pleading the 5th.'  Bear in mind, the 5th Amendment gives us the right not to be compelled to incriminate ourselves.  That distinction may be important on why Watkins says what he has said.  He (at least as far as he's concerned) didn't refuse to talk because talking might incriminate him; he (at least as far as he's concerned) refused to talk because of the principle of prosecutorial discretion.  Unfortunately, that position is somewhat belied by the fact that his compatriots are invoking their 5th Amendment privilege - indicating that what could be said would be incriminating (to themselves, at least, and possibly to others).

So, all in all, I think Watkins was right to refuse to talk.  I believe in the principle at issue.  At the same time, I think it's unfortunate that the principle may get dragged down by the real reason behind the refusal to talk.  After all, he didn't do himself (or the principle he's theoretically trying to protect) any favors in the manner in which he went about refusing to talk.  And, at the end of the day, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District may have the last word on the subject. 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Watkins is a democrat.  That means he's dirtied up with dirty money.  It doesn't even mean that he is necessarily dirty through-and-through -- but the Party is not going to let him hold an office without something they can hold over him.  Once he ended up dirty, it's just a hop-skip-and a jump to doing a favor for the woman who is now holding the purse-strings that paid to keep John Edwards' Baby Mama in Gucci bags and extra cheese on her big macs.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

All those options would have been there if Mr. Watkins had simply answered the summons. To protect his office he could take the Fifth and preserved two fundamentals of the Constitution: Everyone but the President has to appear and once there you can exercise the Fifth Amendment. Instead he makes himself and his office look stupid because I can only surmise he relied on his attorneys' consensus advice and blew it off. I make that assumption because even Mr. Watkins would not act as his own lawyer since a lawyer that defends himself has an idiot as a client. While it may seem a small matter, it puts a big spotlight on Mr. Watkins' legal skills. While most of us ridicule lawyers, we grudgingly admire their ability to get to the crux of the matter and tailor actions that address that item for their clients regardless of outside appearances. They do not get emotional. Everything is just business to them. Does this episode indicate Mr. Watkins has any of those skills?

fromtexasbygod
fromtexasbygod

and if the day ever comes when Watkins is hauled off to the Federal pen,  John Wiley Price (or if he is in prison the next head hatemonger in charge) will lead a rally of a few dozen other bigots with a bull horn chanting "No Justice No Peace", and then maybe a mob of constituents will loot, pillage, and plunder one of the few remaining businesses (a liquor store) in their "communerty".

James080
James080

@BettyC1  

Betty, the mortgage fraud charges were brought by the DA to keep Hill3 from testifying in his own defense in Hill3's civil suit against Lisa Blue. The criminal charges against Hill3 were in effect nothing more than a political favor to a generous benefactor. The amateurish aftermath of the whole affair is unsettling.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@MikeWestEast 

Yeah, all good points. In my nightmare, I sideswipe a bus full of nuns on the freeway and find myself in the dungeon facing multiple charges of nunslaughter. I am told that my wife is on the nuns' side and  refuses to release any funds for my defense, but, not to worry, because here comes my court-appointed lawyer -- you guessed it.

G_David
G_David

Not mortgage fraud, Mortgage Freud.  Sigmund's semi-literate younger brother.

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