Talk Isn't Cheap

Ex-Constable Mike Dupree learns the value of keeping one's mouth shut

In fact, Dupree's own deputies fleshed out the story of how their boss treated Martinez. Art Lizcano, who worked for Dupree for five years, said that his boss asked him to seek out Martinez, whom Dupree described as a gang member. Lizcano's supervisors told him to ignore the request, but Dupree didn't let up and finally ordered him to arrest Martinez at the constable's apartment where the young man was sleeping. Dupree even gave Lizcano the key to his place.

If Dupree were only dealing with a gaggle of disgruntled employees, he might still be fighting for his job. But earlier this month, Dan Wyde, the attorney who filed the petition to remove Dupree from office, collected arguably the most credible affidavit yet. Leslie Sweet, the legal advisor for Sheriff Lupe Valdez, gave a sworn statement describing how Dupree tried to slander Willie after the sheriff's department hired him to handle medical transfers of inmates. Sweet said that in May he received an anonymous call saying that Willie had fondled a 19-year-old girl. The caller added, "I have a photo of it." Around 10 minutes later, Dupree happened to call and stated he was on his way to Sweet's office with the damning photos. Sweet saw the photos and said they were not damaging at all, merely Willie pictured with a stripper a few years ago. Still, an agitated Dupree insisted that Sweet fire Willie and then added, "The civil DA won't let me fire him. I'm going to get rid of him one way or another."

Sweet's affidavit, on top of the sworn statement from Schnell, echoed all the main allegations of Dupree's employees: That he was a vindictive, clumsy hack, too consumed by paranoia to perform his job. In fact, lost among the sordid details of Dupree's machinations was the fact that he wasn't very good at serving legal notices, which is the most important responsibility of an urban constable. In one case, a county judge found that Dupree "willfully disobeyed' an order to seize a debtor's property as required by law.

"This disobedience was not justified or excused," wrote the judge.

Last week, everything began to crumble for Dupree. The county's investigation into Dupree's workplace sustained allegations of sexual harassment, and a visiting judge allowed the petition to remove the constable from office to go forward. On top of that, the attorney general's office spoke with several employees who claimed that Dupree had them work on his campaign on county time, which is against the law. Last Thursday, Dupree simultaneously quit his job and copped a guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of abuse of official capacity. Represented by attorney John Weddle, Dupree shocked everyone caught up in the drama and fulfilled the wildest dreams of his detractors. Not only did Dupree step down, but as part of his plea deal he can never serve as a law enforcement officer or an elected official in the state of Texas.

And yet, while Dupree pleaded guilty in a court of law, he maintained his innocence to the press. When asked by a reporter if he lied when he accepted a plea, Dupree simply responded "yes." The former constable was less loquacious with the Dallas Observer.

"I believe I don't have any comment for you," he told us.

If only he would have said that the first time around.

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