The seemingly routine occurrence of Willie Nelson’s being found in possession of marijuana has stoked a small conflagration in a Texas county where a judge says she will not permit what she sees as the lenient punishment of this singer by an overly deferential prosecutor.After detailing two plea deals reached by attorneys but rejected by the judge, the story concluded, “'At no point do I have to let him off,' the judge said. 'If Willie Nelson gets off with nothing, I’m not going to be part of it.'”
Judge Becky Dean-Walker of Hudspeth County said on Tuesday morning that she would not accept a mailed-in plea agreement for Mr. Nelson that stemmed from a 2010 drug arrest there and that she believed that the county attorney, Kit Bramblett, was giving the singer preferential treatment because he is famous.
“He’s supposed to file the charge he feels is appropriate,” Judge Dean-Walker said of Mr. Bramblett in a telephone interview. “Not what he feels he should do for his favorite singer. It is up to the judge to agree or not.”
Judge Dean-Walker added, “If you’re not going to do it for the guy in the corner, why do it for a celebrity?”
It's not so clear, though, that the judge herself wouldn't normally do exactly this for "the guy in the corner." She went on to say she'd actually, physically signed off on the deal before realizing Nelson was the defendant. "The judge said she had accidentally signed off on paperwork approving the latest deal for Mr. Nelson," reported the Times, "then crossed out her signature. 'I did sign it before I realized,' she said. 'I flipped it over and I said, ‘Oh, no.’”
It's not surprising she signed off on the deal before realizing she had a celebrity defendant. Very few Texas defendants convicted of low-level pot possession end up sentenced to jail time, so one wonders if, at this point, Nelson's case isn't being treated less favorably by the judge than normal because of his celebrity, in sort of a mirror image of the lenient stance she accuses the prosecutor of taking. Who knows? Certainly the Red Headed Stranger can afford the lawyers to flesh it all out. But I surely wonder what other sentences for comparable charges have issued from the same judge's court? I doubt many included jail stints.
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