Did U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. send a threatening email to another judge?

Judge-SmithA few hours ago the Justice Department ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to start producing emails and other records about U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. of Waco, including any records about whether Judge Smith threatened another judge.  That’s only the latest bad news for Judge Smith, who was reprimanded and partially suspended by the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council after I filed a judicial misconduct complaint against him in 2014.

Back in March, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request after receiving a tip that Judge Smith sent a threatening email to another judge, but the Marshals Service reflexively denied the request within 48 hours.  As I reported on March 30, 2016, I made requests for information in six categories, but here’s the one that got tongues wagging:

All records or emails concerning whether Judge Smith made derogatory or threatening comments to or about U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman or any other judge. This request includes, but is not limited to, any emails or records suggesting that Judge Pitman was not welcome in Waco. This request further includes, but is not limited to, added security costs related to Judge Pitman’s travel to Waco.
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Liars, thieves, and sore losers in Booger County

Pee WeeIf you thought there was any chance that the Booger County Mafia would cede power gracefully after its candidates were voted out of office last Saturday in Hearne… well, you were probably smoking meth.  We all knew this would be ugly, and so far it has been. On Wednesday, City Manager Pee Wee Drake was caught shredding documents at city hall, so I sent him a cease-and-desist letter (with copies to the FBI and Texas Rangers), and District Attorney Coty Siegert also warned Mr. Drake to back off immediately.

The same day, according to Councilman-elect Rodrick Jackson, Mr. Drake cut off the electricity of about 50 Hearne residents, most of whom happened to be political supporters of Mr. Jackson and the two other reform candidates, Councilwomen-elect Martha Castilleja and Margaret Salvaggio.  According to Mr. Jackson, the city manager strongly implied that the disconnections were retaliatory.

“The people have spoken,” Mr. Jackson quoted Mr. Drake as saying. “They said they wanted change, and they’re going to get it.” Another witness separately confirmed that Mr. Drake made the statement to Mr. Jackson.  When Mr. Jackson told Mr. Drake that his actions were official oppression (a crime), Mr. Drake replied, “I’ll do whatever I want,” according to Mr. Jackson.  I emailed Mr. Drake asking for his side of the story, but he did not respond.

I have no trouble believing the statements that Mr. Jackson attributed to Mr. Drake, because the old crook has been doing whatever he wants for as long as he has been the city manager.  Fortunately, Friday was his last day on the job.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Mr. Drake is headed for a quiet retirement. He may have escaped jail time on the last criminal charge, but he may yet get charged for the games that he has played with people’s utility bills. And I’m not just talking about the stunt that he pulled on Wednesday. As I reported last week, the Mafia is scared to death of a financial audit at city hall, mainly because of the suspiciously high utility bills for enemies of the Mafia and the suspiciously low utility bills for friends and members of the Mafia.  According to Mr. Jackson, not all of the records in the city dumpster were shredded, and some of the surviving records were utility records and financial records. That’s not a coincidence. … Read more

State bar prosecutor who investigated prosecutorial misconduct is accused of prosecutorial misconduct

California Bar logoThe California bar prosecutor who led a statewide investigation into prosecutorial misconduct seems to have engaged in a little prosecutorial misconduct herself.  According to an affidavit from Alabama attorney Jason Yearout, Deputy Trial Counsel Cydney Batchelor contacted him about evidence that was favorable to the defense of attorney Wade Robertson, but when Mr. Yearout confirmed the exculpatory evidence, Ms. Batchelor repeatedly said she was not going to document their conversation.

In other words, Ms. Batchelor strongly implied that she was planning to cover up the evidence. Bothered by this, Mr. Yearout notified Mr. Robertson about his conversation with Ms. Batchelor, and Mr. Robertson waited two weeks to see whether Ms. Batchelor would disclose the evidence on her own.  Last Thursday, Mr. Robertson finally notified an appeals panel that the state bar prosecutor had withheld the exculpatory evidence.  This afternoon, I filed grievances against Ms. Batchelor and her co-counsel, Robert Henderson, and I asked the California AG and San Francisco DA to open a criminal investigation.

Back in 2010, the Innocence Project identified more than 130 California prosecutors who had been accused of misconduct by judges or other officials, yet never prosecuted by the state bar. Some of the cases were never referred to the bar by the courts, even though the courts had chastised some of the prosecutors for withholding exculpatory evidence.  James Towery, the bar’s chief trial counsel at the time, appointed Ms. Batchelor to investigate whether charges should be filed, and Ms. Batchelor has in fact prosecuted prosecutors for withholding exculpatory evidence.

In 2010, for example, Ms. Batchelor obtained a four-year license suspension for former Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Field. Among other things, Mr. Field was accused of withholding exculpatory evidence. Physician, heal thyself. … Read more

A smoking gun in Booger County

On April 9, 2016, the City of Hearne sued its former mayor, Milton Johnson, trying to block an initiative referendum that would have forced a forensic audit of city hall finances. Last week I counter-sued the city and its city attorney, Bryan F. “Rusty” Russ, Jr. on behalf of Mr. Johnson, and this morning I picked up some damning new evidence against Mr. Russ.

Rusty.249111858_stdOur counter-suit alleged that Mr. Russ intercepted the petition signatures and held them in his private office to keep them from being certified by Robertson County Elections Administrator Trudy Hancock.  When he finally turned the signatures over to Ms. Hancock on April 7, 2016, some of the signatures were missing — enough to keep the referendum off the ballot.

Our counter-suit was filed on April 21, 2016 and, according to an email I received from Ms. Hancock this morning, Mr. Russ produced the missing signatures that same day. So we now have proof that Mr. Russ was the person who tampered with the petitions and omitted some of the signatures in order to keep voters from imposing an audit on the city. But it gets worse: according to Ms. Hancock, after Mr. Russ submitted the missing signatures, he told her that she did not need to notify the city. In other words, he wanted everyone to keep thinking that there were only 318 signatures when in reality there 517 signatures, because he still wanted to keep the initiative off of the ballot.

Election tampering is a crime under both state and federal law, which is why I sent a letter to state and federal prosecutors on April 25, 2016 requesting an investigation.  This morning I sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Robert L. Durbin of San Antonio outlining the new evidence against Mr. Russ (and here’s the September 18, 2015 letter that it references).

Mr. Russ obviously is willing to risk disbarment and imprisonment in order to block the initiative, but why? Probably because he knows voters want the audit, and he knows the audit could result in criminal charges far more serious than tampering with an election.  Never mind the fact that Councilman Michael “Sticky Fingers” Werlinger used taxpayer funds for football tickets, or that city officials used taxpayer funds to buy flat-screen televisions as gifts.  No, Mr. Russ and his allies in the Booger County Mafia are worried sick about millions of dollars worth of fraudulent utility bills. … Read more

Board dismisses attorney grievance against Ken Paxton, suggests crimes are not rule violations

An appellate panel dismissed my attorney misconduct complaint against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and I suppose that should come as no surprise, but the reason for the dismissal is breathtaking.  According to an April 29, 2016 letter that I received from Christine E. McKeeman, executive director and general counsel of the Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals, “the Board has determined that your appeal should not be granted as the conduct described therein does not allege a violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.”

Ken PaxtonSeriously? My grievance was premised on felony indictments alleging that Mr. Paxton defrauded investors and violated state securities laws. Those indictments allege violations of numerous disciplinary rules, not least of which are Rules 8.04(a)(2)(a lawyer shall not “commit a serious crime or commit any other criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects) and 8.04(a)3)(a lawyer shall not “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation”). If felony fraud is not a basis for attorney discipline, what is?  And if there was enough evidence to bring criminal charges, why isn’t that enough evidence to bring disciplinary charges?

Before Mr. Paxton was indicted, Erica Gammill of the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability filed a grievance based on Mr. Paxton’s alleged violations of securities laws, but the state bar dismissed that grievance on the grounds that she failed to allege a rules violation. After he was indicted for the very acts identified by Ms. Gammill, I re-filed her grievance and included copies of the indictments.  On March 9, 2016, a state bar prosecutor at least acknowledged the obvious, i.e., that the allegations did state a violation of the disciplinary rules, but he dismissed my grievance because of the pending criminal cases against Mr. Paxton.  So if you file a grievance against a crooked lawyer before he gets indicted, the state bar will dismiss it on the grounds that no rules were violated, but if you file the grievance after he gets indicted, the state bar will dismiss it because a criminal case is pending. … Read more

Federal judge likely retired to avoid judicial discipline

An email that I received this afternoon adds to the evidence that U.S. District Judge Harry Lee Hudspeth retired rather than face judicial discipline for covering up sexual misconduct by another judge, while an affidavit alleges that Grimes County District Attorney Tuck McLain committed crimes in order to retaliate against a defense attorney.

Judge HudspethFirst, the email from Shelley Saltzman, an assistant to Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart of the Fifth Circuit, confirmed that retirement would typically terminate a judicial misconduct case.  Judge Hudspeth was the chief judge of the Western District of Texas in 1998, when Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. grabbed and groped a female deputy clerk in his chambers (apparently while he was drunk on the job).  The victim later testified that Judge Hudspeth covered up the incident after she reported it.

Last Monday, I sent a letter to Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart of the Fifth Circuit asking why the case against Judge Hudspeth had lingered for 18 months when the case against Judge Smith had been decided six months ago.  Shortly after sending the letter, I learned that Judge Hudspeth retired quietly on January 31, 2016, shortly after Judge Smith was reprimanded and suspended.

Last Thursday, I sent an email to Ms. Saltzman asking whether Judge Hudspeth’s retirement ended the judicial misconduct case and, if so, whether the investigative report would be released. “Ordinarily, retirement from judicial office results in the dismissal of pending complaints of misconduct or disability,” she wrote this afternoon. “However, because the related case 05-14-90120 is still being considered by the [Judicial Conference of the United States] committee, the complaint against Judge Hudspeth is currently being held in abeyance.”Read more