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

Earlier this week, the Dallas County District Attorney's office mysteriously dropped all felony charges against Columbia Packing Co. and its vice president, Joseph Carl Ondrusek Jr., for dumping pig blood into a tributary of the Trinity River in January 2012. Counting last month's dismissal of the charges against Donny Ondrusek (another vice president and Joseph's cousin), 30 counts of criminal water pollution and evidence tampering vanished.

In exchange, the company pleaded guilty to "unauthorized discharge," a misdemeanor, and agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.

It's a stupefying end to what has seemed like a slam dunk case from the time a hobbyist's remotely controlled aircraft first photographed a ribbon of scarlet flowing into the Trinity. Councilman Dwaine Caraway is stupefied, charging that the two-plus year investigation conducted by Dallas County Health and Human Services, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, was "mishandled."

Attorneys for Columbia and the Ondruseks maintain the discharge was accidental and that Tuesday's dismissal of charges is proof of that.

One of the few people who can say definitively why the charges were dropped is District Attorney Craig Watkins, and he's not talking.

Susan Hawk, the Republican former state district judge challenging Watkins for his seat in November, took the opportunity to fire the first legitimate public volley of the general election campaign.

"Our citizens deserve more than a 'no comment,'" Hawk said in a press release. "These are serious charges that deal with the health and welfare of thousands of citizens, and for the District Attorney to request dismissal without any sort of explanation to the public shows a complete lack of accountability."

Maybe "complete lack of accountability" is overstating things, but it's hard to argue with the broader point. If the charges were dropped because someone screwed up, you should say so. If it was, as the Ondrusek family says, all just an accident, why'd you try to throw the book at them in the first place?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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31 comments
casiepierce
casiepierce

Not sure if the tone of the article is about lobbing grenades at Hawk because she's a Republican. but the entire last paragraph kinda undoes the whole point: they DID throw pig blood in the river and it was no accident. 


Partisan politics aside (and I am no fan of Hawk), this stinks.

EricCeleste
EricCeleste

I agree. That is one solid way to wear a romper.

tdkisok
tdkisok

The Inspectors screwed up when they investigated the property in the first place. Fact. 


Are we fucking surprised? 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

It is time for a change at the DA's office.

The term "imperial" comes to mind in reviewing the current DA's conduct....

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

When later testing revealed that the pig blood had improved Trinity River water quality and fish habitat, the case was quietly dropped...

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Without an internal whistleblower wkth ironclad evidence, intent may have been a tough sell.

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

Can you say "Campaign Contributions"?  No?  How about "Equity"?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

If it was, as the Ondrusek family says, all just an accident, why'd you try to throw the book at them in the first place?


Perhaps the incessant stories in the Observer had something to do with it?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@mavdog

It is time for a change at the DA's office.

The term "imperial" comes to mind in reviewing the current DA's conduct....

I love that word "Imperial".

"The administration is also reportedly looking at shortening the time an immigrant is considered new, and therefore a removal priority. A recent immigrant would go from someone who entered in the last three years, to someone who entered in the last two weeks."

"... Fresco said he believes that if the administration releases the memo ahead of legislative action, House Republicans will then be able to charge that the president is lawless and imperial, and would subsequently kill any legislation on immigration."

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@mavdog That would explain the black helmet/mask and cape.  It also explains the martial sounds of John Williams' music emanating from Watkins office.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@ozonelarryb  
Lack of intent would have maybe knocked out half the felonies, then. To go from 30 to 0 with no explanation is perturbing.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@MaxNoDifference  
You'll never be elected. In politics, it's more sophisticated than in commercial development, due to those pesky laws and other nuisances. In this case, the DA's office rightfully suggests to the packing company that they need legal representation. The DA's office -- not the DA himself -- casually says, "Given the number of felonies, you'd better get a GOOD lawyer, somebody like Lisa Blue." 

Packing company cuts large check to Lisa Blue's firm, NOT a bribe or even a political contribution, and...well, you connect the dots.

BTW, this is exactly how former Tx governor Miriam A. "Ma" Ferguson worked it for her husband. When a complainant came to see her in the gov's office, she would say, "Get yourself a good attorney, like the one across the street." Across the street was her husband's law office, impeached ex-gov Jim Ferguson.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@everlastingphelps I think you're giving the Observer credit for a lot more clout than they actually wield.

tdkisok
tdkisok

@wcvemail


I heard they didn't process the evidence or messed up the paperwork for the first investigation. This mess up made it so prosecutors doubted they could win.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@TheRuddSki

all right! I took the under on the "over/under 30 minutes for RuddSki to introduce Obama into the thread" bet.

You and your obsession are so predictable.....

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@wcvemail Why would I want to be elected in this town?  There isn't enough nose bleach in the state to get me elected to anything.  And if by some odd chance I do get elected, I'd have to deal with Jim, Eric, and the rest of you rabble rousers on a regular basis.  I'd rather climb the Matterhorn on roller skates.  It's much more fun to sit in the bleachers and holler things.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@wcvemail

Seems this is where a news sgency would come in, act like inquiring minds,.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@mavdog @tdkisok @wcvemail  
Hunh, one county agency, two state agencies (although TCEQ is really just a sort of all-title-no-work agency) and the U.S. EPA. IF it's true that the legalities were messed up, and not just a Caraway cover, I wonder if any of those will point the finger at the culprit agency? It doesn't look like we'll get a real explanation from the DA's office. I guess they could say they didn't maintain chain of custody on the water samples, or something.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@tdkisok @wcvemail

Caraway is who put forth the "investigators screwed up" line. It sure provides cover for the DA decision to not pursue the case, doesn't it? hmmm...

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@TheRuddSki

great, I'll take that plethora of rhetoric to be annotated as "you're right, but I'm going to do it anyway".

btw what is a "Benghazi-denier"? does anyone deny it happened? does anyone deny it was a tragedy? anything else is just political posturing and political blaming...

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@mavdog

The Lamentations, excuses and justifications of Benghazi-deniers are expected, but it's gonna be a rough two years for hope and change.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@TheRuddSki

Well, if you're an Obama supporter who complains about a public official acting imperially or unilaterally, you're obviously going to be open to opportunistic rib- pokers like me.

if you were knowledgeable about the history of the Presidency, you would know that Obama has acted no different from his predecessors in the use of Executive Orders and acts such as recess appointments.

but clearly you are not, hence the itchy trigger of yours to hurl invective.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@mavdog Too bad it took almost 4 hrs.  You're 3 1/2 hrs out of the money!

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@mavdog

Well, if you're an Obama supporter who complains about a public official acting imperially or unilaterally, you're obviously going to be open to opportunistic rib- pokers like me.

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