Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Former assistant: Denton DA's office traded lenient sentences for cash and prizes

More allegations that the Denton County District Attorney's office traded lenient sentences in exchange for uncontested asset forfeiture cases against drug dealers, this time by a former assistant, Paul Johnson, who just announced his opposition to incumbent Bruce Isaacks in the upcoming GOP primary. ("Johnson plans to take on Isaacks in DA primary," Denton Record Chronicle, Dec. 4)

Johnson said that when he worked at the district attorney’s office, no one was supposed to get probation for delivery of a controlled substance. But there were instances in which drug dealers gave up boats, cars and more to the state, and then received probation, he said. Another former prosecutor has said publicly that such deals were struck with a half-dozen defendants over two years.

“In essence, you just bought leniency,” Johnson said. “The mere fact that they have cars, jewelry, et cetera, will not get them a probation offer.”

But Isaacks said that such deals do not happen.

“I can assure you that your chances of going to prison for narcotics delivery are a hell of a lot higher here than it is anywhere else in the state,” Isaacks said.

Isaacks said police from Dallas County arrange drug buys in Lewisville because they know drug dealers will go to prison if prosecuted in Denton County.

Johnson's charges that Isaack's office exchanged leniency for asset forfeiture opportunities echo those by the Dallas Morning News in 2003, which reported that another of Isaacks' assistants exchanged leniency in drug sentences in order to finance the county's matching fund obligations under the federal Byrne grant program for the now-defunct North Central Texas Drug Task Force. After that, Issacks and Sheriff Weldon Lucas pulled their support for the task force. Ironically, though, Johnson blames Isaacks for that, too:
Johnson also accused Isaacks of failing to fill a prosecutor’s position on the North Central Texas Drug Task Force, allowing grants to lapse.

Isaacks said he purposely didn’t fill the position because he felt the task force “had lost its focus.

“I decided I did not want an employee assigned to that,” Isaacks said. “During that period of time, there was a lot of consolidation going on. The state decided they wanted fewer task forces, because there were problems with them. We just didn’t need those sorts of issues here.”
Yup, in my book prosecutors exchanging lenient sentences for cash to make their budgets amounts to a loss of focus. But regular readers know I think getting rid of the task forces was the right decision, anyway, and if they hadn't done it the money still might have gone away. Yesterday I mentioned that the Governor right now is shifting big chunks of that same federal Byrne grant money away from such task forces toward border security.

But Johnson's obviously pulling out all the stops, knowing he has to go negative, hard, to beat an incumbent in a primary. Look for more such lurid details to emerge as the mudslinging gets underway in earnest in this
hotly contested race. It's one of several important DA's races next year. To the south, Dallas County DA Bill Hill recently stepped down, leaving an open seat in an emerging Democratic county, and in Huntsville, an opponent has emerged for Walker County DA David Weeks. UPDATE: The Lubbock DA also has a challenger.

RELATED: Reacting to this post, Catonya tells about her own unhappy encounter with Texas' asset forfeiture laws.


Catonya said...

stop by today's entry on 2withspirit when you have a few moments. Today's entry is a springboarded from your entry here.
hope all is good with you.

Anonymous said...

If this was reported about a foreign country, we would want to withold foreign aid to punish them.

Catonya said...

thank you for the mention.