Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. isn’t out of the woods just yet

As reported in the Waco Tribune-Herald this evening, I have appealed the light punishment meted out to U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr.  You can read the full appeal letter by clicking here.  Here’s an excerpt:

…one must wonder how many felonies a judge needs to commit before the Judicial Council is willing to recommend impeachment. Is one not enough? If a courthouse security officer had forcibly groped E.S., he would have been fired summarily and probably arrested. He certainly would not have gotten away with a reprimand, sensitivity training, and a reduced workload at full pay.

Former DA to serve only 30 days in jail under plea deal

Former Robertson County District Attorney John Paschall must surrender his law license and pay restitution, but he will serve no more than 30 days in jail according to the terms of a plea deal that will be announced at a January 21, 2016 hearing. Meanwhile, an FBI agent is John Paschall booking photoasking questions about finances at Hearne City Hall (more on that below).

Paschall was indicted last year for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Marium Oscar, the last surviving Jewish resident of Calvert, Texas, as well as her estate. The first-degree felony charge carried the same punishment range as a murder charge: five to 99 years on prison, plus an optional fine up to $10,000.00.

One of my sources informs me that the plea will reduce the charge to a third-degree felony, which is punishable by 2-10 years in prison plus the optional $10,000 fine. Marsha Gilbert, a cousin of Ms. Oscar and one of my former clients in the civil case that uncovered the crime, said the agreed sentence is “ridiculous.”

“That is a slap on the hand,” said Ms. Gilbert. “His punishment should fit the crime and 30 days is not long enough.”

When I first learned of the agreement, I assumed that Paschall had received lighter punishment in exchange for testifying against other members of the Booger County Mafia, but Asst. Attorney General Shane Attaway, the special prosecutor assigned to Paschall, said the plea agreement does not require Paschall to testify against anyone else.

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Letter suggests sheriff used jail inmates to work on his property

An anonymous letter circulating in Anderson suggests Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell used inmate labor on his personal property, but Sheriff Sowell says the inmates were clearing a tree that had fallen over a public roadway.

The letter includes an undated photograph of inmates working near a fence line, and you can read the letter and view the photo by clicking Sheriff Sowellhere. I asked the sheriff about the letter and the photograph, and here’s a copy of his emailed response:

From what I was told by my jailer, Glen Love, that supervises the outside inmate work crew on details around the county, the tree “on” my property had blown over and many limbs were on W. Buffington St. and the unnamed city road that divides my property and the property of Tom Johanson. He said that he moved it because it was blocking the two roadways. He said they had to cross the barbed wire fence to use the chainsaw to cut at different angles and that was the only time they were on my property inside the fence. He said they loaded up and took the limbs to the burn pile that is located on the Law Enforcement Center property adjacent to firing range. That’s about all I can say about this as I said earlier, I didn’t know about this until you brought it to my attention.

Judging from the photograph, however, it appears that the tree was blown away from the roadway and into the pasture rather than toward the roadway. Why does it matter? As the letter notes, a public official commits a crime if he or she “misuses government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant’s custody or possession by virtue of the public servant’s office or employment.” See Texas Penal Code §39.02.

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