By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Wooley had no luck finding work. Even if the telecom industry hadn't tanked, he felt as though his name had been stained by the false murder charge. His bouts of depression lingered longer and deeper, and his civil lawyer sent him to therapy, partly to help his client, partly to document his emotional damage. Psychiatrist Lisa Clayton began treating him in August 2002 and believed he was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome brought on by what she described as the "public humiliation" of his arrest and what he described as the barbaric conditions of his incarceration.
In the Collin County jail, Wooley was placed on a "suicide watch," purportedly for his own protection. Immediately following his release, he claimed he was subjected to psychological torture aimed at breaking him down to coerce his confession. Placed in solitary confinement, he was stripped of his clothes and forced to wear what he described as a "Velcro wrap." Between the music he said was constantly being piped into his cell, the thin plastic mat he was forced to sleep on and the drafty 60-degree temperature, Wooley contended that he was deprived of sleep and taunted by guards and nurses who threatened him with the death penalty if he didn't confess.
In discussing its "suicide watch" policy, the Collin County Sheriff's Office noted "that certain inmates would only be allowed to have a suicide gown, a suicide blanket and a mat." A department spokesman also added that temperatures in the facility were kept, according to "state jail standards," "between 65-85 degrees" and it's "against policy and we do not" engage in taunts, humiliation or sleep deprivation.
If Wooley was exaggerating how badly he was mistreated, he certainly had his family and physicians fooled. "Paul was totally and single-mindedly focused on what they did to him in jail," says his sister Mary. "His self-absorption was not healthy, but a year after it happened, it was as fresh as if it happened that day."
Legal fees ate through what little savings he had. He sold his home and lived off the generosity of friends and family, staying in their homes as he searched for a job. What would begin with the best of intentions, a chance to reconnect with relatives, would end in an argument over some perceived injustice. Invariably he would wear out his welcome and be forced to move on.
In September 2002, he made one weak attempt at suicide. Staying with his half-sister in Euless, he grew frustrated when he accidentally damaged the plumbing in a bathroom. The next morning he informed her that he had overdosed on pain medication. He would be all right, though. He had changed his mind and already called the paramedics.
He would tell Dr. Clayton that he had no reason to get out of bed in the morning. He would tell attorney Lynch that when he sat in a restaurant, people would suddenly leave, and when he entered a bank, police officers would suddenly appear. If he seemed paranoid, it may have been for good reason. A police officer claimed that Wooley, while still in jail, had threatened James Simmons and his wife. After the shooting, the company immediately beefed up security and hired off-duty Allen police officers to protect them from Wooley. Xtera's renewed fear proved as groundless as it was in the first instance.
"Paul didn't want to harm anyone at Xtera," says his criminal attorney Ed King. "He wanted to sue them."
In December 2002, he did just that, suing Xtera Communications in federal court after he relocated to Shreveport, Louisiana. Attorneys for Xtera would insinuate in depositions that Wooley only moved to another state to take advantage of federal diversity jurisdiction. But Wooley claimed he had no money, no prospects, no home and no choice. In Shreveport, he attended truck-driving school, but his career as a long-distance hauler came to an abrupt end when he flipped a truck in Peoria, Illinois, and lost his job. He seized another opportunity to teach hardware compliance in China, but his contract ended, and he returned to Dallas.
Living in an inexpensive motel, he would have been destitute and in the streets if not for the advances he received from his attorney. The only thing that kept his life from spinning totally out of control was the pending litigation. "I thought we had a good case," says Lynch, who also intends to sue the McKinney and Allen police departments as well as the Collin County Sheriff's Office. "Nobody deserved what happened to him--even if they were guilty."
Lynch sued Xtera first, hoping he could "pop them for a quick settlement" because they might feel guilty about what had happened. On the contrary, says Lynch, Xtera was "astounded Paul would sue them" and vigorously denied any wrongdoing. But Lynch was tenacious, and in a matter of months got the case primed for settlement.
On Friday, December 12, all the parties met at the Admirals Club at DFW airport. After six hours of trading offers, they managed to negotiate a confidential settlement. At the end of the marathon session, Wooley was exhausted, seemed to be fighting a cold and was bothered by his perennial bad back. Nonetheless, he was pleased with the outcome, envisioning it as an opportunity to restart his life. "Quite honestly," Lynch says, "it was the first time since his arrest that he had a moment's peace."