By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Damned if you do: Short of handing his testicles to Republican County Commissioner Ken Mayfield to wear as cufflinks, what exactly could District Attorney Craig Watkins do to please those—like the local GOP and Morning News—who criticize his handling of the investigation into allegations of corruption by Constable Jaime Cortes?
Last week, Watkins finally did what many have long suggested: He named a special prosecutor to take over the investigation. His declared reason—a statement from a mentally unstable jailbird that there was a scheme to discredit Watkins—was savaged by local Republicans, as was his choice, former state Senator Ted Lyon, a personal injury lawyer. Lyon is not a prosecutor, critics pointed out. He's a Democrat. He contributed to Watkins' campaign.
We ran those points past Lyon, who noted that he's also given donations to Republicans. "There's nothing that prohibits me from a legal standpoint from being special prosecutor," Lyon said. "I'm not investigating [Watkins]. I'm investigating the constables." As for his lack of prosecutorial experience, Lyon, a former chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, says that as a PI lawyer, he's squared off against major corporations with pockets deep enough to employ the best defense attorneys in the nation. Leading a criminal investigation should be a relative snap.
Ah, but he's a Democrat, as is Watkins and Cortes. No fair. Why didn't Watkins accept help offered by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott? Right, because a Democrat investigating a Democrat will always be biased, but a Republican, like Abbott, investigating Democrats will naturally put party aside. If you believe that, try Googling "Gregg Abbott and voter fraud." Or remember Kenneth Starr.
Republican District Attorney Bill Hill asked the Collin County District Attorney's Office to assist in the investigation of former Dallas Sheriff Jim Bowles. All were Republicans. The result was a handful of indictments against Bowles, all of them dismissed back in 2004, that ended Bowles' political career.
Toxic politics has been injected into the constables investigation, and it's been Republican county commissioners—Mayfield and Maurine Dickey—along with County Judge Jim Foster who have been pushing the plunger. Hopefully, someone will remember that even Cortes is presumed innocent until proven otherwise, and his neck is on the line. Or maybe that's less important than the vicious political campaign under way for DA.
Lyon says he'll remember: "You can ruin someone if you do it right, and you can ruin someone if you do it wrong. The job of the prosecutor is to do justice," he says.