Texas School Districts Are Allowed to Out Gay Kids to Their Parents, Court Rules

The Texas Civil Rights Project hoped that Skye Wyatt's case would set a precedent. Wyatt, the activists claimed, was confronted by her two Kilgore High School softball coaches in the locker room after a team meeting, where they accused her of having a lesbian relationship with another girl. The coaches soon made good on their promise to tell Wyatt's mother that she was gay.

And how did her family respond?

By filing a federal lawsuit, alleging that her constitutional right to privacy had been violated.

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Anson Chi Pleads Guilty to Trying to Blow Up Plano Gas Pipeline, Will Spend 22 Years in Prison

Categories: Crime, The Courts

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Not long ago, there was some discussion of whether Anson Chi, at that point the otherwise undistinguished author of a remarkably terrible novel (Yellow on the Outside Shame on the Inside: Asian Culture Revealed) really merited his own Wikipedia page. But then, in June 2012, he tried to blow up a natural gas main in Plano, effectively ending the discussion.

As recently as last month, he filed documents in federal court denying that he'd done anything of the sort, though a federal judge long ago determined there was enough evidence (bomb-making books; an expressed wish to be an "actual activist" instead of an "armchair" one; his father's obvious fear of his son) to keep him in prison pending a trial. Meanwhile, the media pored over his trail of web postings, noting his disdain for federal income taxes, a kinship with the sovereign citizen movement, and his fondness for Ron Paul.

See also
Anson Chi, Accused of Trying to Blow Up a Plano Gas Main, Faces Even More Charges
Plano Bomb Suspect Guilty of Being a Terrible Writer

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Dallas Morning News to Pension Fund: We Weren't Trying to "Wrongfully Record" You, and Your Lawsuit Threats Are Silly

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Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux
The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System has had a rough few months, what with the widespread public perception that they've installed a big, fancy Eye of Sauron downtown . Also, they're having to deal with a lot more reporters than usual, which no one enjoys. One of those reporters is The Dallas Morning News' Steve Thompson who, as you may recall, the pension fund would now very much like to sue, along with his paper, alleging that he "illegally recorded" an April 11 board meeting.

Thompson's explanation is much simpler: He says he attended the public part of the meeting, left when they broke for lunch, and accidentally left the recorder behind, balanced on the arm of a chair. When he realized he was short a recorder, he called the pension fund's spokeswoman immediately, told her what had happened, and asked her to retrieve it from the board room.

The pension fund didn't seem persuaded by that story. At the end of April, they asked District Judge Martin Lowy to rule on whether they'd be allowed to depose Thompson, with an eye toward suing him and his paper. In a delightfully bitchy response filed by the Morning News last week, the paper calls the pension fund's allegations of dirty doings "unfounded" and their arguments "legally improbable." They say that all Thompson's recorder picked up was a bunch of virtually unintelligible background conversation, several hours of it, which the pension funds lawyers are welcome to listen to any time.The paper also says that the whole lawsuit threat is little more than an attempt to "chill speech and news-gathering activities."

See also:
- Dallas' Police and Fire Pension Claims the Morning News Illegally Recorded its Secret Meeting
- The Nasher and Museum Tower Should Just Take This Fight to Court Where it Belongs

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Appeals Court: Even for Judges, Facebook Friends Aren't the Same as Real Friends

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William Youkers was on parole in 2011 when he choked his pregnant girlfriend in Plano. He pleaded guilty, and the judge was lenient, placing him in a community supervision program. But three months later, he tested positive for meth. He assured Judge Scott Becker that he was turning his life around by taking community college classes and moving in with his mother. Becker wasn't convinced, though, and sentenced him to eight years in prison.

When his request for a new trial was denied, Youkers took his plea to the appeals court. There, he stepped onto ground that hasn't yet been tread in Texas courts: the judge's Facebook status.

Youkers discovered at some point after his trial that Becker was Facebook friends with the father of his pregnant girlfriend and had been throughout the trial. What's more, the father had sent Becker a Facebook message intended to sway the judge's decision in the case. At the very least, Youkers argues, this raises big questions about the judge's impartiality.

See also
Texas Lawyers May Soon Be Able to Serve Defendent Via Facebook

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Collin County Judge Invokes "Morality Clause" to Split Up Lesbian Couple

Judge John Roach Jr.
A while back, before his father retired as district attorney against a backdrop of small-town political intrigue, Collin County District Judge John Roach Jr. described his philosophy on family law in a less-than-hard-hitting interview with Dallas Child.

His "obvious passion spill[ing] over in precise speech honed by years in the courtroom," he spoke of the importance of ensuring that children in custody cases wind up in a strong family environment with loving, involved parents.

"I often tell people I would not want them to make decisions about my kids -- why would you want me to make decisions about yours?" he said. "It is certainly my job to make these decisions; I make the decisions when I have to. However, parents going through divorce need to agree to disagree as to why, how or whose fault it is and focus on the kids. Your spouse may make a sorry husband or wife, but it does not mean you have to be sorry parents."

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Katy Trail Robber's Tale of PCP Addiction, "Purse Snatching" Fails to Win Jury's Sympathy

Categories: Crime, The Courts

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Dominique Thornton
Dominique Thornton did not testify in his trial for charges that he committed a string of armed robberies along the Katy Trail last May. It probably wouldn't have done any good. He was IDed by victims as the gunman in the heists, and police found Thornton's thumbprint on a stolen purse they later recovered. He was convicted Thursday on three counts of aggravated robbery.

Thornton did take the stand during the sentencing phase of his trial. As the Morning News' Jennifer Emily reports, he pleaded with jurors for leniency.

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This Week, Tarrant County Filed Murder Charges in Two Decades-Old Child Abuse Cases

Categories: Crime, The Courts

Teena Mathis, left, and Patricia Jones
Teena Mathis has always said it was an accident. She had left her 15-month-old niece, Heidi, with her children on a backyard swingset while she stepped inside to answer the phone. While she was in the house, the girl wandered behind the swing, which hit her in the head. Heidi died two days later.

Her family believed her story. Fort Worth police and the medical examiner did not. Officers noticed bruises on the toddler's face and body that didn't look like they'd come from a fall. The ME ruled the death a homicide.

But no charges were ever filed. Mathis was allowed to return home. She raised her family. She moved to Springtown and had grandchildren. And then on Wednesday, nearly 31 years after Heidi died, Price was arrested and charged with murder. The Star-Telegram's Deanna Boyd has the details.

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The Supreme Court Will Decide if North Texas Can Take Oklahoma's Water

With North Texas' population exploding and near-perennial drought seeming more and more like a certainty rather than a fluke, state water planners have been scrambling to secure new supplies, going further and further afield in search of waterways that haven't been tapped out.

Several years ago, that quest took the Tarrant Regional Water District to Oklahoma, where they hoped to purchase rights to 150 billion gallons from the southeastern part of the state to pipe to its customers in 11 counties. Oklahoma wouldn't mind. The state has 10 times the water it needs. Certainly it wouldn't deny a thirsty neighbor a mere sip.

Oklahoma's response was less than neighborly. It viewed the water district's request as an attempt to grab the state's natural resources, and the legislature passed laws putting a moratorium on out-of-state water sales. TRD sued in 2007 to stop the laws, and the two parties have been locked in a legal scuffle ever since.

The dispute has now made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in the case on Tuesday.

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Texas Sues the Feds, Part Infinity: Greg Abbott Wants to Take Greenhouse Gas Challenge To Supreme Court

Last summer, Texas, Big Oil interests, the automotive industry and other assorted industrial polluters were dealt an unambiguous defeat in a legal challenge to dismantle greenhouse gas regulations. The Feds, a federal appeals court panel ruled, were "unambiguously correct" for setting limits on carbon dioxide and other pollutants -- an affirmation that greenhouse gases and the climate change to which they contribute are threats to human health.

Abbott and the other challengers claimed the data the court relied on might have been "manipulated" somehow, but the full appeals court declined to rehear the case in December. The win signaled a significant victory for climate activists (and future, Earth-dwelling generations, you might say).

Greg Abbott, the litigious Texas Attorney General who has turned the office into an outsize expression of his political ambition, is now appealing to the highest court in the land.

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Yes, You Can Get Thrown in Jail For Drunk Driving a Golf Cart at Texas Motor Speedway

Officer Jennifer Bell and Corporal D.J. Lusty remember the night of April 9, 2011 quite clearly. The Fort Worth cops were working off-duty traffic jobs at Texas Motor Speedway following the Samsung Mobile 500 when Bell spotted a golf cart driving on the grass. She watched as the cart laden with three grown men weaved between idling cars lined up to leave the parking lot, then almost run over a person walking by. The cart almost hit Bell, too, as she ordered the driver to stop and grabbed at his arm as he passed. Lusty caught sight of the cart after his colleague radioed for help. He caught a glancing blow on the arm as they ignored his orders to stop.

The three men might have escaped had the golf cart been equipped with a more powerful engine. As it was, Lusty jogged beside the cart, at first attempting to steer it into the fence, then just jumping onto the back. "What's the problem, officer?" the driver, soon IDed as Donald Lewis, asked.

Lewis and his friends remember the night somewhat differently. They had been driving the golf cart through the parking lot, sure, but they hadn't known they were in trouble with the police. Each said he thought Bell was a lowly parking attendant chiding them for driving on the grass. And Lewis insisted they had never come close to hitting anyone, just "the dude that jumped in the way." Which happened to be Lusty.

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