An ongoing McLennan County Sheriff’s Office investigation into indigent defense fraud resulted in an arrest Friday.
James Tyrone Johnson, 40, was arrested just after 1 p.m. on charges of falsifying or tampering with a government document, Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Cawthon said.
I've not heard of other counties employing someone full-time to verify indigence applications - much less prosecuting people over false claims of indigence - but given that the McLennan County Commissioners Court has been chomping at the bit to reduce jail costs from pretrial detention, it's hard to see how this makes financial sense. They may save money on attorneys for the indigent but if those folks wait in jail longer while their relatives scrape together money for lawyers, or don't, it's going to cost a lot more than it saves: Almost the definition of penny wise and pound foolish. Grits would bet that county commissioners end up scratching the new position once it begins to rack up extra jail costs.
The McLennan County Commissioner’s Court this year approved the creation of a new position to investigate false claims of indigence, because the county must provide an attorney for any defendant who cannot afford a lawyer.
Cawthon said this is just the first arrest and he expects the investigation, which has been led by Detective Eric Carrizales since early November, to uncover how much money the county is losing on false indigence claims.