Archive for the ‘WillCo’ Category

Random notes: June 13, 2016.

Monday, June 13th, 2016

I was busy all day yesterday, and I have nothing profound or interesting to say about Orlando. Go look at the smarter people on my blogroll if you’re looking for that: I’d suggest Tam and Lawrence as good starting points.

In other news: there’s now an official lawsuit pending to remove Williamson Count District Attorney Jana Duty from office. And I’m thinking I need a WCDA tag.

I missed this until Lawrence sent me a link to a Daily Mail story: Sean Whent, the police chief in Oakland, resigned on Thursday.

Chief Anthony Batts quit in 2011 after receiving a scathing report from Robert Warshaw, the court monitor assigned to ensure that the Police Department was implementing reforms ordered by a federal judge. Batts’ successor, Howard Jordan, left suddenly in 2013 amid a spike in violent crime and a wave of anger over how police were handling Occupy protests. Interim Chief Anthony Toribio, who came in after Jordan, lasted only two days.

The general belief seems to be that Whent was working to stabilize and clean up the department, but there were a whole host of recent scandals on his watch:

Officer Cullen Faeth was charged with misdemeanor battery, public intoxication and trespassing after he allegedly tried to break into a home in Oakland’s Redwood Heights neighborhood in December and attacked a woman who lived there. In February, Officer Matthew Santos was arrested for allegedly pulling his gun on a man painting Santos’ apartment in Emeryville. Santos was fired shortly thereafter.

But the biggest issue is a messy sex scandal. Five officers have been placed on administrative leave so far.

The woman at the center of the sex scandal is claiming she had sex with two dozen current and former officers in five cities, a newspaper investigation published Sunday found.

More from the Mercury News:

…she slept with three of the 24 officers — all from Oakland’s police department — before she turned 18 last August.

She also said that two Oakland officers provided her confidential police information, including tips on scheduled anti-prostitution stings…


Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Theresa Saldana: NYT. A/V Club.

Lawrence was kind enough to throw me a backlink and add some additional context to the Jana Duty story. Latest update: even though Duty will be out after the election, “Williamson County business leaders” are demanding that she resign now. In addition to her troubles with the State Bar, the people demanding her resignation are claiming she’s pretty much stopped showing up for work:

Justice of the Peace Bill Gravell also spoke at the news conference and said that Duty “has largely been absent from her post.”
“This makes doing my job as a judge in the community more challenging and very difficult to serve the people of Williamson County effectively,” Gravell said.

And Mike the Musicologist sent me a link to a CNN story about Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau pleading guilty to one count of “making a false statement to investigators”.

Two things about that story:

1) Rear Admiral Gilbeau’s plea is related to the ongoing investigation into the “Fat Leonard” scandal.

2) Linked it before, I’ll link it again: “Really, seriously, just shut the fuck up.”

Annals of law (#10 in a series)

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Two sort of random notes:

1. Jana Duty, the elected district attorney of Williamson County (Williamson County is just up the road from Austin/Travis County: it covers Round Rock and Georgetown) has been placed “on probation” by the State Bar of Texas for 18 months.

Duty will still be able to practice law but will have to comply with the terms of her probation.

Why? “Professional misconduct”. Specifically, Ms. Duty was accused of withholding evidence in a murder case.

“It is unknown to the court why Ms. Duty intentionally and willfully withheld the means to view time stamps on the Walmart Surveillance video other than from Ms. Duty’s statement that “(defense counsel) acted so horribly to me during the first trial, that I just — I didn’t want to speak to them,’” the court document said.

Here’s the Wilco DA’s website. I find that quote from Article 2.01 deeply ironic.

2. On Monday, a judge for the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals ruled that Sonia Cacy was innocent of murder.

Ms. Cacy was sentenced to 99 years in prison in 1993: she allegedly doused her uncle with “an accelerant” and set him on fire.

Except there were problems with the evidence.

During at punishment retrial in 1996, her new attorney enlisted Dr. Gerald Hurst, the late Cambridge-educated chemist from Austin, to evaluate the forensic evidence that clinched conviction against her. Hurst discovered that the original tests, conducted by Joe Castorena of the Bexar County Forensics Lab, had been completely misread. The results didn’t find the indicators of an accelerant as he claimed. Castorena, a toxicologist by training, had in fact identified the products of pyrolysis—compounds created by burning plastic, which in many ways are similar to those of an accelerant.

Lots of problems:

…Castorena, the toxicologist, admitted in a letter to her [Cacy’s – DB] counsel, Dallas lawyer Gary Udashen, that the clothing samples he’d tested had been contaminated in either the morgue or the lab. Thus, his baffling reasoning went, anyone who didn’t know about the contamination couldn’t accurately interpret the results. Asked why he never reported this, Castorena replied, “nobody asked me.”

The full court has to concur before Ms. Cacy is officially exonerated, but as the TM article notes, that almost seems to be a formality now.