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CC Observer -Two local judges targets of grand jury investigations

Bill at the Collin County Observer is back again with a commentary & article on the DA’s office going after local officials. I will not be commenting.  Below is his unedited article. You may also want see a very active discussion on his "comments page."

Two local judges targets of grand jury investigations

 

The Collin County Observer has learned that two Collin County judges are currently the targets of seperate grand jury investigations. Court house observers I have spoken with suspect that both investigations are politically motivated.

Judge Suzanne Wooten, of the 380th District Court has recused herself from all criminal trials for several months now after, my sources tell me, the former judge she defeated brought forth charges of illegal campaign finance transactions.

And Judge Greg Willis, who recently resigned as judge of the County Court at Law #6 is, according to court house insiders, the target of an investigation alleging possible irregular authorization of payments to defense attorneys representing indigent defendants.

Judge Willis is generally considered the front runner in the GOP primary race for District Attorney.

Grand Jury proceedings are, by law, secret. The particulars of both cases can not be known unless and until the grand jury hands down indictments.

The Observer can not and does not know what testimony has been given or exactly what the allegations are. What this author does know is that the Collin County court house is abuzz with rumors.

However, sources close to both judges have confirmed that they are indeed targets of grand jury investigations.

Rumors abound.

According to court house insiders, it is likely that former judge Robert Sandoval filed his charges against Judge Wooten directly with the grand jury. Sandoval is said to still bear a grudge against Wooten who beat him handily in the 2008 election.

The most popular explanation I’ve heard for the investigation against Willis is that the DA and his chief assistants do not want Judge Willis to become the next District Attorney – they believe that if he is elected, he will "clean house" by replacing many of the lead prosecutors.

Local attorneys point to what they say is a history of using grand juries for intimidation by DA Roach and Chris Milner, the Chief of the District Attorney’s Special Crimes Division.

Milner has, in the past, been accused of using grand juries to "go after people with vague offenses". They bring up Milner’s indictment of local attorneys Deric Walpole and James Vasilas who were indicted by Milner for "tampering with government records" for making an error on a legal pleading. Both indictments were eventually thrown out.

Milner also investigated the allegations of fraud between Dallas County Sheriff Bowles and jail contractor Jack Madera. All indictments were later tossed out because the charges in the indictment were not criminal offenses, but not before Bowles lost his primary bid for nomination as sheriff. In yet another big case, Milner secured indictments against Denton County Sheriff Weldon Lucas. Less than a week later, a judge dismissed all charges against him.

Special prosecuter is needed.

Regardless of the merits of either case, the prosecution of a judge by the DA, who on a daily basis pleads before that same judge, opens the door to charges of political intimidation.

When Dallas and Denton Counties needed to investigate their sheriffs, their DAs asked for an outside prosecutor. When the Rockwall county DA was accused of wrong doing, again an outside prosecutor was brought in.

Every day, members of the district attorney’s staff appear before our judges and make motions, ask for pleas, and argue cases. Every day, our judges make decisions to accept or reject those motions and pleas. Every day they hold trials where they try to remain fair to both the defendant and the DA.

It is insane for a county district attorney to prosecute the county’s own judges. If John Roach believes there may have been wrong doing by either judge, then justice requires that he ask an outsider, with no vested interest in the outcome, to investigate and prosecute if warranted.

It is wrong for the Collin County District Attorney to proffer charges against a jurist who seeks to use the ballot box to replace him.

The fact that these two cases have proceded this far smacks of arrogance on the part of the Collin County District Attorney. His actions look like cheap and brutal political stunts. If justice is to be served, Roach and his staff must either drop their investigations, or turn over their evidence to a special prosecutor and let him convene a new grand jury to hear the charges.

Bill