Last night a jury acquitted Hearne City Councilman Rodrick Jackson of a charge that he forcibly kissed and groped a fifteen-year-old girl, and I think the verdict proved what I have been saying all along: the charge was politically motivated and never should have been filed in the first place. The acquittal also creates serious problems for the City of Hearne, because Mr. Jackson’s civil rights lawsuit can now proceed in federal court.
As you may recall, the Texas Rangers and Robertson County District Attorney’s Office investigated the allegation against Mr. Jackson and District Attorney Coty Siegert rejected the case, but the City of Hearne then charged Mr. Jackson, an outspoken critic of corruption at city hall, with Class C misdemeanor “assault by contact.” A Class C misdemeanor is the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket.
As of December 17, 2017, the city had spent nearly $20,000 in legal fees for a special prosecutor from suburban Houston, and I suspect that figure will climb significantly after yesterday’s trial. All of that for a citation that is punishable by a maximum $500 fine and no jail time.
On January 18, 2018, I asked the U.S. District Court in Waco to block the prosecution on the grounds that the city was retaliating against Mr. Jackson for exposing corruption at city hall. Judge Robert Pitman denied our request for an injunction, but he asked the city’s attorney afterwards, “This looks bad, doesn’t it?”
Indeed it does. If you are not familiar with the case, you may be wondering why it was tried in municipal court, i.e., traffic court, because it’s a felony for a grown man to kiss and grope a teenage girl. The short answer: politics. Apparently city officials could not get the Rangers and the DA to do their dirty work for them, so their only option was to charge Mr. Jackson in municipal court, where the maximum charge is a Class C misdemeanor.
In federal court on Monday, Chief Thomas Williams admitted that he was not aware of another case in his 20 years with Hearne PD that the district attorney rejected a felony charge and his department then prosecuted it as a Class C misdemeanor. Chief Williams and Lt. Pat Armstrong also admitted that they made the decision to charge Mr. Jackson without looking at all of the evidence, including the most important piece of evidence: the videotaped interview of the accuser. Last night, Lt. Armstrong and another officer were forced to admit that they never interviewed Mr. Jackson to get his side of the story. Yet both the chief and the lieutenant insisted that Mr. Jackson was not being singled out or treated differently from other defendants.
Chief Williams testified on Monday that as soon as he learned that the accusation was made against a city councilman, he referred the case to the DA’s office, which investigated the case along with the Rangers. After the DA rejected the case, however, he decided that his department no longer had a conflict of interest, and his department took up the case again. Even Judge Pitman asked the chief what happened to his department’s conflict of interest after the case was rejected by the DA, but the chief could never come up with a coherent answer.
At trial last night, meanwhile, the prosecution witnesses just couldn’t get their story straight. I genuinely feel sorry for the accuser, because I believe she has been exploited by some unscrupulous adults, including her own mother. According to police records, officers were summoned to the offices of attorney Bryan F. “Rusty” Russ, Jr. on the same day that accusations were made against Mr. Jackson. That alone was a huge red flag, because Mr. Russ is a political enemy of Mr. Jackson, a personal injury lawyer, and a Booger County Mafia kingpin. Witnesses testified that he exerts enormous control over what happens at city hall.
The accuser’s mother made a bizarre claim on the witness stand, namely that she consulted with Mr. Russ only because she saw a Facebook post where I claimed I was going to sue everybody involved. She also testified that she did not meet with Mr. Russ until several days after the accusation was made, but the police records show she met with Mr. Russ within hours the accusation. I was living in New York and totally unaware of the accusation at that time, so I obviously could not have posted anything about it on Facebook.
She also admitted that she threw a shoe at her daughter and whipped her daughter with a belt severely enough to leave marks, but that the police never filed charges against her. The teenage accuser, on the other hand, testified that she was beaten with an electric cord and relayed that to Hearne police, but CPS was never notified. If the Hearne PD wanted to charge somebody with “assault by contact,” they probably should have taken a hard look at the accuser’s mother, not Mr. Jackson. But then that would not serve the political purpose of silencing and discrediting Mr. Jackson.
And what about Mr. Jackson? Thanks to the false allegations, he lost his job as a school truancy officer, a bus driver, and a Baptist minister. And the bogus criminal charge is only the latest in a series of retaliatory acts. The federal lawsuit notes, for example, that city officials shut off the electricity to his house after he filed open records requests about the city’s suspicious utility billing practices. (You might also want to read what the lawsuit says about City Councilman Emmett Aguirre).
For years now, I have worked with reformers like Mr. Jackson who have tried to clean up Hearne’s municipal government from within. We have also tried to get the FBI, the Rangers, and state and federal prosecutors to take up the case, but none of that has worked. We now intend to bankrupt the city and, more importantly, the people who are responsible for corrupting it. Sometimes you have to burn the village to save it.
ODDS AND ENDS
* A very special thanks to criminal defense attorney John Quinn of Bryan, who graciously volunteered to assist a civil attorney (i.e., me) in defending Mr. Jackson from criminal charges. John has defended death penalty cases, but he was sufficiently offended by what he saw in Hearne to spend a Friday evening in municipal court. We need more attorneys like him.
* Chief Williams also admitted in federal court that he was under investigation by the Texas Rangers because he flushed some marijuana down a toilet at police headquarters. According to the chief, he found the marijuana after former Sgt. Stephen Yohner, a.k.a. “Sgt. Tallywacker,” cleaned out his desk. You may recall that Sgt. Tallywacker was placed on administrative leave and ultimately resigned after texting photos of his gonads to a female police officer. The marijuana is significant because another officer accused Sgt. Tallywacker of seizing drugs and cash from crime scenes but never logging them into evidence or otherwise accounting for them. On the witness stand, the chief suggested that the marijuana was not really evidence so it was OK for him to flush it down the toilet.
* I really wish the world-famous Robertson County News had covered the trial in Rosebud Municipal Court, because the residents of Hearne deserve to know how corrupt and incompetent their city government is, particularly the city police department. Then again, News publisher Dennis Phillips has been bought and paid for by the Booger County Mafia, and editor Margaret Salvaggio sits on the city council, is a defendant in Mr. Jackson’s federal case, and regularly supports the crooks at city hall.