Phone Tag

When we harass sources, we always leave our names

Dallas Observer reporter Matt Pulle has asked his editors to give you the following information: He has no opinion about the size of former Dallas County Deputy Constable Jim Gilliand's behind, no interest in procuring sexual partners for Constable Mike Dupree and nothing to do with anonymous phone calls to Gilliand suggesting otherwise.

That's pretty much all you really need to know, so unless you're interested in some inside baseball details about reporting and the seedier side of local law enforcement, you might want to turn the page.

For the rest of you: On February 19, someone made a series of harassing calls to Gilliand's cell phone from a number that was blocked on Gilliand's caller identification. That person left about a half-dozen voicemail messages calling Gilliand "fat ass" (he's plump) and suggesting that he could get his job back if he fellated his old boss Dupree. (Dupree's gay.)

Then Gilliand received another call, this one from an unblocked number. That caller didn't leave a message. It was Pulle, who had interviewed Gilliand previously about controversy surrounding Dupree, who late last year arranged to have a former sex partner deported to Honduras after their relationship went sour. (See "Cold as ICE," January 4.) Dupree admitted to Pulle in an interview that he had sex with the younger man, but said their relationship evolved into more of a father-son bond.

Gilliand returned Pulle's call and spoke to him for 13 minutes, according to Pulle's phone records from Cingular, which show only those two calls between the pair February 19. Later that evening, Gilliand called the Ellis County Sheriff's Department to complain about phone harassment. Unfortunately, Gilliand assumed the blocked numbers with the unpleasant messages and the one unblocked call with no message came from the same number, which he gave to a sheriff's deputy, who passed it on to an investigator. The investigator went to the district attorney's office, which sought information on the telephone number but not the blocked calls. Six weeks later, and the sheriff's investigator tells Gilliand the number belongs to Pulle, which Gilliand might have known, seeing how he called Pulle several times at that number over the ensuing weeks.

Gilliand is suing Dallas County for wrongful termination from Dupree's office and has attempted to persuade Pulle to write about his case, which is one reason why he told the investigator he had no wish to file charges.

And so it might have ended, except that about two weeks ago David Webb, a reporter with the local GLBT paper the Dallas Voice, called the Observer seeking comment on an Ellis County sheriff's report that said Pulle was a suspected telephone harasser. Webb said he had heard about the report a while ago but decided not to follow it up because Gilliand said he wasn't pursuing the case. Dupree, however, was encouraging him to write a story, Webb said.

Pulle's editor—yours truly—denied Pulle was harassing anyone, then, after ending the call with Webb, suggested to Pulle that he should provide his phone records, pronto. It's not that anyone here thinks Pulle is crazy enough to make harassing calls. Still, given some of our previous staff, our motto is "trust but verify." Pulle's phone records clearly indicated he didn't leave the harassing messages.

The next day, Gilliand, Pulle, Webb, Webb's editor Tammye Nash and the Observer's editors gathered in our offices to listen to Gilliand's tape of the messages and pass around Pulle's phone records. Webb and Nash decided they had heard enough. Not Pulle. No story.

And again it might have ended, except for Dupree campaign advisor and blogger Geoff Staples, who on the Web site www.turtlecreekdemocrats.com last week reported the general contents of the Ellis County sheriff's report—without actually having seen it. Someone read the report to him over the telephone, he told us, though he would not say who. We have a suspect in mind, but we're not saying who either.

Staples' blog post upset Pulle, who, being relatively young and having worked at the Observer for only 22 months, still has a reputation to worry about. Pulle also expressed concern that he might coincidentally find himself arrested in Dallas County—for, say, drugs found in his car, even though he doesn't do drugs. This might seem a little paranoid on Pulle's part, unless you've read some of the claims made in sworn statements by Dupree's own deputies. (See "The Hits Keep Comin'," April 12.) So, on Friday we hauled Pulle and his phone records to Staples' home on Turtle Creek, where we suggested that Staples should, in fairness, amend his blog post. He did.

Ellis County sheriff's Lieutenant Kevin Ketchum, meanwhile, said Monday that his office is reopening the investigation into the calls to Gilliand and therefore couldn't comment. He did say that the case was reopened thanks in part to a faxed letter from "some lawyer." That lawyer would be Steven Suskin, Esq., attorney for Village Voice Media, owner of the Dallas Observer.

We'll keep those of you who read this far posted on the outcome of that investigation, which could take several weeks, though frankly we think you should concern yourself with more important issues—like the fact that constables and their deputies are lawfully entitled to carry guns and shoot people.

 
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