Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dallas DA should pursue removal petition against allegedly corrupt constable

I'd written earlier that the US Attorney should step in to prosecute allegations of wrongdoing by Dallas County constables if District Attorney Craig Watkins won't do so. But recent events have given Watkins a fresh opportunity (which I hope he takes) to take a stand against corruption and mitigate the impression that he's ignoring alleged crimes committed by Democratic elected officials. Reports the Dallas News:

A visiting judge ordered this week that a petition seeking to remove Dallas County Constable Jaime Cortes from office can proceed, but District Attorney Craig Watkins has not yet decided whether to accept the case, records show.

On Monday, Judge Richard Mays ordered the Sheriff's Department to serve Cortes with legal papers related to the removal petition filed last month by three deputy constables on the grounds that Cortes abused his office.

Deputies Guadalupe Frias, Lois Martin and Les Willie allege in the petition that the constable is guilty of misconduct, criminal conduct, retaliation, incompetence, official oppression and misuse of county property.

Cortes, who has denied wrongdoing, said Friday that he hasn't been served with court papers and declined to comment further.

Frias and Willie work for Cortes, while Martin is a former employee who was transferred to another precinct after alleging sexual harassment. The petition includes signed affidavits by two other deputy constables and a former deputy.

A little-used state law allows any county resident to file a petition to oust county officials for incompetence, official misconduct or drunkenness.

The process is similar to a civil action. If a judge allows it to go forward and the district attorney accepts the case, a jury trial will be held to determine whether the elected official should be removed from office.

But Watkins has not decided what he will do, said F. Benjamin Riek III, a Richardson lawyer who filed the petition on behalf of the deputies.

For my part, I hope Watkins accepts the petition and moves forward on the case this year. If the Dallas DA is vulnerable in November, it's mainly because he's mishandled this fiasco surrounding the constables so badly. By accepting this petition and pursuing what appears to be a pretty strong case against Constable Jaime Cortes, he'd quickly overcome the public impression that he's stalling the case to protect his friends.

I've praised Watkins' work on innocence issues in the past, and he deserves tremendous credit for all he's done to correct false convictions. But it's difficult to avoid an impression of indifference to credible allegations of corruption by Democratic constables on his watch. Now that a judge has opened the door to a removal hearing for Cortes, who appears to be the worst offender of the bunch, Watkins should step through it and pursue the case vigorously. Failing to do so risks his legacy and possibly his reelection.


BorderPundit said...

Would be interesting to read a post about that obscure recall process.

Hoof said...

I recognize one of the names making the allegations against Cortes. Now I'm not so sure there is any merit with the allegations at all. What a mess. That individual falls into the gypsy cop category with the other names commonly heard.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well Hoof, FWIW the allegations came from a lot more than just one source. See the full Defenbaugh report and judge for yourself. From my reading, there's enough there to proceed, but quien sabe? Maybe there's more backstory that hasn't come out.

Anonymous said...

When is that Visiting Judge going to visit Houston?

Anonymous said...

Judge Mays, Judge Foster and District Attorney Watkins, My name is Daniel Montes. I am writing you concerning Jaime Cortes. I was subjected to excessive force retaliation and suffered physical injuries. Jaime Cortes was present when this occurred along with Jeffrey P. Ransom, Demarquis F. Black, Thomas G. Jones, Wllie Faye Washington and David Bonner. They were all defendants in my federal civil rights lawsuit that reached the US Supreme Court #07-10. I do recommend as a citizen that Jaime Cortes be removed from office based on my personal interaction with him and his group. If you have any questions to call or email me. Thankyou, Daniel Montes, 682-429-7421,

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