The McLennan County Commissioners' Court held a hearing last week, trying to find out why the jails are full, the courts are backlogged, and why criminal justice is costing taxpayers so much money.
Several defense attorneys put forth a simple explanation:
- Announcement dockets are a waste of time where AR's prosecutors make outrageous offers that no sane defendant would accept.
- Prosecutors are not available to communicate with defense attorneys to dispose of the cases pre-trial, not returning calls, emails, or texts.
- AR's policies do not allow prosecutors freedom to negotiate. For example, AR forbids his prosecutors from offering probation on burglary of a habitation charges, even on a first time offense (see below). Thus, clients have no incentive to take a plea bargain.
In support of his case, defense attorney Robert Callahan recounted two related "horror stories", one of which involved an innocent man who sat in jail for over six months for a crime he could not possibly have committed. The Legendary was there with the audio.
AR responded to the allegations, mostly dismissing the complaints from the community. Check the audio at 4:10, where AR claims that he and his assistant DA's will in fact negotiate on burglary cases, he "just want[s] to know 'why?'"
Perhaps AR wishes McLennan County had forgotten the embarrassment he received last month in the case of Donald Mays. Mays, an elderly man who works in charitable organizations and who has no prior convictions involving violence, sex or theft, was snooping around an abandoned home that was being used as a storage facility. While looking for scrap metal, Mays was confronted by the owner of the property and sat down while he waited for police. Despite the fact that this building had been unlivable for years, Mays was arrested, charged with "burglary of a habitation" and "offered" the remainder of his life in prison. Despite the best efforts of the defense attorney, prosecutors refused to negotiate under orders of AR.
Home invasion is a serious crime, and everyone wants this to be dealt with severely. But that's a far cry from locking up a 70-year old man for trying to make a living off of other people's junk. Is this really the kind of case that deserves AR's county-funded onslaught?
The jury didn't think so, either. At trial, AR's prosecutors offered their twisted definition of "habitation", which the jury didn't buy. When the arresting officer couldn't even remember the date of the offense, the prosecution was practically laughed out of the courtroom with a "not guilty".
It's good to be tough on crime. But it is irresponsible to waste taxpayer money on stupid, over-charged cases that abuse the public's trust. Like any other big-spending DC politician, AR can equivocate, blame others, beg for more money and make excuses for his failures, but McLennan County will not easily be deceived.