Thursday, June 03, 2010

Constablegate in Dallas getting special prosecutor

Instead of handing the constable corruption cases off to the Attorney General, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins yesterday assigned a special prosecutor to the case, Ted Lyons\, who is a former Democratic state senator and reportedly a contributor to Watkins' campaign. (See the Dallas News coverage.) Further muddying the waters, though, the DA's office claimed without documentation or any specifics that there was a conspiracy to lie to accuse public officials of wrongdoing, including Watkins. They've primarily asked Lyon to investigate THAT, judging by comments from the DA's first assistant, treating as an afterthought allegations of kickbacks to constables first reported to the DA's office by the county auditor back in February 2008.

Watkins' handling of this case continues to appear hamhanded, seemingly unconcerned with the appearance of impropriety or conflicts of interest. I respect Lyon and have no reason to think he won't perform the task with integrity. But there's no denying he's a well-known partisan.

If he'd appointed someone viewed as truly independent - or just given the case to the AG as he did under identical circumstances with then-Constable Mike Dupree - Watkins could have put this issue firmly behind him. As it stands, independent voters will see this as partisans protecting partisans, and since any litigation won't be resolved by November, that's the impression voters will have going into the general election.

IMO Watkins has consistently been the recipient of extremely poor political advice on these matters. I continue to believe the US Attorney should step up to the plate so there's a credible, independent investigation of the allegations in which the public can have confidence.

UPDATE (6/4): Friggin' unbelievable, from Kevin Krause at the Dallas News:

The man who claims that Dallas County's constable investigator was behind a plot to concoct lies about District Attorney Craig Watkins is in jail facing numerous felony charges.

Information from Gale Corbett Hutchinson, 44, who has a lengthy criminal history and suffers from mental illness, led Watkins to hand off his constable investigation this week to a special prosecutor, Ted B. Lyon.

The district attorney's office said it asked for an outside prosecutor because Watkins apparently is the target of a scheme to drive him from office.

Hutchinson, of Allen, has been in the Collin County Jail since April 1 on felony charges including making false statements for property credit, credit card abuse, theft and impersonating a lawyer.

He has said in court documents that he suffers from several mental-health disorders and was placed on suicide watch while in custody.

MORE: I agree with what Michael Landauer says about this. I'm amazed Watkins let things get this bad. To me, and I had the opportunity to say so to him personally several months ago, the consequences of failing to recuse himself in the constable corruption cases were as predictable as the sunrise. If Watkins had passed off the allegations to the AG when the Defenbaugh report was released, he'd be cruising easily toward reelection right now. Instead, he's in for a serious fight and this issue isn't going away.

4 comments:

R. Shackleford said...

This is just getting sad. It's becoming increasingly obvious that Watkins has no business holding the position he currently holds. We may as well be in Chicago.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work. I just found your blog and it is very interesting. Thank you!

R.B.
Dallas,TX

Anonymous said...

Shackleford, you took the words right out of my mouth. This whole "constablegate" saga just wreaks of partisan cronyism, just like Chicago "machine" politics. I think Watkins has allowed himself to become enamored by all of the spotlights and media attention into believing he's another Obama. Not a good quality to have in a district attorney who should ideally be above partisan politics--at least when it comes to investigative and prosecutorial decisions. When a prosecutor starts imposing a double standard in charging decisions based upon party affiliation, frienships, connections, or anything other than the law and the facts, his credibility and integrity is pretty much shot.

Jackie said...

Hindsight is 20/20. Now I know why I couldn't get a living soul to listen to me when I complained about my child and I being stalked, harassed and intimidated, for almost 3 years, in Dallas. What we experienced was a very organized system of harassment, led by our neighborly constable. It nearly killed my child. His doctors at Children's Medical Center refused to listen to me and they allowed it to continue for years.
Well, we left because of it and are very happy to be far, far away.
Good luck Dallas.