Texas official flashes badge during traffic stop… but he’s not a cop

Body camera video from an August 14, 2018 traffic stop by a Huntsville, Texas police officer shows a senior official from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission flashing a badge and identifying himself as a deputy executive director of the state’s third largest law enforcement agency… even though he is not a law enforcement officer himself.

Dennis Beal is TABC’s deputy executive director of business & revenue operations, but according to records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, he has never been licensed as a peace officer in Texas.

Dennis Beal, Deputy Executive Director
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission

Shortly after the one-minute mark in the three-minute video, Mr. Beal displays a badge and agency credentials and states that he does not have liability insurance because he is driving a state vehicle. He also explains to the officer that he lives in Huntsville but works in Austin, and he is driving home after a meeting. He was released with a warning.

I emailed TABC spokesman Chris Porter to ask “why TABC issues badges to civilian employees and whether TABC has any policy governing the use of badges and credentials by civilian employees, particularly during traffic stops.” Here is his response:

TABC previously made it a practice to issue gold identification badges to its senior leadership, which includes Commissioners, the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Directors. These badges identify the bearer as an employee of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and are distinct from the badges carried by commissioned peace officers. The badge includes the bearer’s job title as well as the badge number. The badge does not identify civilian employees as commissioned peace officers, nor does it grant any privileges normally afforded to peace officers.

The latter sentence sounds like hair-splitting to me. If I had stopped Mr. Beal back when I was a deputy sheriff, and he flashed his badge and credentials as a deputy executive director of TABC, I would have reasonably assumed that he was a cop. I’m not saying TABC’s policy is unique, because the Houston Police Department once issued badges to spouses of HPD officers (and maybe it still does), but it all seems a little shady to me. [Continued on page 2].

DPS releases report about demoted Texas Ranger

This afternoon the Texas Department of Public Safety released internal records about the demotion of former Texas Ranger Brent Davis of Tyler, and the records don’t paint a pretty picture.

According to an August 11, 2017 affidavit from Mr. Davis, he began having an affair with Faezeh Horaney, widow of murder victim Ron Horaney, after he was assigned to investigate Mr. Horaney’s murder. The affidavit states that the affair came to light only because Mrs. Horaney’s children discovered her explicit text messages with the ranger:

I do not remember when, Faezeh contacted me and said her children had found text messages between the two of us, confronted her and were mad because I was investigating their father’s death. I told Faezeh that if the children said anything that I would get into a lot of trouble. I told her that I did not need to get into any trouble and attempted to stop communications with her.

Faezah told me that she needed my friendship, my support and relied on me to help her with difficult decisions. Faezeh had a disagreement with her mother-in-law and had learned a long-time friend was not truthful with her. Faezeh felt like everyone was trying to get money from her since she received the life insurance payment from her husband’s death.

I did not stop communication with her at that time. She was someone easy to talk to about my problems and she relied on my communication to help her with her situation…

There was one intimate encounter after the children confronted her about the text messages between the two of us…

In other words, even after the kids found out about the affair and objected, Mr. Davis and Mrs. Horaney kept doing their thing. Classy.

[Continued on page 2].

Chief of Texas liquor agency shoots the messenger, denies corruption charges

It’s the holiday season, and joy and peace abound everywhere… if you’re watching the Hallmark Channel.

Early this morning (a Sunday, in case you didn’t notice), the executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent a nastygram to one of his critics, defending the agency’s top cop against corruption charges.

A. Bentley Nettles, Executive Director
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission

As I reported on Friday, the FBI and Travis County District Attorney’s Office are investigating alleged corruption in the agency, and the TABC itself has already concluded that its chief of enforcement, Victor Kuykendoll, interfered in a criminal investigation to help his friends. Internal investigators also concluded that Chief Kuykendoll lied during the investigation in order to hide his relationship with an organized crime suspect.

In a 6:27 a.m. email, TABC executive director A. Bentley Nettles shrugged off these incidents as nothing more than “managerial misjudgment” by Chief Kuykendoll. Then Mr. Nettles turned his sights on retired TABC lieutenant Darryl Darnell, the man who has spent nearly three years exposing corruption at TABC.

Mr. Nettles alleged that Mr. Darnell had a “bone to pick” with Chief Kuykendoll, and that Mr. Darnell had been fired from TABC and escorted out of the building. In a response sent this afternoon, Mr. Darnell said he retired honorably after 25 years and was never escorted from TABC premises, but instead was the guest of honor at a retirement party hosted by the agency.

If Mr. Darnell is right (and I have no reason to doubt him), it looks like Mr. Nettles has set himself up for a defamation lawsuit. I’ve reprinted the full email exchange below, but a couple of things are worth highlighting:

  • According to Mr. Darnell, the TABC is fighting his open records request for the results of an employee survey, apparently because the results are, in the words of agency lawyers, too “embarrassing.”
  • In his email, Mr. Nettles wrote about refusing to meet with “Sherry and Ed.” He seems to be referring to his predecessor as executive director, Sherry Cook, and Cook’s deputy, Ed Swedberg. Ironically, Mrs. Cook was driven out of the agency in 2017 largely as a result of the corruption that Mr. Darnell exposed that year. In other words, Mr. Nettles arguably owes his job to none other than Darryl Darnell, the man whom he now accuses of having a vendetta against the agency.

In one of his emails to Mr. Nettles, Mr. Darnell suggested that Mr. Nettles had fallen under the malign influence of some lousy TABC employees who should have been purged along with Sherry Cook. Mr. Darnell does not mention any names, but allow me to propose one: Albert Rodriguez, the former commander of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s police academy who now serves as TABC’s director of training.

[Continued on Page 2]

FBI investigating Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, chief liquor cop was promoted while under internal investigation

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s chief cop, Victor Kuykendoll, was promoted to the position while he was still under investigation for assaulting another agent, and even after the agency concluded that Kuykendoll had interfered with an ongoing criminal investigation of two of his friends. Meanwhile, the FBI and Travis County District Attorney’s Office are investigating Kuykendoll and other TABC officials (more on that below).

Victor Kyukendoll
Chief of Enforcement
TABC

According to a heavily-redacted report released in response to an open records request, an unnamed agent alleged that he was groped by Kuykendoll and Sgt. Jeffery Farmer while attending a colleague’s retirement party in Waco. I received the report from Darryl Darnell, a retired lieutenant and regular thorn-in-the-side of the TABC brass (may God bless him), who noted that the “investigation” appeared to be an attempt to exonerate Kuykendoll.

The assault allegation was “not sustained” by the internal TABC investigator, Lt. Peter Heller, but the report contains findings far more damning than an assault. Consider this excerpt:

According to [TABC Special Investigations Unit] Investigative Reports, on September 13, 2017, Agent Marvin Padgett “saved screen shots showing friends” on the Facebook Page of AC [i.e., “Acting Chief”] Kuykendoll, and one of his “Facebook Friends”, Rami Altrach, was a person on a Terrorist Watch list. Based on this information, SIU opened the investigation into the alleged illegal activity of AC Kuykendoll, [Tom] Noble, and [Wayne] Stovall.

SIU discovered AC Kuykendoll began deleting Facebook pictures related to Rami Alatrach on or before October 27th. In stark contrast to “a couple months after” the October 26th party, that AC Kuykendoll asserted.

Kuykendoll, Noble and Stovall were longtime friends who had worked together in the Waco field office, according to a former TABC agent whom I’ll call “Agent X.” Rami Altrach was a Lebanese national who owned a night club and a car lot in Bell County, according to Agent X, and Agent X was fired by TABC in May after he reported the alleged criminal activity (more on that below).

[UPDATE (12/21/2018 10:50 a.m. ET): I received an email (click here) and record excerpt (click here) from Wayne Stovall indicating that TABC found the charges “unsustained” with respect to any connection between him and Altrach. The email is worth reading, and I’ve requested a full copy of the record.

[Continued on Page 2…]

FBI releases transcripts from James Comey investigation, refuses to release other records

Fifteen months after I made a Freedeom of Information Act request to the FBI and Office of Special Counsel, and nine months after I filed suit to get the records that I requested, the FBI has finally produced transcripts from OSC’s investigation of FBI Director James Comey.

You may recall that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley blew a gasket when he found out the FBI required OSC to sign a non-disclosure agreement that purportedly would have prevented OSC from sharing information with Congress about the investigation. [Note: the OSC in question has nothing to do with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but is a standalone agency that was investigating allegations that Mr. Comey violated the Hatch Act when he interfered in the 2016 Presidential election].

Like Senator Grassley, I think it’s outrageous that an executive branch agency would try to “contract” with another such agency to hide records from Congress and the public. On September 30, 2017, I served FOIA requests on the FBI and OSC for the non-disclosure agreement (“NDA”) above, as well as all other NDAs that FBI and OSC had executed with other agencies.

[Continued on Page 2…]

Corruption and cover-ups at the Texas Department of Public Safety

A federal lawsuit filed today in Austin describes a culture of “cronyism and outright corruption” in the Texas Department of Public Safety, alleging that top DPS officials whitewashed a a Texas Ranger’s role in a fatal car accident and quietly demoted another ranger who had been sleeping with a murder victim’s widow while he investigated the murder.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of retired DPS investigator Darren Lubbe of Mt. Pleasant, claims DPS officials covered up criminal misconduct by senior commanders, Texas Rangers, and other favorites, yet fabricated documents in order to frame lower-ranking officers whom they disliked. (Full disclosure: I filed the lawsuit on Darren’s behalf).

The lawsuit also alleges that the chief of the Rangers Division was allowed to retire quietly in 2011 after he wrecked his car while driving drunk and then flashed his badge to the other driver and offered money for her silence. You can read the full lawsuit by clicking here.

For what it’s worth, I don’t particularly enjoy criticizing the Texas Rangers. I was once a deputy sheriff in East Texas, and my academy instructor awed us with stories about the history of the Rangers. I’ve also known some first-class Texas Rangers in my years as a reporter, cop, and lawyer. … Read more

The State Bar of Texas is trying to retaliate (again)

The State Bar of Texas’s Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel (“OCDC”) apparently wants to send me a message.  For years now, I’ve blogged about cronyism and corruption in the state bar, and I recently blogged about OCDC’s refusal to investigate a lawyer who purported to have been retained by a dead woman.

Last week, I received three more letters from OCDC refusing to investigate attorneys who variously (1) switched sides in a lawsuit, purporting to represent new clients against their former clients in the same case; (2) tampered with official records in an attempt to interfere with an election; and (3) filed lawsuits without the knowledge or permission of their purported clients. On the same day, I received a letter from OCDC indicating that I was under investigation.

Today, I emailed Stephanie Lowe, who was appointed to the newly-created position of ombudsman for the state bar’s disciplinary system:

Ms. Lowe,

Below is a blog post that I wrote recently, and it includes copies of bar grievances that I filed against four attorneys. I’m a member of the SBOT myself, and I’m a long-time critic of cronyism and favoritism in the OCDC.

Read more

Dead people not only can vote in Texas, they can hire lawyers!

At a court hearing on August 29, 2018, I questioned attorney Jay B. Goss of Bryan, Texas about how he was hired by a dead woman. Last week, I received a copy of the transcript, and here’s an excerpt:

[Clevenger]: Have you ever been part of a seance?

[Goss]: Of a what?

[Clevenger]: A seance, where someone is conjured up from the dead to communicate with them?

[Goss]: I don’t think.

[Clevenger]: Well, then, how is it you know what Ms. Hargrave is saying and what she’s pleading, if she’s dead?

[Goss]: Because I pled it for her.

[Clevenger]: So you’re speaking on behalf of the dead?

[Goss]: Well, I’m speaking on behalf of her and Jim, her husband…

Transcript, pp. 18-19.  It gets better.  … Read more

Is Robert Mueller investigating the Seth Rich murder?

I can’t answer that question with certainty, but here’s an email that I sent this afternoon to an assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn:

I was recently informed that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller served subpoenas for financial records pertaining to Aaron Rich, brother of Seth Rich. The special counsel apparently was/is investigating whether Wikileaks made payment to Aaron in exchange for Seth leaking Democratic National Committee emails to Wikileaks. Obviously, that could be relevant to the motive for Seth Rich’s murder. It might also explain Aaron’s statement in his lawsuit that he was working with “state and federal law enforcement officials” as opposed to DC law enforcement alone.
Any such subpoenas almost certainly would have been served by the FBI agents assigned to work for the special counsel. I would therefore like to know whether the FBI’s search for records included records related to the foregoing subpoenas. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

 

As my regular readers know, I filed a federal lawsuit in Brooklyn to force the FBI and Justice Department to release records about Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee employee who was murdered in the summer before the 2016 election. Thus far, DOJ officials have maintained that the FBI has no such records, and that DC police declined the bureau’s offer to assist the investigation. … Read more

Hearne’s police chief suspended without pay (he should have been fired)

KBTX reported Tuesday night that Hearne Police Chief Thomas Williams was suspended without pay, and Mayor Ruben Gomez advised the station to get a copy of a Texas Rangers investigative report to understand why.

No need to wait. You can read a redacted copy of the report by clicking here, and yes, it’s really bad.  I reported back in February that Chief Wiggum Williams admitted in federal court that he had flushed marijuana down a toilet at police headquarters. At the time, he testified that it was only marijuana, and he claimed that it was not evidence (prompting a very skeptical look from U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin). Here’s an excerpt from the report written by Ranger Steven Jeter:

I asked Chief Williams if he had any knowledge of anyone flushing drugs down HPD’s toilets. Chief Williams confessed he and Yohner [i.e., former Sgt. Stephen Yohner, a.k.a., “Sgt. Tallywaker“] flushed unknown amounts of marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drugs down the HPD toilet without a destruction order or without knowledge of whether the criminal cases related to the drugs were dispositioned. Chief Williams admitted that he and Yohner did not attempt to locate any case file or locate any suspect information for the now destroyed drugs. Chief Williams stated they flushed the drugs on Yohner’s last day at HPD.  According to Chief Williams, the drugs were found in a drawer located in Yohner’s desk at HPD. While flushing the drugs, the toilet clogged and a plunger was used to unclog the toilet.

The report also references rumors that Chief Williams was selling seized drugs on the street, as well as an accusation from Yohner’s ex-wife that Yohner either kept or sold drugs and evidence that he seized.  … Read more