Dallas County constables indicted for forcing deputies to sell raffle tickets

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Forced employees to finance his election campaign

Constables and their top deputies in two Dallas county precincts were indicted today on corruption charges, stemming from their demands that subordinates sell raffle tickets or provide cash to fund their re-election campaigns.

Precinct 1 Constable Derick Evans and former Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes, along with two of Evans top deputies, Tracey Gulley and Kelvin Holder, were indicted on a range of crimes including engaging in criminal activity, tampering with government records for not reporting campaign contributions and felony counts of accepting cash contributions of greater than $100.

Texas law provides that raffles cannot be operated for political fundraising. Special prosecutor Ted Lyon said that the illegal activity had been going on for years. “They forced deputies who were under their control, who worked for them, to either raise or contribute $250 towards this so-called raffle, which was for his (Evans) campaign,” Lyon said.

The two top deputies, Holder and Gurley, acted as enforcers for Evans according to Lyons. Department deputies were told that if they didn’t sell the raffle tickets or contribute the $250 themselves, they would suffer consequences, including being cut out of getting off-duty jobs and other perks.

Lyon said that “people know that this is wrong.  You can’t do that to your employees. There’s nobody that naïve, I don’t believe.”

Cortes lucked out and was charged only with failing to file campaign contribution reports, since a two-year statute of limitations had run out and prevented the more serious charges from being filed against him.

The Dallas Morning News broke the story in November 2009 alleging that Evans and Cortes pressured employees to finance their election campaigns. In 2008, more that 85 percent of monies raised by Evans for his campaign coffers came from department deputies. Most of the donations were the same: $250.

Former deputy Beau Burt, who was fired in early 2009, told the county that there was a lot of pressure on deputies to provide the constables with campaign cash, and that most of them were scared to speak up for fear of being fired.

The Dallas Morning News

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Former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay convicted on money laundering charges

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Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay answers media questions during a break in jury selection

Former U.S. House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, once one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress, was convicted today of illegally funneling campaign contributions to fellow Texas politicians in 2002.

After 19 hours of deliberation, the jury returned with guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison, although there would be a possibility of parole. DeLay will remain free until Dec. 20 when he is sentenced.

At the center of the charges was whether DeLay violated campaign contribution laws for his part in a single transaction involving a campaign money swap. A political action committee he founded, Texans for a Republican Majority, sent a $190,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee, which in turn, according to prosecutors, used the monies to help fund the 2002 campaigns of seven Texas Republican candidates supported by DeLay.

Under Texas state rules, corporate political donations to candidates are prohibited. Prosecutors said that corporate donations to the PAC were “laundered” by virtue of a special arrangement with the RNC in Washington. They claimed that the monies from the PAC were corporate funds, but funneled through the RNC to skirt campaign finance laws.

Travis County prosecutor Beverly Mathews charged that the exchange of monies ultimately had a much larger role in state and national politics. The monies helped get more Republicans elected to the Texas House, which allowed the GOP to push through a redistricting plan so that more Republicans could get elected to Congress, further cementing DeLay’s leadership position.

DeLay had been under investigation for years, and his political career had been badly damaged by his association with Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, causing him to resign in 2006.  The lobbyist, a close friend of DeLay’s, was convicted on charges of tax evasion, mail fraud and conspiracy.

In August, federal officials notified DeLay that he would not be indicted in the Abramoff scandal, although their six year investigation yielded guilty pleas from Delay’s former chief of staff and one of his aides.

Delay has maintained a low profile in the Houston area as a Republican political consultant, although for a brief period, competed on the television show, Dancing with the Stars.

The Washington Post

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Two Dallas Narcotics Cops Suspended After Brawl

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Two Dallas narcotics detectives, both black, got into a fight on Friday after one made racial slurs about the other. Both officers have been placed on restrictive duty.

The incident occurred when a white officer asked one of the black officers, Dennis Malone, for help in transporting a man arrested on drug charges to jail. The other black officer, Charles Palmer, began yelling at Malone for helping the white officer. Malone told supervisors that Palmer was using the n-word and calling him an “Uncle Tom.”

“We’re waiting on the public integrity investigation to determine what actions will be taken,” said Acting Assistant Chief Julian Bernal. “The whole issue is problematic — using those kinds of names whether you’re talking to another officer or not. It kind of transcends into the public. If you’re using that terminology with another officer, you’re probably using that terminology with the public.”

The Dallas Morning News

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Texas Becomes First State to Start Selling Ad Space on License Plates

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As if we aren’t bombarded with plenty of ads while driving down the street, the State of Texas has made space available on its license plates for advertising necessities such as real estate agents and burgers. The first company to sign up for the program was real estate outfit RE/Max, and soon to join the party will be Ford, Vestas, and Mighty Fine Burgers.

With so many states desperate to raise revenues and voters resistant to ever increasing taxes, legislators are looking at the controversial method to help balance their books. Lawmakers in Virginia, Illinois and Florida are currently planning their own billboard plates, while trend-setting California is jumping ahead and considering video license plates that show the license number while the car is rolling, but play commercials when the car is stopped for more than a few seconds.

The Houston Chronicle

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Final Defendant Faces Trial in Dallas City Hall Corruption Scandal

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The final case in the 2007 massive public corruption scandal centered on former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, began Monday. Builder Ron Slovacek is accused of being part of a scheme to funnel bribes to Hill and former Plan Commissioner D’Angelo Lee.

According to authorities, Slovacek, who is white, is accused of secretly partnering with Andrea Spencer, who is black, and using her minority business certificate to solicit construction contracts from wealthy Dallas developer Brian Potashnik, one of two developers  being shaken down by the Hill and Lee. The two officials pressured Potashnik and another developer, James R. Fisher into paying bribes for favorable votes to secure contracts for public housing projects. Fisher notified the FBI and became an informant.

Prosecutors charge that Slovacek was a knowing participant, who handled the work on framing contracts won by Spencer, which were billed at inflated prices. Some of those monies found their way back to Hill and Lee, by way of a phony consulting firm set up by Hill’s wife, Sheila Hill.

Thirteen people have so far been convicted or have pleaded guilty, including Hill who is serving 18 years in prison and Lee who is serving 14 years.

The Dallas Morning News

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No More Delays in DeLay Trial

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Skirted Campaign Finance Laws?

The corruption trial of former U.S. House majority leader Tom DeLay is getting underway today in Austin, Texas at the Travis County Justice Complex.  DeLay was charged in 2005 with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted he could face life in prison, plus fines.

At the center of the matter, is whether DeLay violated campaign contribution laws for his part in a single transaction involving campaign funds. A political action committee he founded, Texans for a Republican Majority, sent a $190,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee, which in turn used the monies to fund the 2002 campaigns of seven Texas Republican candidates supported by DeLay.

Under Texas state rules, corporate political donations to candidates are prohibited. Prosecutors claim that corporate donations to the PAC were “laundered” by virtue of a special arrangement with the RNC in Washington. Monies were provided by the PAC to the RNC, which in turn gave them to the  Texas candidates as non-corporate funds, presumably to skirt campaign finance rules.

Travis County prosecutor Beverly Mathews charged that the exchange of monies had a much larger role in state politics: a redistricting plan that would help elect more Republicans to Congress and thus help cement DeLay’s leadership position.

DeLay resigned from Congress in 2006 after an aide was implicated in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.

The Houston Chronicle

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Texas DA’s Office Admits to Altering Time Cards-After Accusing District Clerks of Same Offense

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Falsified Attendance Records and Made Employees work on Crigger's (upper left) Election Campaign

In a strange and embarrassing case, the Collin County District Attorney’s office has recused itself from prosecuting a felony case against six district clerk supervisors accused of falsifying employee attendance records and time cards. The reason? The DA’s office has admitted to its own practice of improperly altering time records starting in 2003, and affecting about 40 of its own departmental employees.

“As a result of newly discovered evidence … the State of Texas now agrees that the Criminal District Attorney of Collin County and the Collin County District Attorney’s Office is disqualified in this case,” according to a filing Tuesday signed by First Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis. Davis’ affidavit asks the judge to appoint a special prosecutor in the case.

The DA’s office has characterized its own practice of falsifying time cards as rewarding employees with time off for “meritorious conduct” according to Davis. However, in the case against the six district clerk supervisors, the defendants are accused of falsifying attendance records so that employees could work on the election campaign of Chief Deputy District Clerk Patricia Wysong Crigger.

Crigger and the five other defendants were charged with organized criminal activity, a second-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and from two to twenty years in prison. Crigger won the Republican primary, and faces two write-in candidates and no Democratic opponent in the November election. The trial was to have commenced on November 15, but is now scheduled to begin after the first of the year, presumably around the time that Crigger takes office.

The Dallas Morning News

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