Craig Watkins' Use of Forfeiture Funds Is Being Audited by the Feds

Sam Merten
Getting hit by the door on his way out.
Maybe Mike Cantrell was right. As first reported by The Dallas Morning News late last night, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office is being investigated for the potential improper use of money seized during criminal investigations.

Cantrell, the lone Republican on the Dallas County Commissioner's Court, fought a solo battle over the summer to have outside council appointed to take a deeper look into Watkins' management of the forfeiture fund, specifically his using it to settle a February 2013 car wreck for which he was at fault.

See also: Commissioner Mike Cantrell Continues Lonely Crusade Against Craig Watkins

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Dallas County Officials Say Video Won't End Regular Jail Visits. Can We Believe Them?

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Andreas Praefcke
In October 2012, Travis County officials promised that bringing video visitation to the local jails wouldn't affect anything else about jail visits.

"We're not changing anything else from what we're doing," Travis County Major Darren Long told the county commissioners before they voted to approve a contract with Securus, the Dallas-based company offering the video visitation. "You can still come and do your free visits the traditional way, but that will provide an opportunity for those that don't feel like driving long distances."

In May 2013 Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton eliminated all in-person visits at his jails.

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Software Vendor Takes "Full Responsibility" For Election Day Website Crash

Stephen Young
How looked on election day.
They had one job. Last Tuesday, the one day this year most people will even think to look at the Dallas County elections website, it went down. For seven hours. Any person needing to know her polling place had to seek out other methods. The situation was laughable, but it also couldn't have helped turnout.

See also: Dallas County's Voting Website Is Down

"I've got some real concerns," county commissioner John Wiley Price said at this Tuesday's Commissioner's Court meeting. "This is the second time that the website has gone down."

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Bentley Is an Extremely Cute Dog, But Tomorrow's Press Conference Is Insane

Dallas Animal Services
Maybe we should leave them alone.
As of Tuesday, Amber Vinson and Nina Pham, the two Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurses to get Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, are Ebola-free. It's remarkable, inspiring news. Seeing the two speak at their post-release press conference was, in a way, like seeing someone back from the dead.

Then there's Bentley. Bentley, as you surely know, is Pham's impish, year-old King Charles Spaniel. After Pham's diagnosis, he was taken from her Marquita Avenue duplex to be monitored for signs of Ebola at Hensley Field in Grand Prairie. The dog's now officially Ebola free, so he's going to be reunited with Pham tomorrow.

That's awesome.

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John Wiley Price "Knows What Happened" at Presbyterian in Ebola Case

Centers for Disease Control
Transmission electron micrograph of the Ebola virus
Just before heading into a private executive session to address what he called "security issues" related to the Ebola virus' arrival in Dallas, County Commissioner John Wiley Price told his fellow commissioners and County Judge Clay Jenkins what led to the temporary release of an Ebola-stricken Thomas Duncan from Dallas' Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

"We know what happened at Presbyterian whether we say it or not," Price said. "If a person who looks like me shows up without insurance, they don't get the same treatment."

The issues at Presbyterian, Price said, were the "elephant in the room."

See also: How About We Very Calmly Count the Failures on Ebola So Far? Calm Enough For You?

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Dallas County Will Experiment with Not Arresting People Caught with Marijuana

Flickr user Blind Nomad
Get caught with a joint in Dallas this afternoon and you'll find yourself being chauffeured to Lew Sterrett in the back of a squad car. Get caught with a joint in Dallas this January and you may well escape with a ticket and a stern admonition to show up in court.

The Dallas Morning News reported over the weekend that Dallas County will pilot a cite-and-release program next year allowing those caught with less than two ounces of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor, to avoid a trip to jail.

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Clay Jenkins and Inmate Groups Push Dallas County to Stop Profiting from Jail Phone Calls

Andreas Praefcke
Dallas County Jail
They successfully fought contract provisions that would have banned in-person visits at the Dallas County jail while the county made money from new video visits. Now exonerated inmates, prison rights advocates and County Judge Clay Jenkins aim to make the county among the first in the nation to stop profiting off phone calls between jail inmates and their families.

See also: Dallas County Will Not Ban In-Person Visits for Inmates After All

About $3 million in the county's recently approved budget stands to come from surcharges applied to phone calls made to and from the jail, but Jenkins wants to change course and find the money elsewhere.

"What you've got is an irreconcilable conflict between our desire to make money off these poor families so we can balance our budget and our duty to lower crime and treat people fairly," Jenkins says.

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UPDATE: Ebola Has Landed in Dallas

Centers for Disease Control
Transmission electron micrograph of the Ebola virus
UPDATE, 3:44 p.m.: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a patient at Dallas' Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is the first case of Ebola confirmed in the United States.

UPDATE, 5:13 p.m.: At a news conference in Atlanta, CDC Director Tom Frieden said federal, local and state health officials will contain any threat that Ebola will spread further locally. "I have no doubt we'll stop this in it's tracks in the U.S.," he said. Doctors' first concern is treating the patient, who traveled from Liberia September 19-20, but didn't start developing symptoms until the 24th.

Ebola patients are not infectious until they show symptoms, and Frieden downplayed any worries that the patient might have infected anyone on board his flight to the United States, where he was visiting family members.

Public health care workers with the CDC and in Texas have already begun the process of identifying anyone who might have come in contact with the man, who is in intensive care. Friedan said the number of potential contacts during the period the man became infectious is likely to be small -- a handful of family members and one to three others. Those who came in contact with the patient after he likely became infectious will be monitored for 21 days.

Patient privacy laws prevent authorities releasing the man's name or any information that might identify him.

ORIGINAL POST: Dallas County Health and Human Services gave an update Tuesday morning on the status of a patient potentially infected with Ebola currently being cared for in isolation at Dallas' Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and the county's' preparation in the event an Ebola case is confirmed. No details have been given about the patient, other than that he or she is being kept in "strict isolation" and was admitted based on symptoms and "travel history."

"This is not Africa," DCHHS Director Zach Thompson said. "We have a great public health infrastructure to deal with this type of disease."

Christopher Perkins, the medical director for county health services, made it clear the risk for outbreak is low because Ebola cannot be spread through the air. Ebola can only be spread through contact with blood or bodily fluids.

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How a Mall Fight Led to Courtroom Drama, a Prosecutor Quitting and an Alleged Cover-Up

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Prosecutor Dodds quit and accused District Attorney Craig Watkins of playing politics.
It started out as a case that wasn't very dramatic or high-profile. Latoya Scott, a 26-year-old woman, was arrested by the Irving Police Department for an alleged fight at a mall. Prosecutors said Scott hit and scratched a woman she was dating. She was charged with family violence assault, a felony a Class A misdemeanor.

But now that assault case has turned into the minor backdrop for another fight, a weird feud between the county attorneys on the case and the judge overseeing it. Rebecca Dodds, the former chief of the misdemeanor division in the Dallas County District Attorney's Office and the main prosecutor on Scott's case, insisted that Scott pleaded guilty to the assault charge back in April. But Judge Elizabeth Frizell said that wasn't true and tried to hold a jury trial for Scott on September 2.

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After Preserving In-Person Visits, Clay Jenkins Takes Aim at County Jail Phone Commissions

Andreas Praefcke
Dallas County Jail
Two weeks ago, County Judge Clay Jenkins led a successful effort to change a contract that would have ended in-person visits with jail inmates while the county collected a share of the money a private company made from charging for the video visitation that was to replace it.

See also: Dallas County Will Not Ban In-Person Visits for Inmates After All

The county will still offer video visits in addition to in-person, but the county won't collect a surcharge from inmates or their visitors from video visits. Yet Jenkins still is not happy. He wants to the restart the process for finding a company to provide jail communications and eliminate surcharges for phone calls too. Dallas County would make $3 million from the surcharges over the life a proposed contract with Securus Technologies, which had the original winning bid.

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