Category: judicial system

arrests, child death, cps, death, judicial system, social worker, texas
Accountability in Greenville, Tx with the Arrest of Three CPS Workers

Well this is an event that we do not see very often.  There is so much media coverage, I’ve decided to copy and paste the articles below for Tuesday’s readers to sift through.

There is accountability in Greenville, Texas with three CPS workers arrested on charges that they falsified documents, and mishandled a sexual abuse case, including illegally conducting a  search and seizure – knowingly.

Nobody is above the law, yet this happens in many cases. Rarely, if ever, do we see charges of oppression brought against the social workers – Its Almost Tuesday has never seen this before in Texas. We have seen many cases where charges like this should have been pressed, but never were. We have seen many cases where charges like this should have been pressed but were covered up deliberately.  Take heed, CPS, perhaps times are a changing – we can only hope.

It is our hope that justice will be served and this will serve as a precedence set for future cases involving CPS and families under investigation. It is only through transparency and public scrutiny that government agencies like CPS will be held accountable to not only the minimum standards set by law, but much deserved justice given to the forgotten children of the foster care system.

It is also important to remember, during this time, that media coverage respect that these are real people involved in a very horrific situation. They are grieving the loss of a child, and dealing with emotions of unimaginable proportions. There is no doubt a tremendous difficulty in a daily  struggle to handle such an ordeal that to add to it an onslaught of media coverage must double, triple, or quadruple the degree of pain and heartache they must feel.  While it is vital that the general public be made aware of truths within our child welfare system, Its Almost Tuesday is hopeful that the media will not unfairly sway opinions, or turn this case into a ‘circus’ that may impede such truth and that justice will prevail, whatever that may be.  It is an unfortunate shame (to understate it at the very least) that a child had to die in order for accountability to be sought.  We applaud the prosecutors for seeking such accountability, and for standing against the very essence of a damaged system by arresting those involved in wrongdoings.

Our hearts go out to those affected by the Alicia Moore case, and to those grieving the loss of this child, perhaps there is a tiny bit of solace offered in these arrests, and may truth and justice prevail; so that Alicia’s death can leave a legacy for future CPS caseworkers to remember.. and a lesson learned.

Its certainly not much to offer  our words of support in comparison to the hardships the Moore family faces, so again, our hearts go out to you, and may peace find you well.

Godspeed.

3 CPS Employees Charged in Connection to Alicia Moore Case

By Randy McIIwain
|  Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013  |  Updated 11:08 PM CDT

no description

Three Child Protective Services employees from Greenville have been charged for their handling of sexual abuse allegations in slain teenager Alicia Moore’s file.

Investigators say three women were indicted by a Hunt County grand jury. The indictments have been sealed, but arrest warrants were issued on Tuesday.

CPS retiree, Laura Ard faces a single count of tampering with evidence, Natalie Reynolds, is charged with three counts of official oppression and one count of tampering with evidence, and Rebekah Ross is charged with three counts of official oppression and two counts of tampering with evidence.

The women were taken into custody. As of Tuesday night, Ard was the only person to post bail.

NBC 5 spoke to Ard after she bonded out of jail. She said she had been with CPS for 30 years and had never been in trouble.

Sources tell NBC 5 that only the charges of tampering with evidence apply to the Moore case and that tampering could include, altering, destroying or fabricating information in Moore’s investigative file.

CPS had an open file on Moore who was a victim of sexual abuse in the months before her disappearance on Nov. 2, 2012.

Moore was last seen about a block away from her home getting off a school bus. The teenager’s body was found days later stuffed into a furniture trunk, dumped along a rural road in Van Zandt County.

Moore’s great uncle, Michael Moore, has been charged with capital murder in her death.

During the Moore murder investigation, investigators with the State Inspector General’s office began looking into accusations that Moore’s CPS case was being mishandled. Officers with the IG’s office spent month’s looking into Moore’s CPS file and turned over findings in a report to the Hunt County District Attorney’s office last month. Hunt County examined the report and presented it to a grand jury, which returned the multi-count indictments.

It is not known at this time if anything in Moore’s investigative CPS file could have been used to possibly prevent her murder or aid in the murder investigation that dragged on until Michael Moore’s arrest in May 2013.

Indictments in CPS case unsealed

By BRAD KELLAR
Herald-Banner Staff
September 25, 2013

GREENVILLE — Indictments filed against three current or former employees with the Child Protective Services (CPS) office in Greenville were unsealed Wednesday morning.

The charges allege all three acted together to use a false document in the investigation of the mother of slain Greenville teenager Alicia Moore and that two of the defendants conducted unlawful searches and/or seizures against multiple targets of CPS investigations.

One of those charged, Laura Marsh Ard, is the former program director for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services office in Rockwall.

Ard, 60, of Rockwall, received one indictment for tampering with physical evidence. Natalie Ausbie Reynolds 33, of Fate, received three indictments for official oppression and one indictment for tampering with physical evidence. Rebekah Thonginh Ross, 34 of Greenville, received four indictments for official oppression and one indictment for tampering with physical evidence.

The tampering with physical evidence indictments allege all three defendants acted together on or about Nov. 6, 2012 “to use a record and/or document to wit: the risk asssessment involving Aretha Moore … with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course or outcome of the investigation.”

In three of the official oppression indictments, Reynolds and Ross were alleged to have acted together as CPS investigators to have subjected three separate individuals who were under CPS investigations “to search and seizure that the defendant knew as unlawful” on or about Dec. 16, 2011, March 28, 2012 and June 14, 2012.

Ross was also alleged to have subjected a fourth individual under CPS investigation to an unlawful search and/or seizure on June 27, 2012.

The tampering with physical evidence charges are third degree felonies, punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of from two to 10 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.

The official oppression charges are Class A misdemeanor counts, which fall under the jurisdiction of a state district court, in this case the 354th District Court.

Dates for arraignment hearings — at which time the defendants will have a chance to enter formal pleas to the charges — had not been scheduled as of Wednesday morning.

Attorney for individual indicted in CPS case issues statement

By BRAD KELLAR
Herald-Banner Staff
September 26, 2013

GREENVILLE — Attorney Peter Schulte, who represents Rebekah Thonginh Ross, one of three people indicted in connection with an investigation of the local Child Protective Services (CPS) office, issued a statement this morning on Ross’ behalf:

“Rebekah, who has dedicated the last several years of her life protecting the children of this State, is not guilty of these charges. The truth will be revealed in Court and we ask that the public withhold judgment until all the facts are known.  It’s disappointing that certain law enforcement officials in Hunt County and/or Austin are releasing alleged “facts” about these cases to the media that are simply not true. We have no intention of trying these cases in the news media and hope that the Government decides to follow their legal obligation to not make statements about these cases to the media outside the Courtroom.”

Source: The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

Related Stories

OTHER ARRESTS OF CPS WORKERS:

Thumbnail In August 2012, two social workers were arrested at the Columbus Georgia CPS by the GBI and the Inspector General for making fraudulent child abuse reports to get federal funding and pushing others to lie with them.

ThumbnailMIAMI — The teenage foster kids called their rendezvous with men who paid for their affections “dates.” Sometimes they had several scheduled each day.
abuse, awareness, cps, families, family, foster parent, home, judicial system, kids, social services, social worker, social workers
10 Things To Remember If A Social Worker Comes To Your Home

1. Ask for the social workers business card. Have your attorney contact the worker on your behalf if the situation is hostile.

2. Find out the allegations before allowing the social worker access to your home or child.

3. Do not waive your rights to be protected from illegal search and seizures by allowing anyone in your home without a court order or warrant.
These rights are guaranteed under the 4th amendment of the US CONSTITUTION.

4. Insist on being present when your child is interviewed
by the social worker.

5. Tell the social worker you will call them after consulting an attorney. Then call an attorney.

6. Ignore intimidations. Social workers are trained bluffers.

7. Offer supportive evidence-
~A dr.’s statement after exam of child.
~References from individuals vouching for your good parenting.~Photos or home videos exhibiting happy healthy children.

8. Bring a tape recorder or credible witnesses to all meetings. Limit discussions to allegations and try not to tell past family events beyond what they already know.

What you say can and will be used against you.

9. Avoid potential situations likely to lead to cps investigations-
do not
~spank in public
~do not leave children home alone
~do not spank other people’s children.

10. Pray and elicit prayers and support of local church members.

“The Government’s interest in the welfare of children embraces not only protecting children from physical abuse but protecting childrens’ interest in the privacy and dignity of their homes and in the lawfully exercised authority of their parents.” Calabretta v. Floyd 189 F.3d (9th cir 1999)

accountability, Collin County, Texas, corruption, government, judicial system, legal, news, system failure
District Clerk’s Case Set for Trial
Source: Collin County Observer

The pretrial hearing in the Collin County District Clerk’s case held on November 8, 2011 revolved around motions filed by former District Clerk Hannah Kunkle’s attorney John Charles Hardin. Watching Mr. Hardin in action, it appears he is nothing if not flamboyant, perhaps a cross between Richard “Racehorse” Haynes and Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

The hearing was held in the suffocatingly small Auxiliary Courtroom #3 and with so many grandmothers in attendance; it looked more like a gathering of the Collin County Garden Club.

All of Mr. Hardin’s minor motions were granted, but only after objections made by attorney pro tem John Helms resulted in the rewriting of many of them. However, a motion for continuance was denied, as was Hardin’s request to have former District Clerk Hannah Kunkle’s trial severed from her co-defendants.

A major dispute erupted between Mr. Hardin and Mr. Helms concerning when discovery would be made available to Mr. Hardin for use in preparing Hannah Kunkle’s defense. The dispute became so heated that Judge Nelms had to quiet the two. Mr. Hardin demanded a specific time and place for all discovery and a list of the state’s expert witnesses to be provided to him. It was finally decided the exchange would take place November the 15th at 10 AM at the courthouse. Judge Nelms left it for Hardin and Helms to decide exactly where in the courthouse the exchange would take place.

Next up was Sherry Bell’s attorney Mr. Yoon Kim. Based on the decisions made on Kunkle’s motions, many of Mr. Kim’s motions were withdrawn or were granted without objection by Mr. Helms. Helms objected to Kim’s motion requiring disclosure of all information concerning the informers who brought the allegations against the four district clerks. Judge Nelms granted this motion.

Derek King Walpole representing Rebecca Littrell asked to adopt all orders to Littrell’s case. Judge Nelms granted this motion.

Judge Nelms next considered motions filed by District Clerk Patricia Crigger’s attorney Robert Hinton. Judge Nelms stated, “I ruled on all of Kunkle’s motions and therefore I have ruled on yours,” to which Mr. Hinton said, “yes sir.”

Next Judge Nelms busied himself with judicial housekeeping. In discussing voir dire Judge Nelms stated there would be 56 peremptory challenges. 28 for the state and 7 for each of the defendants. Mr. Walpole suggested they might need to call 250 members of the jury pool. Judge Nelms felt 150 would be sufficient and expressed concern that the selection of a jury should take no more than one day because of voir dire cost the county $6000 a day.

The affable Judge Nelms closed the hearing stating, “Thanks for being here, I’ll see you on the 28th.”

John

Comments, Pingbacks:

Comment from: COLLIN COUNTY ATTORNEY [Visitor] Email
Was John Hardin wearing his deer skin vest? He has always tried to channel Gerry Spence. The attorneys are so used to it, we don’t even notice anymore!
PermalinkPermalink 11/10/11 @ 16:04

The District Clerks trial: Day 1

November 28th, 2011

The Case
In September, 2009 Hannah Kunkle, the long-time District Clerk announced she would retire and endorsed Patricia Crigger running for the job.

Patricia won the race after a run-off, but a few months later, the Texas Rangers raided the District Clerks office at the Collin County Court House.

The Texas Rangers seized computer hard drives, removable storage drives, calendars, binders, and 2 employee Access Cards. Ranger Davidson interviewed and took testimony from 5 District Clerk employees who charged that they were either pressured into working for the Crigger campaign or told they would be rewarded with “Blue Book” time for any PTO (paid personal time off) taken to campaign.

“Blue Book” time was paid time off that was not authorized by county policies, but instead kept by the supervisors on Excel spreadsheets, and later in binders. One informer told Davidson that the “Blue Books” began in the early 1990’s after Hannah Kunkle was elected as District Clerk. When “Blue Book” time was taken by an employee, their supervisor would falsify county records to show that the employee was at work. Employees were reminded to leave their “Access Cards” with their supervisors when taking “Blue Book” time off, so that the supervisor could clock them in as ‘present’.

Davidson charges that at least 29 employees (out of 63 in the District Clerk’s Office) received “Blue Book” time off during the Crigger Campaign. In the 24 page Affidavit, Davidson lists several examples of employees being reported as present, but not having logged into their computers and of having ‘out-of-office’ messages on their phones. The DA’s documents show over 220 work days in free day, with county money, were given to employees for working on the Crigger campaign.

After she was indicted, she was sworn in as the new elected District Clerk.

The cast:

Judge:

  • Judge John Nelms, a retired judge from Dallas County

For the State:

  • John Helms,Jr., prosecutor pro tem an attorney in Dallas
  • Rebecca Gregory, 2nd prosecutor pro tem the former US Attorney of the Northern District of Texas

Hannah Kunkle, the former elected District Clerk. John Hardin is her attorney.For the Defense:

  • Patricia Crigger, the current elected District Clerk.Robert Hinton is her attorney.
  • Rebecca Littrell, the Chief Deputy District Clerk. Derek King Walpole is her attorney.
  • Sherry Bell, a Deputy District Clerk. Yoon Kim is her attorney.

The Charges

  • Kunkle, Crigger, and Littrell are charged with Abuse of Official Capacity, for more than $20,000 and less than $100,000. The charge is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary from 2 years to 10 years plus a $10,000 fine.
  • Kunkle, Crigger, Littrell and Bell are charged with Conspiracy of Abuse of Official Capacity, for more than $20,000 and less than $100,000. The charge is a ‘state jail felony’, punishable by imprisonment in a State Jail from 6 months to 2 years plus a $10,000 fine.

The Trial – Day One:

Most of today’s morning was spent corralling the 200 prospective jurors, organizing the court room and then listening to a couple of motion arguments.

I was surprised when I saw the defendants. At first I didn’t recognize Hannah Kunkle. She looks some how smaller and older. Her hair was simple and completely grey. Kunkle was wearing a dress looking an older, conservative, dignified lady. The other three ladies’ appearance looked in total contrast to Ms. Kunkle. Normally a defendant wants to give a jury’s a good their first impression.

Patricia Crigger appeared to be very worn and distracted. She looked disheveled looking like she came in from a storm. Rebecca Littrell came to court in a dressy, casual pants suit. The most shocking was Sherry Bell. She appeared in court in slacks and a home decorated applique sweatshirt. She looked like a bag lady coming to court looking for a free lawyer.

The judge and bailiff spent the large part of organizing moving the trial from a court room to the Central Grand Jury Room. That room was the only one capable of seating over 200 people.

After the court settled down, John Hardin made two motions to continue the case, and to sever Kunkle’s charges from the trial. The judge had ruled the same questions before, and again the judge denied the motions.

After lunch, voir dire began. The judge warned the panel that these trials may go on to December 15. Nelms promised them that the trial will not go into Christmas.

I do need to thank Judge Nelms and the prosecutor. He asked the panel did anyone know Bill Baumbach…. and then Helm’s later asked them twice if anyone reads the Collin County Observer. While no one said they knew me or read the CCO, I think the court I owe the court for the free advertising of the Collin County Observer. The jury panel was a captive audience and he had their complete attention. That kind of advertising is priceless.

The voir dire will continue late tomorrow.

The District Clerks trial: Day 2

November 30th, 2011

The second day of the trial was entirely spent in choosing a jury

Judge John Nelms

Voir dire took all morning.

After lunch, the judge told the 200 folks on the jury panel, that if they want to ask for an excuse for serving on the jury, he and the counsel would meet with each of them individually, and the judge and attorneys would vote if they could be excused.

59 people lined up to talk to the judge.

That took most all afternoon – from my perspective the procedure had as much drama as watching paint dry.

After the excuses, there were 147 members left in the panel. Each defendant had 7 strikes against a potential juror, and the State had 28 strikes. The whole process was finished a little after 6 PM.

The judge sworn in 10 men and 2 women as the jury. (I wonder if a male jury is less forgiving to female defendants, then a jury made up of mostly female jurors. I don’t know.)

The trial will begin again at 9:30 AM at the Ceremonial Courtroom. First up will be the State’s opening arguments.

 

The District Clerk’s Trial – Day 3

December 1st, 2011

The District Clerk’s Trial – Day 3
By: Lex In Limine (LIL)
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributor

After some preliminary matters, the parties presented their Opening Arguments.

John M. Helms, Jr.

The Prosecution, lead by John Helms, Jr. , prosecutor pro tem, began. With a clear voice and methodical manner, he told the jury of four women and six men that this was a case that involved the abuse of taxpayer dollars and the interference with free and fair elections. Of the 63 employees at the District Clerk’s office, all but one are female. He referred to the office as a “Good Ole’ Girl Network.”

The Defendants, Hannah Kunkle, Patricia Crigger, Rebecca Litrell, and Sherry Bell were the four highest “ranking” employees of the office at the time of the alleged offense. The Clerk’s office set up a rewards and benefits system for the employees and this system was kept “secret” from the Collin County Commissioners’ Court. Helms was quick to emphasize that the Defendants were not being prosecuted for the “secret” reward and benefit system.Helms stated that the crime alleged to be committed by the Defendants is the misuse of labor to promote the campaign of Patricia Crigger. The reward system was “off book” paid leave time that was referred to as “Blue Book” time. Again, Helms repeated that there is no crime in having the secret Blue Book time, but, instead, the use of said time for campaign work is what offends.

Helms produced a poster with snap shots of the Defendants and explained their respective job titles. He described the defendants as “joined at the hip” and a close knit group. The proximity of their respective work spaces added to their camaraderie. Helms said the evidence will show that the absences of the workforce when using “Blue Book” time adversely affected the efficiency of the office.

Helms then described the “anxiousness” felt by the many employees when they learned of Kunkle’s retirement. Kunkle had been in office for many years and they were concerned they would lose their jobs with a new regime. A lunch meeting was held at Fudruckers in January 2010 – two meetings to permit proper coverage of the office. The meetings, allegedly headed by the Defendants, are where Litrell stated that those who worked for Crigger’s campaign would be rewarded with Blue Book time.

Helms stated that in April after the runoff election between Alma Hayes and Patricia Crigger (Crigger won the election handily), the Press (which is The Collin County Observer) made a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for the time records of the District Clerk Employees during the period of the campaign. Records were provided – but none of the Blue Book time was supplied.

The Human Resources Department noticed irregularities in time keeping. This was attributed to supervisors overriding the computer records and entering time arrival and departures in whole/exact numbers. If an employee swiped their card in the reader, the time would probably not be at the exact hour, for example.

The HR department audited the time records. The supervisors then collected the access cards of the employees and “swiped” various employees in or out of work to make it appear they were in the office, when they were, in fact, exercising paid leave pursuant to the Blue Book.

In June 2010, the Texas Rangers raided the District Clerk’s office and confiscated records and computer hard drives. Helms stated that despite the FOIA press request, the HR audit, and a raid by the Texas Rangers, the Defendants never conducted any type or form of internal investigation.

Helms concluded by stating that the Defendants had a “feeling of entitlement” and “undermined the integrity of an election.” Crigger had second thoughts about using the Blue Book time but did nothing to stop it and she benefitted from it.

Patricia Crigger

Defendant Patricia Crigger’s attorney, Robert Hintondelivered the second Opening Argument. Hinton specializes in representing legal professionals and elected officials. An experienced litigator with a folksy and easy manner, Hinton addressed the jury and agreed with much of the characterization of the prosecution. He agreed that the Defendants were “Good Ole’ Girls” – they are just good people. He described Kunkle’s office as the best District Clerk’s Office in the State. (Many an attorney, LIL included, can attest to this – regardless of the guilt or innocence of the Defendants, there is no clerk’s office that matches this one.)

He describes his client, Patricia Crigger, as a “God fearing woman” who worked at the office for 24 years in a career that she began as a secretary. The Blue Book system has been in existence since the “beginning of time” and is necessary because the county cannot offer cash or monetary rewards or incentives because of budgetary constraints.

Over the years, time clocks gave way to computers and swipe cards. Blue Book time was kept manually at first then it was kept on the computer. When the HR department asked the Clerk’s to discontinue manually overriding the time records, they adopted the system of swiping the ID cards of the employees. Every time the HR department asked the clerks to change the way they kept time, they complied. What occurred is not illegal. As an elected official, Hannah Kunkle could do what she wanted with her budget.

The employees at the Clerk’s office feared for their jobs because a Crigger opponent allegedly promised to ‘clean house” if elected. The employees had a garage sale to pay for Crigger’s filing fee (to seek election). Hinton stated that Crigger was the most qualified person in Collin County for the job.

The Fudruckers luncheons did occur and Kunkle promised Blue Book time to those who worked on Crigger’s campaign. But this, according to Hinton, was against the will of Crigger. After the election, Crigger told the supervisors to alert the employees to use their Blue Book time because this practice of Blue Book time would be discontinued in January 2011 when Crigger took office.

Hinton then describes what he learned about one of the Prosecution’s witnesses, Kristy Duty. Duty was a relatively high ranking employee at the Clerk’s office who was assigned to the 296th District Court, presided by Judge John Roach, Jr.. Allegedly, Roach, who was seeking re election at the time, asked that the clerks of his court display his signs, alongside those of Crigger at campaign sites. Crigger did not permit the display of Roach’s campaign signs by the clerks and this “infuriated Roach.” Then Duty made her complaint to Roach.

Hinton concluded by stating “mistakes were made,” and Crigger never agreed to this practice.

Rebecca Lettrell

Defendant Rebecca Littrell’s attorney, Deric Walpole, gave the third opening argument. (Yes attorneys and non attorneys alike – this is a LOOONG trial and there are many players – usually there are only two sides to a dispute).

Walpole is an experienced criminal attorney who recently defended Warren Jeffs at the YFZ child sexual assault trial, and is a self described victim of the former district attorney. He is an aggressive litigator and wastes no time with pretences. He began by stating that the prosecution of this case is “politically motivated.” He described what occurred as akin to someone waiting in the bushes, watching a fire start, and refusing to call for help until the house burned down. He said that the law is not a sword, it is a shield.

Walpole stated that Duty complained to Judge Roach and surmised the following scenario: “I’m going to Dad, Dad goes to the Texas Rangers, and you are getting arrested.” (Note – the past District Attorney, John Roach, Sr. is Judge John Roach, Jr.’s father)

Littrell has worked for the District Clerk’s office for 24 years and this is all she knows. He told the jurors that the original indictments against these Defendants were for keeping the Blue Book Hours – and nothing more. At this point the Prosecution objected to this but he was quickly overruled by the judge. Walpole continued, that since the District Attorney’s office, then lead by DA John Roach, Sr., had their own “Blue Book” system, the indictment was dropped and Littrell was re indicted with other charges.

He describes Duty as a disgruntled employee who is a cousin by marriage to Littrell. Duty and Littrell did not “get along.” The impetus for this investigation and subsequent trial is Kristy Duty’s chagrin over having to use paid leave for a snow day. Allegedly, Duty had previously arranged to have paid leave on that day. As it turns out, it snowed that day and all the employees were able to take leave pursuant to a snow day. Duty did not want to use her paid leave for that day and requested that HR change her timesheet to reflect this change. HR refused and Duty complained to Littrell. Littrell told her that she can use her accrued Blue Book Time instead. For whatever reason, this offended Duty. So, she then complained to Judge Roach.

Walpole stated that the Defendants are not in a position of power and have no influence over anybody. He stated that the legal standard for conviction in this case requires that the Littrell “intentionally or knowingly” misused government property. And she did not know. And she did nothing wrong. He said that the clerks used Blue Book time to work on the campaigns of County Commissioner Joe Jaynes and County Clerk, Stacy Kemp.

Walpole concluded stating “don’t throw their careers in the trash because someone didn’t hold up a freakin’ sign.”

Sherry Bell

Defemdant, Sherry Bell, represented by Yoon Kimdelivered the 4th Opening Argument. Yoon, a young attorney and former prosecutor, spoke briefly about his clinet. He describes her as a 64 year old with a high school education who worked for the clerk’s office for 22 years. She was advised that she could help the campaign and she did not realize that she was doing anything wrong. There was no intent for a conspiracy.

THE JURY WAS EXCUSED AT THE REQUEST OF JOHN HARDIN

John Hardin then made a motion to sever Hannah Kunkle’s trial from the other Defendants. This motion was denied. Helms, for the Prosecution, requested that any testimony regarding the prior indictments and attempts to indict the Defendants be excluded. This was denied by the court also. Helms protested that he did not want it to appear that he was a party to the prior indictments. Hardin then stated, and this is not an exact quote, “when you step into someone’s shoes, you step into the mud too.”

AND THE JURY IS BACK

Hardin addressed each individual juror by name and reminded them that this is the second week of Advent. He described former Constable and husband, Jerry Kunkle’s various illnesses and hospitalizations, including a debilitating heart attack in Colorado, and stated that Kunkle retired to attend to the needs of her husband and family.Defendant, Hannah Kunkle, represented by John Hardindelivered the 5th and FINAL Opening Argument. Hardin is a prominent, long time, and well known Collin County attorney. He has a folksy and casual manner with the jurors. His style is a conversational one which causes him to segue to various points of information – and the summary here reflects that style.

Hardin relates that After Kunkle announced her retirement, Kristy Duty and another Clerk’s office employee organized a garage sale to raise money to pay for Crigger’s filing fee. This prosecution “star witness” seemed to want Crigger to win and engaged in the same activities of which the Defendants are accused. Kristy created a flyer for the occasion. Hannah saw the flyer and promptly advised Kristy that “no one is to campaign in the office.”

He stated he did not know what happened at the Fudrucker’s meeting. He said that Judge Roach, an honorable man, was subpoenaed, and will testify at the trial. He mentioned to the jury that there is an article in the March edition of the Dallas Observer that describes the Collin County “Kangaroo Court.” He suggested the jury review the article and then he told them not to do their own research. (Not sure why the prosecution did not object to this one – LIL)

Hardin then segued to the actual election. He said that a Laura Roberge was campaigning at the Election office displaying signs for Crigger and Judge Roach. Sherry Bell called Roberge and told her to stop displaying Roach’s sign. Roberge called Roach and Roach allegedly went to the Election office.

Hardin then describes the raid by the Texas Rangers. The office was shut down during business hours. The Rangers confiscated records, computers, and even hand searched the purses of the employees. This raid was an absolute shock to all in the District Clerk’s office.

Hardin relates that the Defendants, with the exception of Kunkle, were indicted two times before and the indictments were dropped. Greg Davis, then the First Assistant to DA Roach, made a Brady Filing requesting recusal from the case because the DA’s office uses a system called “High Five” to permit exemplary employees to take leave from the office while time records falsely indicated they were actually working. This lead to the appointment of a prosecutor pro tem – John Helms, Jr.. Hardin relates that Helms and his team interviewed various employees. Pursuant to these interviews, Littrell asked Kunkle to write a letter vouching for her and the other defendants. Kunkle did so, and among the various documents that were presented to the subsequent Grand Jury, Kunkle’s letter was among them. This, asserts Hardin, is the reason that Kunkle was indicted in May 2011.

Hardin then describes his repeated requests for a continuance and his difficulty in obtaining discovery from the Prosecution. He stated that Kunkle, upon her announcement to retire, spent many days at the end of her term caring for her husband and was not involved in the minutiae of the office . He conclude by stating that Kunkle specifically forbid any campaigning in the office.

Lex In Limine
Attorney at Law

 

Cousins, Babysitters, and Snow Days – More from Day Three of the District Clerk Trial

December 1st, 2011

By: Magna Carta
Attorney at Law

On Day Three of the District Clerk trial, John Helms Jr. for the Prosecution called Ms. Kristy Duty who worked for the District Clerk’s office and remains a county employee in another division.

Kristy Littrell Duty

Duty described the Blue Book system as being a system for recording extra hours that employees worked, redeemable as PTO (Paid Time Off). Initially, when a person redeemed PTO time from the Blue Book, their supervisor would manually enter aPeopleSoft record showing that employee had actually been at work. (PeopleSoft is the software system they use in the HR department and payroll department.) Eventually, HR came to audit the DC office because of the excessive number of manual PeopleSoft entries. (Normally, entries are automatically created when a person scans his or her badge.) Once the HR audit was completed, employees and supervisors adopted the practice of employees leaving their badges with their supervisor when redeeming Blue Book time so the supervisor could “swipe” the employee in and out. This created the PeopleSoft record needed to get the employee paid without requiring a manual entry. Duty described the Blue Book system as being secret in the sense that it was not to be disclosed outside of the District Clerk’s office.

Deric Walpole

Rebecca Littrell’s attorney, Deric Walpole, cross examined Duty. During Walpole’s cross, Duty admitted that the DC employees described the Blue Book system to her during her initial job interview with the DC’s office, his point being that if it was so secret, why were they telling a mere prospective employee? Her response was that because her cousin (Littrell) was involved in the hiring process and everyone knew she was going to get the job. [Implicating the “Good Ole’ Boy (Girl?)” network arrogance that is so endemic in Collin County.]

Duty admitted that she had been the beneficiary of the Blue Book system. When she was pregnant and on bed rest, she had to work one weekend to show Crigger and others how to change some accounting codes in the AS/400 system. She received 40 Blue Book hours for the weekend, which she redeemed. Defense attorneys pointed this out more than once. And each time she distinguished her use of the Blue Book as being related to work she did for the county vs. working on someone’s election campaign.Initially, Duty testified that her only involvement in the Crigger campaign was that she and Melissa Smith held a garage sale to help raise funds to pay Crigger’s filing fee. Later, under cross examination by Walpole, she remembered that she held a Saturday evening meet and greet, close to the Valentine’s Day.

Duty described a meeting at Fuddruckers and recounted that Littrell encouraged the staff to campaign for Crigger and they would “get their time back.”

Hannah Kunkle’s attorney, John Harden, cross examined Duty. She admitted that Kunkle never said anything about anyone getting reimbursed for campaign time. Littrell sent a reminder email (using the county computers) regarding the Fuddrucker lunch. Walpole pointed out during his cross that if the Blue Book system was so secret, why did they talk about it openly and freely during lunch hour at a popular restaurant?

Duty testified that when Human Resources notified the District Clerk’s office that they would be conducting an audit, Littrell sent an email to the supervisors instructing them to delete their Blue Book spreadsheets prior to the audit. According to the Blue Book calendar, some employees would take several days off in a row to work on Crigger’s campaign. Sometimes so many people would be out of the office working on the campaign that there were not enough people for the office to function properly. Duty alleged that phones were not being answered, people couldn’t take lunch breaks, parties couldn’t get their file marked copies, etc. [I never understood what this meant, having lots of experience in getting things file marked. There has never been a delay, in my experience – MC]

On cross, Walpole asked her WHO complained about the service. She said “lots of people.” He said “name one.” She named two people and punctuated it with a sarcastic “how’s that?” Walpole asked Duty to name a single customer who complained. Duty finally admitted she never actually heard any customer complaints–just heard people complaining about people complaining.

NON SEQUITUR: Duty never held a campaign sign for Judge Roach.

Duty testified that in February 2010, it snowed. Employees were told that they could take half a day off and record it inPeopleSoft as 4 hours of “Office Closed” time. If they wanted to take off the entire day, they needed to record an additional 4 hours of PTO time. She took the entire day off, but somehow her time was recorded in PeopleSoft? as 8 hours of PTO time. Initially Duty testified that she complained about this to Littrell who told her to call Human Resources. She called the payroll department and was told that if Littrell or Kunkle would send an email, payroll would correct the time entry. Littrell, according to Duty’s testimony, told her that Kunkle and Crigger wanted all of her PTO would go on the Blue Book, rather than a PeopleSoft correction. This upset Duty. LATER, during Hardin’s cross, Duty admitted that Kunkle had never been involved in her timesheet and Kunkle’s name never appeared on any of the emails comprising this transaction.

The next day, still upset about her PTO time AND all the campaign time she saw being logged into the Blue Book, she complained to Judge Roach. About two weeks later, Roach told Duty and a Lara Roberge, who made a separate complaint, that he took the issue to his father, John Roach, Sr., the District Attorney at the time, who, in turn, referred the issue to the Texas Rangers. Judge Roach told them that they should know that as supervisors in the department, they could face jail time for being part of the system they were complaining about.

[Yes, this blew up over 4 hours of PTO time for a person probably making $15/hour. $60 would have kept all this under wraps.]

Duty testified that she was contacted by Texas Ranger A.P. Davidson. She described the Blue Book system to him and thereafter kept him informed of what was occurring in the DC office. She quit her job in the DC office in November 2010 because she did not want to work under the Crigger/Littrell regime.

Duty described the falling out she had with Littrell. Twelve years ago, she and Littrell “got into it.” They were very close (cousins by marriage) when she first moved to Collin County. Littrell and Husband Adam asked her to babysit their child. She agreed. Later, she decided to spend time with her sister so she backed out. Littrell was hurt by this. She thinks this is where the relationship started to sour between her and Littrell. [There is a pungent waft of “pettiness” (this being a polite word) on all sides throughout this story. Little hurts and annoyances leading to big bangs.]

Kunkle discovered a Crigger campaign flyer in the office and was very upset about campaigning on county time. Kunkle said “they shouldn’t do this.” Hardin made her tell this story several times. Hardin was genteel but insistent and forced Duty to admit she had no personal knowledge of Kunkle’s involvement in anything.

Magna Carta
Attorney at Law

Yes,, Attorneys are Expensive – Aaaand we’re back –

Day 4 of the District Clerks Trial

December 3rd, 2011

By Lex In Limine
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributer

Lorrie Robertson takes the stand. She is a supervisor at the District Clerk’s office. She was one of the Defendants who was originally arrested and indicted.

Through the direct examination of John Helms, Jr. for the prosecution, Robertson explained the various calendars and spreadsheets and how they were used to record Blue Book time. She testified that the Blue Book time was kept on the computer until Rebecca Littrell told her to remove it – sometime before the Runoff between Patricia Crigger and Alma Hayes in April 2010. She did so.

Robertson admitted that much of the Blue Book time was for leave not associated with the campaign. She testified that Littrell told her to encourage the staff that she supervised to work on the Crigger campaign. And she did, in fact encourage this.

At the time of the raid by the Texas Rangers, Robertson had another employees badge in her possession. That employee was not at the office but was exercising this Blue Book time. Robertson, as the supervisor of this employee had swiped the badge to make it appear that the employee was at work, when she was, in fact, not.
Yoon Kim, attorney for Sherry Bell, then cross examined Robertson. Robertson admitted that she was originally indicted. In July 2010, she entered into a plea agreement with then assistant District Attorney, (and instigator of most of these types of cases) Chris Milner.

NON SEQUITOR – Milner has a history of prosecuting defense attorneys for typos in their pleadings – alleging some type of government document tampering. Most of these cases have been dismissed and Milner has been mentioned in other publications regarding this over reaching and abusive tactic. He attempted to prosecute the current District Attorney, Greg Willis, for some crime – don’t know the exact charge – but basically Milner did not like how Wills ran his court (when he was a judge). The Grand Jury refused to indict Willis and took the unusual step of preparing a written statement explaining that Willis committed NO CRIME.

After Robertson entered into her plea of guilty to engaging in organized criminal activity, she kept her job and she wasn’t fined. (why don’t the other ladies get the same deal?) Later the indictments against the other defendants were dropped and re-indicted. She was afraid that her ex-husband would attempt to seek custody of her young children if she was prosecuted. So, she agreed to assist the prosecution.

She remained in the office during all of the alleged campaign activities. She reluctantly admitted that the business of the Disrict Clerk’s office never suffered during the campaign. She admitted that Kristy Duty, a prosecution witness and former employee of the Clerk’s office, was “in and out” of the office a lot because she was working with IT. She testified that not all Blue Book time was actually redeemed.

She was a former roommate with Crigger opponent, Alma Hayes, and this caused discomfort in the office. Robertson asserts that Hannah Kunkle excoriated her for supporting Hayes. Bur Crigger advised Robertson that it was not appropriate for Kunkle to do that and she could support whoever she wanted.

Deric Walpole, attorney for Sherry Littrell, cross examined Robertson. Robertson testified that if a judge or anyone else had advised the office what they were doing was illegal, Kunkle would have stopped it immediately.

NON SEQUITOR – Deric – you are a top notch attorney – so please take those sunglasses off your neck!

During the Robert Hinton, attorney for Patricia Crigger, cross examination, Robertson denied ever hearing Crigger proclaim that the Blue Book system would cease upon her taking office. But she found the Blue Book system to be a good program which contributed to the success of the office.

Robertson testified that the day she was arrested was the most embarrassing day of her life. She was humiliated. No one from the District Clerk’s office told her what to do. She hired attorney George Milner (no relation to Chris Milner)

John Hardin, attorney for Hannah Kunkle, cross examined the witness next. Hardin reminded Robertson that they had known each other since she was a child, she played with his dog, etc. etc. ( a lot of folksy introductions going on here – so BORING) Hardin promised the witness that no matter what happened, they would remain friends.

Robertson, through tears, testified that Kunkle was a very special and awesome lady. At the Fuddrucker’s meeting, she only remembers Littrell speaking and alleges that Littrell , when encouraging the staff to work on the Crigger campaign, said “we will figure out a way to get your time back.”

She met with prosecutor pro tem, John Helms, Jr.. Through attorneys, he asked to speak with Robertson. When asked, through Hardin, whether she took her attorney with her to this meeting, she said no “because he is very expensive.” This statement drew laughs from the gallery and the hoards of attorney in the courtroom. Judge Nelms asked the court reporter to make a transcription of that statement and laughed. (Attorneys are, indeed expensive – and they deserve every penny, I say!)

She met Helms for dinner and discussed car racing, oh and, also the District Clerk’s office.

I had to leave at this point and Bill will be covering the rest of the day. I will continue to cover the trial if you find that my posts are helpful to your understanding of this case.

Lex
Attorney at Law

District Clerks Corruption Trial – CLOSING ARGUMENTS

December 6th, 2011

By: Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributor

We have a verdict and a sentence – but I have been asked to bring everyone up to date on what transpired before the verdict. I have studied and analyzed the Closing Arguments – So Get Ready!!!

The State rested on Friday, December 2, 2011 around 2:30 p.m.. The court recessed until the following Monday at 9:00 A.M.. So, everyone shows up in court Monday morning – all ready to hear this rest of this loooooong trial. Guess what? The Defense rests. Judge Nelms was surprised by this and determined that the attorneys would work on the Jury Charge on Monday and they would resume Tuesday morning to read the charge to the jury and to hear closing arguments.

Tuesday – today – Judge Nelms read the charge to the jury. This is a very aggravating time for attorneys and litigants. This reading of a very long charge is required by the law. The jurors get a Charge to read in the jury room but every word is read to them – even the judge sounded bored.

Mentioned in the charge are the legal requirements necessary to find a “conspiracy.” There must be corroboration of testimony to find that a conspiracy occurred. Moreover, an accomplice, (such as the testifying District Clerk employees who used the Blue Book Time), cannot corroborate each other. There must be proof independent of the testimony of the accomplices.

The Charge contained many lesser included offenses. For example, even if the jury finds that government funds in an amount less than $20 was somehow misappropriated, some sort of lesser conviction can occur.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

John Helms, Jr., Prosecutor Pro Tem

Helms describes this case as an “abuse of official capacity.” He states, “this is why we are here . . .” Aaaand, we are waiting for what I think is a dramatic video or something. Nothing happens and an assistant or some attorney is fiddling with some switches on a machine. This temporarily throws off the Mojo of Helms (I hate it when stuff like this happens to me – stupid equipment – that is why I stick to posters – nonetheless, not your fault , Helms! – LL) Well the AV equipment isn’t exactly working and finally, an audio recording booms through the courtroom. It is a recording of telephone conversation between Defendant Rebecca Littrell and Lara Roberge, a District Clerk employee. Littrell tells Roberge that she has used over 100 hours [on Crigger’s campaign] of her Personal Time Off (PTO) and will get it back on Blue Book – and she will do the same for Roberge.

Helms states, with steady eloquence, that this case is about “influencing an election.” He begins to review the charge with the jury. He asks one of his assistants to display the charge on the trusty ELMO projector. (For those of you who don’t know, Collin County is blessed with a Battlestar Galactica set up of technology that is the envy of many counties.) Guess what, the ELMO isn’t turned on. Assistants are flipping switches, Helms tries to get it to work. The attorneys mention that the bailiff knows how to work the projector. The Bailiff is in the anteroom “bailifing.” Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell, volunteers that he knows how to use the equipment. Judge Nelms is relieved and Kim gets to work. (Kim is a young attorney so he knows what he is doing! LL). Kim gets on the judge’s computer then assists Helms with his computer and, voila, ELMO is working.

NON- SEQUITOR – Kim is quite a gentleman to assist the Prosecution with this. He is a better man than me. I would have stared at the ceiling.-LL

Helms reviewed the charge with the jurors. The element of intent is required for these crimes and Helms said intent could be found because the Blue Book time program was asecret. Helms stated that the law does not require that the object of the conspiracy was accomplished – only that there was an agreement among the Defendants.

He reviewed the chronology of events. In the Fall of 2009, Hannah Kunkle announced her retirement. Patricia Crigger, Alma Hays, and Terrye Evans announced they were running for the office. Hays had a head start on fundraising and campaigning. At a Christmas party, Kunkle told everyone they should support Crigger. Kunkle wrote a letter of endorsement for Crigger.

Concerned that Crigger did not have enough volunteers, the Fuddrucker’s luncheon was held. Helms described the Defendants as the “Brain Trust” of this operation who took seats at the foot of the table. Littrell did most of the talking but all of the Defendants “strategized.”

Helms described various emails sent by Kunkle to friends where she lamented the election and did not want to turn over her office to someone who “didn’t have a clue” on running the place. He described other emails by other Defendants that were introduced in the trial. He casually mentioned that there were “complaints” about how the office was run without mentioning specific testimony or evidence.

Twenty District Clerk employees were involved in this activity, and he named each one. (Why weren’t they indicted? – LL) They were audited by HR. After the FOIA request (by The Observer), Ms. Jacobsen from the HR office asked Crigger about the request and Crigger assured Jacobsen that “nothing was going on.”

Littrell instructed her supervisors to remove the BB time from the computer and keep records on “scraps of paper” – a retreat of technology. The Defendants swiped badges for other employees.

The Blue Book program does not stop until June 2, 2010, the day of the raid by the Texas Rangers. During the raid, Littrell called Linda James, an employee and witness, and said, “the Texas Rangers are here – if you are asked, you don’t know anything.”

After all of this, no one was fired. Instead, they were promoted!!

Helms describes some of the various lesser included offenses in the charge. The misuse of a sum greater than $1500 is a State Jail Felony. The misuse of a sum greater than $20,000 is a Third Degree Felony. Oh yeah, and the misuse of less than $1500 is a Class A Misdemeanor.

Helms then used the spreadsheet prepared by the Texas Ranger to demonstrate how the amount of misused funds were calculated. It was determined that for each hour of time misused by the employees, the cost, INCLUDING BENEFITS – NOT JUST STRAIGHT TIME – was approximately $25. (I do not believe the Prosecution could have reached the Third Degree Felony level without this particular formula – LL)

He stated that the Defendants misused used approximately $26,000 of time poll sitting, block walking, and campaigning for Crigger on County time by this calculation.

Helms said regardless of whether all of the Blue Book time was actually exercised, a crime is still committed. He countered defense arguments that much of the Blue Book time was accrued before the campaign activities by showing the various calendars and ledgers that recorded the time spent on the campaign and said that more time was accrued during the campaign than before.

The Texas Ranger testified that, at the time of the raid, Littrell gave him the Blue Book time schedule when asked. He said the Defendants thought they could get away with this and described their behavior as “brazen.” Sometimes, Helms said, “if you are in an [elected] position too long, you get a feeling of entitlement.”

(I apologize for not having a summary of Robert Hinton’s (attorney for Crigger) argument – we were unable to cover that one. – LL)

Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell

Kim focused on the element of intent required by the Charge. Specific mental intent, mens rea, is required for guilt and it is not possessed by Bell. She thought she was doing the right thing. All of the witnesses were co-conspirators and therefore, could not, by law, corroborate the charges of a conspiracy.

He described the testimony of Lorri Robertson. She was indicted and signed a confession admitting guilt. Then the indictment was dismissed. Moreover, Robertson was never indicted of the same crime as the Defendants. He described Ranger Davidson’s Excel spreadsheet as not being trustworthy and much of the Blue Book time was accrued and used before the campaign.

He said, “you cannot trust the evidence to put these women in prison for their lives.”

Deric Walpole, Attorney for Rebecca Littrell

Walpole, sans the sunglasses (thank you – LL), finds the law to be on the side of the Defendants. He describes the Defendants as good people. He described his role as a defense attorney as a difficult one. Many of his clients are not good people and he has to “set fires” (literal not figurative) to divert attention from their misdeeds. But in this case, these Defendants are genuinely good people and he does not need to create any diversions for them.

He reiterated that all of these activities could have been stopped by a telephone call. And sometimes good people make mistakes. All of the PTO was done on the Defendants’ own time. The cost of this trial exceeds the alleged $26,000 in misused funds.

Walpole describes the prosecution as politically motivated and questioned why the prosecution waited until the election had ended to pursue their investigation. Because of the political situation, innuendo was used as evidence and innuendo is not evidence.

He said that Lorri Robertson confessed to nothing that the Defendants were prosecuted for.

John Hardin, Attorney for retired District Clerk, Hannah Kunkle

Kunkle was not indicted until recently – others were indicted many months before. He stated that he did not have sufficient time to prepare for trial.

Hardin related that John Roach, Sr., former Collin County District Attorney, never indicted Kunkle and Roach was a fierce prosecutor. And the fact that Roach did not prosecute Kunkle and Helms did, demonstrates the overzealousness of Helms, the prosecutor pro tem. Then, according to an observer in the court room, Hardin raised his hands above his head and started doing a “dance” toward Helms. While “dancing,” Hardin complained of the overzealous prosecution. He stopped and said “I’m so sorry, I just get upset.” No one objected to this (and I am not judging, in fact, I am impressed – Hardin’s client was acquitted, after all!)

He stated the evidence was insufficient for a conviction. He told the jurors that regardless of their verdict, he would like to get to know them and talk to them. Hardin concluded by stating, “when you leave the courthouse, on this cold day, during Christmas, you should feel good about what you did.”

John Helms, Jr., Prosecution – Rebuttal

Aaaaaaaand finally – we see the finish line. Helms stated that intent is not needed for a conviction. (huh?? – LL) He said a phone call would not have stopped the use of Blue Book time – the Defendants were fully engaged in these actions and were committed to it. There was never an internal investigation by the District Clerk’s office. The only investigation that was conducted was to find out who the whistle blowers are. Crigger’s reaction to the raid was to promote Bell and Littrell. He ended by stating that this is a third degree felony and the Defendants know it.

Hannah Kunkle was found NOT GUILTY
Patricia Crigger, Sherry Bell, and Rebecca Littrell were found GUILTY of all charges against them and accepted two years of probation each.

Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law

Posted in Guest Opinions

WE HAVE A VERDICT IN THE DISTRICT CLERKS CORRUPTION CASE

December 6th, 2011

*BREAKING NEWS*

Bill was in the courtroom when the jury annnounced their verdict.

Patricia Crigger – GUILTY on all charges
Rebecca Littrell – GUILTY on all charges
Sherry Bell – GUILTY on her one charge
Hannah Kunkle – NOT GUILTY – Kunkle is acquitted.

Judge Nelms immediately asked Crigger to stand. He said, “you are removed from your office effective immediately. Do you understand?” Crigger replied, “Yes sir.”

Bill and I will have updates later this evening regarding evidence and testimony from Day 4 and the Closing Arguments.

Sentencing tomorrow at 9:00 A.M.

LEX LAWYER (In Limine)
Attorney at Law

District Clerks Corruption Trial – CLOSING ARGUMENTS

December 6th, 2011

By: Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributor

We have a verdict and a sentence – but I have been asked to bring everyone up to date on what transpired before the verdict. I have studied and analyzed the Closing Arguments – So Get Ready!!!

The State rested on Friday, December 2, 2011 around 2:30 p.m.. The court recessed until the following Monday at 9:00 A.M.. So, everyone shows up in court Monday morning – all ready to hear this rest of this loooooong trial. Guess what? The Defense rests. Judge Nelms was surprised by this and determined that the attorneys would work on the Jury Charge on Monday and they would resume Tuesday morning to read the charge to the jury and to hear closing arguments.

Tuesday – today – Judge Nelms read the charge to the jury. This is a very aggravating time for attorneys and litigants. This reading of a very long charge is required by the law. The jurors get a Charge to read in the jury room but every word is read to them – even the judge sounded bored.

Mentioned in the charge are the legal requirements necessary to find a “conspiracy.” There must be corroboration of testimony to find that a conspiracy occurred. Moreover, an accomplice, (such as the testifying District Clerk employees who used the Blue Book Time), cannot corroborate each other. There must be proof independent of the testimony of the accomplices.

The Charge contained many lesser included offenses. For example, even if the jury finds that government funds in an amount less than $20 was somehow misappropriated, some sort of lesser conviction can occur.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

John Helms, Jr., Prosecutor Pro Tem

Helms describes this case as an “abuse of official capacity.” He states, “this is why we are here . . .” Aaaand, we are waiting for what I think is a dramatic video or something. Nothing happens and an assistant or some attorney is fiddling with some switches on a machine. This temporarily throws off the Mojo of Helms (I hate it when stuff like this happens to me – stupid equipment – that is why I stick to posters – nonetheless, not your fault , Helms! – LL) Well the AV equipment isn’t exactly working and finally, an audio recording booms through the courtroom. It is a recording of telephone conversation between Defendant Rebecca Littrell and Lara Roberge, a District Clerk employee. Littrell tells Roberge that she has used over 100 hours [on Crigger’s campaign] of her Personal Time Off (PTO) and will get it back on Blue Book – and she will do the same for Roberge.

Helms states, with steady eloquence, that this case is about “influencing an election.” He begins to review the charge with the jury. He asks one of his assistants to display the charge on the trusty ELMO projector. (For those of you who don’t know, Collin County is blessed with a Battlestar Galactica set up of technology that is the envy of many counties.) Guess what, the ELMO isn’t turned on. Assistants are flipping switches, Helms tries to get it to work. The attorneys mention that the bailiff knows how to work the projector. The Bailiff is in the anteroom “bailifing.” Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell, volunteers that he knows how to use the equipment. Judge Nelms is relieved and Kim gets to work. (Kim is a young attorney so he knows what he is doing! LL). Kim gets on the judge’s computer then assists Helms with his computer and, voila, ELMO is working.

NON- SEQUITOR – Kim is quite a gentleman to assist the Prosecution with this. He is a better man than me. I would have stared at the ceiling.-LL

Helms reviewed the charge with the jurors. The element of intent is required for these crimes and Helms said intent could be found because the Blue Book time program was asecret. Helms stated that the law does not require that the object of the conspiracy was accomplished – only that there was an agreement among the Defendants.

He reviewed the chronology of events. In the Fall of 2009, Hannah Kunkle announced her retirement. Patricia Crigger, Alma Hays, and Terrye Evans announced they were running for the office. Hays had a head start on fundraising and campaigning. At a Christmas party, Kunkle told everyone they should support Crigger. Kunkle wrote a letter of endorsement for Crigger.

Concerned that Crigger did not have enough volunteers, the Fuddrucker’s luncheon was held. Helms described the Defendants as the “Brain Trust” of this operation who took seats at the foot of the table. Littrell did most of the talking but all of the Defendants “strategized.”

Helms described various emails sent by Kunkle to friends where she lamented the election and did not want to turn over her office to someone who “didn’t have a clue” on running the place. He described other emails by other Defendants that were introduced in the trial. He casually mentioned that there were “complaints” about how the office was run without mentioning specific testimony or evidence.

Twenty District Clerk employees were involved in this activity, and he named each one. (Why weren’t they indicted? – LL) They were audited by HR. After the FOIA request (by The Observer), Ms. Jacobsen from the HR office asked Crigger about the request and Crigger assured Jacobsen that “nothing was going on.”

Littrell instructed her supervisors to remove the BB time from the computer and keep records on “scraps of paper” – a retreat of technology. The Defendants swiped badges for other employees.

The Blue Book program does not stop until June 2, 2010, the day of the raid by the Texas Rangers. During the raid, Littrell called Linda James, an employee and witness, and said, “the Texas Rangers are here – if you are asked, you don’t know anything.”

After all of this, no one was fired. Instead, they were promoted!!

Helms describes some of the various lesser included offenses in the charge. The misuse of a sum greater than $1500 is a State Jail Felony. The misuse of a sum greater than $20,000 is a Third Degree Felony. Oh yeah, and the misuse of less than $1500 is a Class A Misdemeanor.

Helms then used the spreadsheet prepared by the Texas Ranger to demonstrate how the amount of misused funds were calculated. It was determined that for each hour of time misused by the employees, the cost, INCLUDING BENEFITS – NOT JUST STRAIGHT TIME – was approximately $25. (I do not believe the Prosecution could have reached the Third Degree Felony level without this particular formula – LL)

He stated that the Defendants misused used approximately $26,000 of time poll sitting, block walking, and campaigning for Crigger on County time by this calculation.

Helms said regardless of whether all of the Blue Book time was actually exercised, a crime is still committed. He countered defense arguments that much of the Blue Book time was accrued before the campaign activities by showing the various calendars and ledgers that recorded the time spent on the campaign and said that more time was accrued during the campaign than before.

The Texas Ranger testified that, at the time of the raid, Littrell gave him the Blue Book time schedule when asked. He said the Defendants thought they could get away with this and described their behavior as “brazen.” Sometimes, Helms said, “if you are in an [elected] position too long, you get a feeling of entitlement.”

(I apologize for not having a summary of Robert Hinton’s (attorney for Crigger) argument – we were unable to cover that one. – LL)

Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell

Kim focused on the element of intent required by the Charge. Specific mental intent, mens rea, is required for guilt and it is not possessed by Bell. She thought she was doing the right thing. All of the witnesses were co-conspirators and therefore, could not, by law, corroborate the charges of a conspiracy.

He described the testimony of Lorri Robertson. She was indicted and signed a confession admitting guilt. Then the indictment was dismissed. Moreover, Robertson was never indicted of the same crime as the Defendants. He described Ranger Davidson’s Excel spreadsheet as not being trustworthy and much of the Blue Book time was accrued and used before the campaign.

He said, “you cannot trust the evidence to put these women in prison for their lives.”

Deric Walpole, Attorney for Rebecca Littrell

Walpole, sans the sunglasses (thank you – LL), finds the law to be on the side of the Defendants. He describes the Defendants as good people. He described his role as a defense attorney as a difficult one. Many of his clients are not good people and he has to “set fires” (literal not figurative) to divert attention from their misdeeds. But in this case, these Defendants are genuinely good people and he does not need to create any diversions for them.

He reiterated that all of these activities could have been stopped by a telephone call. And sometimes good people make mistakes. All of the PTO was done on the Defendants’ own time. The cost of this trial exceeds the alleged $26,000 in misused funds.

Walpole describes the prosecution as politically motivated and questioned why the prosecution waited until the election had ended to pursue their investigation. Because of the political situation, innuendo was used as evidence and innuendo is not evidence.

He said that Lorri Robertson confessed to nothing that the Defendants were prosecuted for.

John Hardin, Attorney for retired District Clerk, Hannah Kunkle

Kunkle was not indicted until recently – others were indicted many months before. He stated that he did not have sufficient time to prepare for trial.

Hardin related that John Roach, Sr., former Collin County District Attorney, never indicted Kunkle and Roach was a fierce prosecutor. And the fact that Roach did not prosecute Kunkle and Helms did, demonstrates the overzealousness of Helms, the prosecutor pro tem. Then, according to an observer in the court room, Hardin raised his hands above his head and started doing a “dance” toward Helms. While “dancing,” Hardin complained of the overzealous prosecution. He stopped and said “I’m so sorry, I just get upset.” No one objected to this (and I am not judging, in fact, I am impressed – Hardin’s client was acquitted, after all!)

He stated the evidence was insufficient for a conviction. He told the jurors that regardless of their verdict, he would like to get to know them and talk to them. Hardin concluded by stating, “when you leave the courthouse, on this cold day, during Christmas, you should feel good about what you did.”

John Helms, Jr., Prosecution – Rebuttal

Aaaaaaaand finally – we see the finish line. Helms stated that intent is not needed for a conviction. (huh?? – LL) He said a phone call would not have stopped the use of Blue Book time – the Defendants were fully engaged in these actions and were committed to it. There was never an internal investigation by the District Clerk’s office. The only investigation that was conducted was to find out who the whistle blowers are. Crigger’s reaction to the raid was to promote Bell and Littrell. He ended by stating that this is a third degree felony and the Defendants know it.

Hannah Kunkle was found NOT GUILTY
Patricia Crigger, Sherry Bell, and Rebecca Littrell were found GUILTY of all charges against them and accepted two years of probation each.

Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law

Posted in Guest Opinions

WE HAVE A VERDICT IN THE DISTRICT CLERKS CORRUPTION CASE

December 6th, 2011

*BREAKING NEWS*

Bill was in the courtroom when the jury annnounced their verdict.

Patricia Crigger – GUILTY on all charges
Rebecca Littrell – GUILTY on all charges
Sherry Bell – GUILTY on her one charge
Hannah Kunkle – NOT GUILTY – Kunkle is acquitted.

Judge Nelms immediately asked Crigger to stand. He said, “you are removed from your office effective immediately. Do you understand?” Crigger replied, “Yes sir.”

Bill and I will have updates later this evening regarding evidence and testimony from Day 4 and the Closing Arguments.

Sentencing tomorrow at 9:00 A.M.

LEX LAWYER (In Limine)
Attorney at Law

 

accountability, children, corruption, cps, foster care, foster child, foster home, government, judicial system, legal, legislation, medicaid, medicaid fraud, medical, mental illness, psychotropic medications, psychotropics
TEXAS RESOLVES MULTI-STATE MEDICAID FRAUD INVESTIGATION; RECOVERS $55 MILLION | North America > United States from AllBusiness.com

My Questionn is: What side effects did this drug have on the children and what long term risks will they possibly suffer? How was it not approved? Was it unsafe? Or just not tested?

Shouldn’t they be compensated for the abuse they suffered by the child welfare system knowingly using them as test subjects?

This makes me sick.

———————————————————————–

TEXAS RESOLVES MULTI-STATE MEDICAID FRAUD INVESTIGATION; RECOVERS $55 MILLION

The following information was released by the office of the Attorney General of Texas:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a coalition of state attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice today resolved a lengthy civil Medicaid fraud investigation into Pfizer, Inc. As a result, more than $1 billion has been recovered for state Medicaid programs and several federal programs. Texas’ Medicaid program will recover $55 million in a state-federal government share.

According to investigators, Pfizer deceptively marketed its antipsychotic drug Geodon, its arthritis pain medication Bextra, which is no longer on the market, and 11 other pharmaceutical products.

The multi-state and federal investigation revealed that Pfizer unlawfully promoted atypical antipsychotic Geodon for use by Medicaid-eligible children to treat numerous conditions, including attention deficit disorder and anxiety. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Geodon for children. State and federal law prohibits pharmaceutical manufacturers from marketing their drugs for such “off-label” uses. While physicians may, at their discretion, prescribe drugs for off-label uses, it is unlawful for drug manufacturers to promote drugs’ uses which have not been approved by the FDA.

The states’ enforcement effort revealed that Pfizer provided unlawful financial incentives for physicians who wrote off-label prescriptions. Because of Pfizer’s promotional program, Medicaid paid for prescriptions many physicians would not otherwise have written for their patients. As a result, the taxpayer-funded program incurred unnecessary costs.

In a separate settlement, Attorney General Abbott and 42 other attorneys general reached a $33 million dollar agreement with Pfizer. The additional settlement resolves an inquiry into the defendant’s deceptive marketing of Geodon to health care providers. The agreement prevents Pfizer from making any false, misleading or deceptive claims regarding Geodon; promoting Geodon for uses not approved by the FDA; or otherwise promoting Geodon in an unlawful manner. Pfizer must also post online a list of health care providers that received payments from Pfizer.

Last January, Attorney General Abbott reached a $30 million civil Medicaid fraud settlement with Eli Lilly and Co., which unlawfully marketed the atypical antipsychotic Zyprexa. Last year, the Attorney General also recovered $15.7 million from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. for its illegal marketing of several drugs, including the atypical antipsychotic, Abilify.

A National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units team conducted the investigation and settlement negotiations with Pfizer on behalf of the states. That team included representatives from Texas, Arkansas, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia.

Today’s agreement reflects a continuing crackdown on waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system. To obtain more information about the Attorney General’s efforts to fight Medicaid fraud, access the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

© Copyright 2009 LexisNexis. All rights reserved.
© Copyright 2009 States News Service
child welfare reform, foster care abuse, collin county, cps, custody, divorce, false allegations, family, foster care, government, home, judicial system, kidnapping, law, missing child, sexual offenders, system failure, texas
Collin County Texas – Still taking kids from the innocent..

North Texas Man Fighting For Custody Of His Kids

DALLAS (CBS 11 News) ― A North Texas man has been found not guilty of the aggravated sexual assault of a child. Now, he and his wife are fighting to get their children back.

Douglas Buchar was a successful custom homebuilder when he received a phone call two years ago, almost to the day. Child Protective Services called to inform him that they had taken away his kids. “My secretary got a phone call at the office and said, ‘You need to take this, it’s CPS,'” Buchar recalled. “And I got on the phone and it was just like, what? And they said they took all our kids.”

The children, 4-year-old Megan and 11-year-old Justin, were picked up at school and placed in foster care on January 20, 2006. This all came after the couple’s 12-year-old adopted child accused Buchar of sexual assault.

“I couldn’t,” Buchar started, “the whole thing didn’t make no sense. It wasn’t logical, the charges they had. It just couldn’t have happened.”

Over the next two years, the couple lost their business, their house and their children.

Buchar’s wife, Joy, was arrested as well, but the charges were later dropped. “It’s like someone just took all my guts out,” she said.

The kids lived in foster care for a year and a half. Six months ago, they were given permission to live with Buchar’s sister in New York.

Earlier this week, Buchar faced his accuser during the criminal trial. “Looking at her in court and what not, it was just, she had no clue of the repercussions she has done,” he said. “She doesn’t realize what she has caused, nor do I think she really cares what she has caused. Yes, we do feel sorry for her.”

But most of all, the Buchars said that they miss their biological children.

On Wednesday, a Collin County jury found Buchar not guilty of the crime.

“One thing I learned from all this,” Buchar said, “I was a workaholic and I was working six, seven days a week, 12, 13, 14 hours a day, and I learned now. I promised Justin I’d go fishing with him so many times before. Everytime, it would be like, oh, something’s come up. I got to go. That’s all changed now. I’m going to definitely have weekends off, and definitely spend time with him.”

The Buchars have terminated their parental rights to the adopted girl.

Kelly Davis is Buchar’s lawyer who is trying to get the couple’s biological children back home. She said that she never doubted their innocence. “I think that Doug was able to prove to everybody else that he was innocent by performing all the different types of polygraph and tests that they required, and performing in order to prove his innocence.”

Although Buchar was found not guilty, the nightmare continues. The couple said that they will not stop until they can bring Justin and Megan back home.

(© MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)