Denton County Won't Have to Pay For Prosecutor's Lynching, KKK References

Categories: Legal Battles

In June 2012, attorney William Trantham was riding high. He'd just scored a half-million-dollar jury award on behalf of his client, a black Denton County prosecutor named Nadiya Williams-Boldware who was outraged by racist remarks from colleagues and superiors. Two days after the verdict, District Attorney Paul Johnson fired four of his deputies who were implicated in the harassment.

Trantham's good feelings wouldn't last. In a post-trial judgment, the district judge cut the award by two-thirds, to $170,000, finding that Denton County wasn't responsible for current or future pain and suffering, just "past mental anguish."

On Friday, that figure was cut to $0 by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The justices don't dispute the basic facts of the case. On April 2, 2009, assistant district attorney Cary Piel, a self-described redneck, walked into Williams-Boldware's office to discuss a case involving an African-American woman who had driven through and "desecrated" a historic cemetery.

The case, Piel told Williams-Boldware, "made him understand why people hung people from trees" and made him "want to go home and put on his pointy white hat."

See also: Denton County DA Fires Four After Deputy Wins Racial Discrimination Suit

Two months later, after Piel had been reprimanded and required to take diversity training, and after Williams-Boldware was transferred to another department so she wouldn't have to work under Piel's wife, she overheard Piel say he needed a boombox for an upcoming trial. She took his comments as a veiled dig at black culture, particularly when he said "I better watch what I say or else I'll have to take another one of those classes."

Four weeks later, an assistant district attorney called Williams-Boldware "troublemaker" as he walked past her office.

Where the appeals court and the jury differ is on whether any of this proves Williams-Boldware experienced a hostile work environment for which Denton County should be held liable.

"These incidents did not involve a protracted outpouring of racially invidious harassment that required large-scale institutional reform," they write. "Instead, Denton County was required to implement prompt remedial measures to prevent Cary, and anyone else, from engaging in racially harassing conduct toward Williams-Boldware."

Indeed, the justices go on to applaud Denton County's response, saying it "could
not have been more prompt."

Less than twenty-four hours after the complaint, Williams-Boldware was in a meeting with the DA and the First Assistant DA. During this meeting, she was afforded the opportunity to fully explain what she experienced. The DA's Office's leadership asked for her input on an appropriate response. She requested a meeting with Cary and her request was granted. Shortly thereafter, Denton County officials verbally reprimanded Cary and required that he attend a diversity training. They also ensured that Williams-Boldware would not be supervised by Cary's wife, Susan.

Trantham acknowledges those facts but disagrees with 5th Circuit's conclusion.

"I think it was quick but not effective," he says. "The sniping continued to several months."

And so will Williams-Boldware's court case. Trantham says he plans to file for an en banc hearing before the entire 5th Circuit. If that fails, maybe the Supreme Court.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

Is it racist to say someone's skin is thinner than rice paper?

Montemalone topcommenter

So, the picture.

Is that libtard guy? NAMBLA guy? Divershitty guy? 

It's kinda hard to tell. Sheets and all.


The plaintiff needed to prove that 'the sniping continued several months' but all she presented was a 'boombox' reference that was made with or without knowledge that she was in earshot and a 'troublemaker' reference from someone else. 

The source of the 'troublemaker' comment had to also attend a diversity training class.

(You call someone a troublemaker at work and you have to attend diversity training?)

Not very convincing according to the court.


'Moreover, the evidence presented did not demonstrate that any racially harassing conduct persisted after Cary was reprimanded and compelled to attend a diversity training class.'

She may have been subjected to worse but she needed to present better evidence regarding the alleged sniping according to a reasonable interpretation of the law.


Hey look Eric Nicholson wrote a white-guilter propaganda article. How totally unusual!

Keep on Celebratin' Divershitty, Eric.


Shame on Denton County.  Malfeasance will haunt Denton County forever.


Every attorney who practices in the areas knows the Fifth Circuit doesn't believe there are such things as civil rights violations or employment discrimination. The court is notorious in the U.S.

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Pretty sure I read somewhere else she had already been paid.  Who wants to bet she doesnt have the $170k to pay back if the new finding is upheld.  Shitty situation for sure


White or brown rice?


@dingo Oh I dunno, how about this: People don't say shit about race in the workplace and everything would be okay.

bmarvel topcommenter

@libtard_apologist So in general you applaud the assistant DA's behavior, libtard? Just to be clear.


@ruddski No thanks, I prefer beans.  White beans, lima beans, black beans, red beans, pinto beans, navy beans....

Beans just have far more character and individuality than all that uniform, boring, rice does.

However, considering your avatar, I'm sure you use rice paper for something a bit  LOL...


@casiepierce @dingo 

boombox is about race? troublemaker is about race? what other insensitive words should be banned? can we get a daily update email to add to the other crap we have to deal with?

how bout this : come to court with clear proof about your allegations or go home empty handed.

how bout this: don't incriminate all hard working good decent people in the Denton District Attorney's office with a pompous, classless display of a KKK photo because of one jackass that they wound up firing.


Just to be clear, I think it probably did not happen the way it was reported.


@dingo how about I agree that race should not be in the work place in the FIRST DANG PLACE!  DUH?   Anyone with some common sense would have done figured that out.  

SMH  Troublemaker and boombox have nothing to do with it.  It's the other comments about hanging people from trees and pointy white hat.  

  This created a hostile work environment. I would not have felt comfortable with it either.  Diversity training includes more than you think it does.  I've done enough training on harassment and discrimination in the work place, that I know what I'm talking about.  Thank you and buh-bye now.  

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault