Craig Watkins Reportedly Dropped Trinity Pig Blood Case Over Trespassing Investigator

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The criminal case against Columbia Packing and the Ondruseks, aka the Trinity River pig blood guys, sure seems like it should have been a slam dunk. How could investigators possibly botch a case in which there is literally a trail of blood leading directly to the suspected culprits?

By trespassing, that's how.

Citing multiple sources, a WFAA quadruple team of Jason Whitely, Tanya Eiserer, Rebecca Lopez and Jason Trahan reports that a Dallas County Health and Human Services investigator inadvertently wandered onto Columbia property as he waded through Cedar Creek and snapped pictures in December 2011. (Now that we look, D's Tim Rogers scooped them by a week, though WFAA can be forgiven for not checking his work in the Frontburner comments section.)

See also: Susan Hawk Demands to Know Why Craig Watkins Dropped 30 Felony Charges In Trinity Pig Blood Case

That would have been no big deal if he'd had a warrant, but he didn't. The fact that some of the earliest evidence was illegally obtained was apparently enough to persuade District Attorney Craig Watkins' office to drop the 30 felony charges against Columbia and two vice presidents, cousins Joseph and Carl Ondrusek.

Still lots of questions here, such as: You only discovered this after spending two-and-a-half years, thousands of dollars and who knows how many man-hours investigating? And: Really? Not even with a trail of blood?

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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45 comments
noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas

I $mell $everal rat$ with this situation. 


A good friend who is an excellent criminal attorney said the DA's Office could still have prosecuted in many of these pig blood cases if the evidence was not obtained through the trespassing.  But, this also goes to show the horrible situation at Dallas County, and the level of many of their employees. 


So, what was done for the DA to completely back off and not so much as file ANY case at all?  


Fair question.

tdkisok
tdkisok

See? I told you an investigator screwed up,

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

The inspector should have stayed below the high-tide mark.

Rick_Endicot
Rick_Endicot

Same investigator crew and law enforcement did the work up on the illegal slaughterhouse operation at the Texas Horse Park facility 811 Pemberton Hill Road. That hits the courtroom in June. Anyone know if that case is botched too?


The Horse Park slaughterhouse is much worse than the Columbia Packing case and it would be a really terrible show of the authorities to have messed this one up too.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

That would have been no big deal if he'd had a warrant, but he didn't. The fact that some of the earliest evidence was illegally obtained was apparently enough to persuade District Attorney Craig Watkins' office to drop the 30 felony charges against Columbia and two vice presidents, cousins Joseph and Carl Ondrusek.


Let's not gloss over it.  It wasn't "trespassing."  It was an illegal search.  He should have gotten a warrant.  The exclusionary rule would have applied, and everything that flowed from those pictures -- essentially, the entire investigation from then on -- was fruit from the poisoned tree.  


This is the way it is supposed to work.  Otherwise, the next time the cops want to bust you on something, they'll just happen to "trespass" a little through your front door after they nudged it in with a battering ram.

jollytex
jollytex

Hmmmmm, seems like we are still asking the wrong questions. If Dallas health and human resources knew about the event in early December, why did they continue the investigation for 6 weeks before attempting to notify Colmubia Packing of a problem with the sewage. BTW, blood is a protein and as such doesn't last long exposed to the environment. Its actually a pretty good fertilizer for plants.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

I am a bit worried that a 'clear and present danger' or similar exception doesn't apply. Surely they use the "I heard a child crying" for lots of raids on homes.....

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

The Federal EPA could still bring their own charges.



markzero
markzero

Why can't he just throw out the evidence gathered during that trespass? Or was that actually key evidence, not just "some?"

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

I hope we are talking about a former county investigator that has moved on to other career opportunities, left to spend more time with his or her family or whatever excuse looks best.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

This is exa tly what the MRAP is for. Search warrant? We doan need no steenking search warrant.

I'd ppv that at a polluter.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

I think you can stay in a year round creek and not trespass.  Just don't come off the bank.

And they should have used a game warden.

Locked gates and private property doesn't apply to them.

Where are the Ninja Park Rangers when you really need to open a can of BATF whoop-ass on domestic terrorists?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  

Maybe it was their patriotic duty.

Not one Jihadist has made it past the Trinity.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@jollytex ... so is Nitrogen and Phosphorus ... should industries simply dump those elements / chemicals into any nearby waterway?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@ozonelarryb  ... or the fake "anonymous tip" of a burglary / assault / rape occurring.


The legal term you want is "exigent circumstances".



pak152
pak152

@markzero because all the other evidence is tainted by what was gathered illegally. and a good deeefense atty would get all the evidence excluded

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@markzero  No, because anything that resulted from the illegal search -- essentially the whole investigation -- was tainted by the original misconduct.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@markzero  ... it's a bullshit subversion of justice.


When the courts really want to prosecute someone, the judges always allow the "good faith" exception to ANY police misconduct and include the evidence.





DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@holmantx  "I think you can stay in a year round creek and not trespass.  Just don't come off the bank."


Close ... you can FLOAT down the stream or creek, passing over the private land, but you can't touch the banks NOR the bottom without trespassing.



TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@holmantx

True, but that's also because of the gators.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@pak152 ... let the COURT make that determination, otherwise it looks like the DA throwing away the case as a form of favoritism to the corporate criminals.


marvin
marvin

@everlastingphelps @markzeroBut what flowed from the trespass, except the pictures themselves?  You could clearly see the blood in the water from the other side of the creek, or from a helicopter.  It's not like he found a bloody glove, or any information that the that the investigator didn't already know.

I completely agree that cops shouldn't be able to use evidence that flows from an illegal search.  I just don't see how this whole case relies on these illegal pictures, when they have all those legal pictures, assuming they would have taken the legal pictures without the trespass.


holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @holmantx  

A game Warden has standing since that discharge affects the aquatic plant and animals, as well as the plants and animals in the riparian zone.  In fact, TP&WL has restrictions as to what a landowner can put, or drain into, a creek/river.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@MikeWestEast @DonkeyHotay @pak152  


The PRE-trial motions -- such as whether the Evidence was Unlawfully Obtained -- would not invoke double-jeopardy if the Judge tossed the evidence.


The case could be withdrawn / postponed while the Search and Seizure issue was appealed to higher courts for final determination.


The case could then be tried / refiled depending on the appeals court ruling on the search and seizure.


Pre-trial dismissals are almost always done "without prejudice", allowing the State to refile new charges once they get their shit together.


MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@DonkeyHotay @pak152 It is dangerous to take it to court because the judge can dismiss the perp essentially deciding he is not guilty for lack of evidence, especially if the stupidity is as obvious in this one.  Better to pull the case and wait for other evidence.  Also maybe a Federal case could work.  You really do not want a dismissal.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@pak152 ... TexASS deserves the corrupt corporate kowtowing DAs it elects.



pak152
pak152

@DonkeyHotay well the DA who is an experienced attorney didn't want to lose the case knowing that in all likelihood the evidence would be tossed. why don't you run for DA?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@whateveryousay @DonkeyHotay @markzero  


... so is Torture, Extra-Judicial Rendition, Assassination, Attacking, Invading and Occupying smaller, weaker and poorer sovereign nations on false pretenses, slaughtering 100,000+ innocent civilians in the process ....

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @RTGolden1 @DonkeyHotay @holmantx  


No strained interpretation of "riparian rights" gives the Government Agent a right to Trespass on private property without a Warrant while conducting a Criminal Investigation into Water Pollution.



ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul@DonkeyHotay@holmantx 

Not necessarily.  Depending upon how the land was patented and the source of the water, the riparian rights may belong to the surface fee owner. The riparian area is basically the area between the land and the water.  It is can be taken as the area between the high water mark and the low water mark, or in the case of a bluff or cliff, from the top of the cliff to the low water mark.


The case of the BLM looking at the Red River downstream of basically Wichita Falls to the Louisiana border is basically a dispute over the riparian rights.  The Texas - Oklahoma border was defined by an Act of Congress when it was previously the low water mark on the south bank of the river.  The BLM is now saying that the land between the low water line on the south side of the river and the bluff above the river is a riparian area that did not belong to Texas when it entered the Union.  The BLM is saying that this strip is the result of agradation and erosion; and not avulsion.


In addition, the stream bed may indeed belong to the surface fee owner in some instances.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @DonkeyHotay@holmantxFrom what i understand, since all waters (except in endorheic basins, like death valley) flow into the sea, the Clean Waters Act extends Federal jurisdiction to all flowing waters.  State 'ownership' applies to the land beneath navigable waters.  From everything I could glean, riparian rights as applied to a landowner along the banks simply means the landowner has a right to expect water untainted from pollution upstream.  Don't know how that would all apply here.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@holmantx "In 2004, Texas game wardens became federally commissioned. According to TPWD, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to provide training to TPWD game wardens about federal laws and their enforcement. Texas game wardens then had the authority to make arrests and seizures in federal wildlife violations. In return, TPWD offered training to federal agents and provided them with jurisdiction within the state of Texas."


Hell, why stop at Game Wardens? ... just cross-commission ALL Federal and Texas law enforcement, so the FBI / DEA / DHS can enforce all Texas laws, and all Texas cops can enforce all Federal Laws.


Imagine the fun.


holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @holmantx @DonkeyHotay  

People don't realize how much power a game warden has.

Some hunters do.  As in those who were ticketed inside a 2,000-acre ranch where multiple gates are locked.  

at least they had to walk a couple of miles.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@holmantx @DonkeyHotay "... on any land or water where wild game or fish are known to range or stray..."  That's pretty much anywhere.  I've had snakes in my apartment when I lived up off of Midway.  That code pretty much eliminates the Fourth Amendment.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @holmantx  TPWD employs more than 500 law enforcement specialists throughout the state. These figures carry a great deal of authority and responsibility. They enforce all areas of the TPWD code, regulations, Texas Penal Code and several specific regulations that relate to the environment.

In 2004, Texas game wardens became federally commissioned. According to TPWD, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to provide training to TPWD game wardens about federal laws and their enforcement. Texas game wardens then had the authority to make arrests and seizures in federal wildlife violations. In return, TPWD offered training to federal agents and provided them with jurisdiction within the state of Texas.

Game wardens can perform seizures and inspections in a person’s home, temporary residence (such as tents, hotel rooms, and campers), on roadways, and public property.

Property owners should be aware that in most cases, a game warden can enter private property. In Chapter 12 section 103, the code states, “An authorized employee of the department may enter on any land or water where wild game or fish are known to range or stray. No action may be sustained against an employee of the department to prevent his entering on land or water when acting in his official capacity.”

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@holmantx  ... the Game Warden -- or any other Government Agent -- could document the discharge up to the property line of the suspect without a warrant ... then obtain a warrant for further investigation onto the subject private property.


Same as when cops smell marijuana or meth chemicals emanating from a property, then need to obtain a warrant before they can trespass and search that property.

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