Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins was cleared of contempt charges against him in a matter of minutes on Friday by Judge Bob Brotherton of Wichita Falls, Texas. Judge Brotherton said, “The court enters a judgment of committal on the contempt matter.” Shortly after his legal victory dismissing charges pending against him, in a News 8 exclusive on Friday, Aug. 23 for Sunday’s edition of Inside Texas Politics, District Attorney Watkins said, “I appreciate the verdict by the judge. He followed the law.” The district attorney is not usually outspoken on his personal legal concerns, but is extremely vocal on pursuing crime and ensuring justice is received, equally and fairly, throughout Dallas County.
In March 2013, Judge Lena Levario held the DA in contempt of court when he refused to testify in court at a hearing on charges against Al Hill, III. Hill’s attorneys claimed that the DA had conspired with Lisa Blue, one of Watkins’ political donors, to bring charges against Hill.
According to story posted by the Dallas Morning News, “[State District Judge Bob Brotherton] decided that the hearing in which the DA was ordered to testify about allegations of prosecutorial misconduct should have never been held.” Attorneys for Watkins argued that the hearing was improper and a fishing expedition for information, at the hearing in March. His attorneys maintained that argument the duration of the hearing on Judge Levario’s alleged attempts to “Serve Craig Watkins up on a silver platter to the FBI. And, that he would see the inside of a jail cell,” as was claimed by Jill Reese at the July hearing. However, at that hearing, Judge Brotherton ruled Levario was not biased against the DA and would not be recused from hearing his case.
Bob Hinton, special prosecutor assigned to represent Levario during the July hearing, said about the dismissal of charges against Watkins on Friday, “The reaction is, the judge followed the law, as he saw it. And, we don't have any quarrel with that, at all.” Hill’s lead attorney, Matthew Berger issued a statement following the ruling on Friday declaring, “Judge Levario reviewed hundreds of pages of evidence and heard testimony from several witnesses before deciding in March to dismiss the case against Mr. Hill due to constitutional violations by the DA’s office. Today’s hearing has no effect on the ruling.”
The DA did not rule out re-opening the criminal case against Al Hill, III. Watkins responded to reporters’ questions on the likelihood of bringing charges against Hill, “I will not either confirm or deny any investigations that may be going on with the Hills. I think that’s improper. However, at some point, we do expect that this case will come to a close and Mr. Hill will have his day in court.”
Watkins offered this comment concerning the federal investigation against him, “I would be amused and amazed that I would be under investigation for prosecuting cases where a person committed a crime. A grand jury indicted Mr. Hill in this case. Not me.”
Dallas Morning News’ At A Glance answers three important questions, pertinent to this ruling:
- Why did the judge throw out the contempt charge?
- How does this affect Watkins’ political standing?
- What happens now in the Hill case?
To find out the answers to these three questions, follow the link to the DMN story and page down. The first two items clarify Watkins’ response to the charges being dropped against him and how these proceedings might have affected his chances for reelection. Item #3 supports the D.A.’s comments concerning the Hill case.