As the excited voice of discontent rises from within, echoing down the hallowed halls of justice, out to the povertized masses a collective chant resonates back from across the land, Why “TRANSPARENCY” for thee and “ACCOUNTABILITY” for we.
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Piper McCraw received her grand jury summons with just a day's notice. She didn't have to travel far to answer it considering her job was in the same building, the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney. The vaguely neoclassical hulk with its columned entry and glass rotunda was only two years old. Year three was about to dawn as the annus horribilis for a number of the public servants working there, including McCraw.
The 33-year-old felony prosecutor had been called as a witness in the waning days of an investigation into the on-the-job activities of another Collin County official, Greg Willis, a former misdemeanor court judge. Just two months earlier, in October 2009, Willis had announced his candidacy to become the next Collin County district attorney, and the men in charge of the office he was seeking were now investigating him for abusing his office as judge. Then-District Attorney John Roach, though retiring, was no fan of Willis, and he refused to endorse him for the job he was vacating; in fact, he had opposed the appointment of Willis' wife before she became district judge. Roach, by commencing a grand jury investigation of Willis a few weeks after he announced his candidacy, raised the stench of political vendetta.
According to several sources, Special Prosecution Division chief Chris Milner, who was heading the Willis investigation, was pursuing the theory that Willis, as judge, had somehow funneled bigger fees to court-appointed attorneys by conducting trials rather than taking pleas in cases where the defendants were guilty beyond doubt. McCraw was called, along with other prosecutors, because she had been assigned to Willis' court several years earlier.
The grand jury refused to indict Willis, and in an attempt to remove the stain on his political reputation, even took the unusual step of issuing a report completely exonerating him. Willis went on to win the race and is now the district attorney of Collin County. McCraw, however, wasn't as fortunate: She became collateral damage in the investigation.
Because grand jury proceedings are held in secret, McCraw would not divulge the details of what incensed Roach and his lieutenants about the testimony she gave to the grand jury in mid-December 2009. "They didn't tell me what to say in there," she maintains in a recent interview. "Let me just say, they weren't happy with me when it was over."
Shortly after her appearance, McCraw, who had a spotless personnel file, was suspended from her job. One month later, on January 14, 2010, she received a voice mail that she had been fired, effective the following day. The career she envisioned for herself as a life-long prosecutor was over. "They never explained what I supposedly had done," says McCraw, who then set up a criminal defense practice and recently took time off to have a baby. A year after her firing, she found herself reading a Dallas Morning News account that said she had been fired "for insubordination." The line came with no particular attribution but to McCraw the source was clear. "Now they're dragging me through the mud," she says.
That a straight-arrow public servant like McCraw would have her career derailed as a bystander to an investigation with political overtones that eventually went nowhere comes as little surprise to many who watched the last year of Roach's two-term administration. Before 2010 was over, a sitting district judge, the newly elected district clerk and five other clerk's office employees would be under felony indictments.
So what came over placid, conservative Collin County (or as some defense attorneys call it, Colon County, for the lowly way those representing the accused can be treated and the harsh policies used to hammer their clients)?
Others say it grows from the rock-ribbed tenor of the place. The conservative Republican electorate gives so much deference to those upholding the law that prosecutors start believing they can use their power to investigate and accuse to settle scores with no political risk.
In that atmosphere, what one lawyer called "chicken-shit offenses" can be blown up to felonies and enemies run over by the heavy wheels of criminal indictment, even if a conviction never results.
Others see it as taking root in a locale that has rapidly grown into an urban area, but one with so many family ties and close relationships at the center of things, the county still resembles a small town.
Former Collin County DA Tom O'Connell and former District Judge Verla Sue Holland both admitted in 2008 depositions that they had engaged in a lengthy extramarital affair; a habeas corpus proceeding challenged the fairness of Holland sitting in a capital case that O'Connell had prosecuted years after their relationship had ended. Roach's son, John Roach Jr., is a district judge who did not hear criminal cases until after his father left office, and now Willis has a wife on the bench, who in turn is not hearing criminal matters. It's not unusual for Collin County law offices to feature several generations of attorneys from the same family.
As the excited voice of discontent rises from within, echoing down the hallowed halls of justice, out to the povertized masses a collective chant resonates back from across the land, Why “TRANSPARENCY” for thee and “ACCOUNTABILITY” for we.
The case about Miss McGraw is only the tip of the iceberg. So many things happen in the courts that one would not believe it. In my case, I was indicted for retaliation/obstruction for simply saying something to a person in court as I was exiting. The Judge had reled that he did not have jurisdiction and that was that. Later, I filed a federal law suit against three judges and the DAs office over a case in which the DA investigator had clearly stated that there was no cause for a case but a case was made anyway. My lawyer, a former lead prosicuter for the DAs office, did not look at the discovery and pleaded with me to take what the DA was offering.A judge had signed three Protective Orders that did not follow the criminal code. So much was stated by the people whom I said something when I left the court. They lied three times about what I was doing even though they had no proof. The DA took their word each time.In general, I have spent quite a bit of time in the Collin County Courts for the last two years including the county and district courts. If justice is what is brought about there, then there is no justice. I believe that lawyers pay off judges and DAs. That DAs listen only to whilte, rich people. I have had lawyers say to me that they want Collin County to not have any poor and non whites in the county. The courts do a good job of making this so.
This is such a good story to have been written so poorly. It's very difficult to follow all of the threads even knowing all the players involved. Moving back and forth in time only makes it harder. You start in 2008, then go to 2009, then 2003, then 2010, then back to 2008, then to 2011, etc. etc. ad nausem.
I found this video very hard to watch after having seen Judge Willis' terrible judicial acumen in action on numerous occasions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...
I have also been in front of Jill Willis on numerous occasions for what should have been simple family matters. She has an uncanny knack for making the worst possible decision in every possible instance, for completely disregarding the law even when it is spelled out for her, for retiring to her chambers when it becomes clear she has no idea what she is doing, and for refusing to give simple explanations for her rulings. Her rulings are not based on fact or law, and she has no interest in protecting the children who are the subject of the family suits in her court. She is dim, slow, and a terrible judge.
i was in Jill Willis court she allowed perjuried testamony in and then ruled in the Def, Favor while giving me a tongue lashing for not hiring an attorney NEWS FLASK Jill BABY if you can read Self Representation is allowable under the US Consitution and as a Judge you should not belittle or demean a person who is in court Pro Se.
It's my opinion Judge Jill Willis should be not only kicked off the bench but disbarred as a disgraced wanna be judge who has little clue other than:1. who is the attorney on each side and which of them is going to do better for her future2. the law itself does not matter and if it did she would abide by and enforce it3. in divorce proceedings she appears biased for the ladies which is just wrong
Long made short Judge Willis appears to me as a nice person but terrible judge. Why would a lawyer want to give up a career and step down in pay unless they could not survive on their own and wanted the tax payer handouts instead as I believe is the case with Judge Willis.
I have seen Judge Jill Willis in action. Judge Willis was lets say very disappointing and in one matter appeared to not care about what the law said but it was all about how she felt. Her ruling was just wrong and flat out wrong. Judge Jill Willis just did not care that her ruling was against what the law reads and she basically said the same. Judge Jill Willis is hurting not helping Collin County. It's the back office deals and back office meetings with lawyers during the trials that also irk me. Judge Jill Willis should not be permitted to go off record and debate with the lawyers in her office and spend as much time or in some instances more time in her office making decisions behind closed doors versus allowing there to be a record and taking the arguments in the open court with the reporter there to take it all down.
In the end Judge Willis will do as she pleases. Her children will one day sit and read these posts and figure out how good of a judge mommy Willis is really. Maybe in her home she's decent but on the bench I found her to be terrible and less than reasonable once she has set out her mind to dislike someone. Closed minded and active in supporting one side versus the other.
In the end Judge Jill Willis will need to resolve her actions to the public when she comes up to run again. Hopefully she will do the right thing and let a more reasonable person take over the bench and enforce the rules/laws of Texas. It's my opinion that she's not!
I had the displeasure of suing a person in a civil matter in front of Judge Jill Willis. I was acting as a PRO SE . She allowed and accepted perjuried admissions in the records wven after she was told that the person who claimed to be a Mere Shareholder was actually the Vice President of the Corporation who swindled me. He was also a person who self Notarized a contect he was part of. all of which was OK with the court. Only thing Judge Willis cared about was that I was unable to afford an Attorny and got pleasure in asking me twice to almost punish me. Gov Perry made a major mistake appointing this woamn to the bench.
I had a civil trial before the other Judge Willis and she Did not know that under Texas law it was a felony to sell property with a valid lien on it. or does she understand the meaning of Perjury. In my case the person I was suing was former Vice president of a Chapter S corp and 50% owner of the same. He claimed I was suing him since he was a mere share holder and Jill Willis accepted that as fact. this is what happens when Judges have to raise money for Political Campaigns
Tangential, but you write that a habeas proceeding challenged the "fairness of [Judge Verla Sue] Holland sitting in a capital case that O'Connell had prosecuted years after their relationship had ended" Actually, from the depositions there are differing accounts of when their affair ended. O'Connelll at first said the affair continued through the period of the trial. Holland then claimed it ended years before, though her marriage ended some years afterward, apparently because of it. After the judge's deposition, O'Connell changed his story and said he must have misremembered, but there's a darn good chance they were still having the affair when the capital murder trial took place. See, e.g.: http://gritsforbreakfast.blogs...
These people are 99% Republican and they are small-minded, vindictive, anti-intellectual people like all Republicans. Just imagine a bunch of Sarah Palins in charge and that's what you have.
I use to live in Colin Co I sued a man for fraud. I lost everything. The Judge refused to let the case go forward. The Defendant in the case had given a contribution to Greg Willis and the case was in the 429th. Only in Texas can a Political Contribution be considered greasing the skids
Maybe people will come to see the true "Big Picture" in all of this micro picture of the entire so called "Justice System" of America. Not only is it indicative of State, local and municipal activity, it is prevalent in the Federal System to the point of sick corruption and power struggles. It is an industry based on power, money and prestige, corrupt to the very core. All the while it is supposed to be "for the people" but "the people" are the victims of this terribly corrupt system that will never change. This is lawyers incest and law enforcement incest which is done all the time at all levels.
Great story that can only get more disturbing, but a few things were missed. (1) Look this up at the Texas Ethics Commission. Two of the people facing life in prison in the Wooten case were also behind Barry Keith Gore's campaign against Judge John Roach Jr., David Cary and James Stephen Spencer. You can imagine Judge John Sr thinking, "How dare you run someone against MY son!!!!" That could get you life in prison in Collin County. (2) There's more to the folks who ratted out the clerks... perhaps they were looking for and didn't get the same sweet deal ... paid time off to campaign for their boss and campaign against a candidate backed by David Cary and James Spencer. A failure to share the wealth (the taxpayer’s dime) will also get you life in prison in Collin County. (3) Judge John Roach Sr also ran his own "Blue Book" program to allow his employees steal days off. But this thievery was for a "good" reason, just as Hanna Kunkle's 20 year long thievery was for a "good" reason. There’s little doubt that it seems like Judge John Roach Sr is a narcissistic megalomaniac who had a few too many drinks from the fountain of hubris. It also seems that all roads in the Wooten case and the case of the District Clerk Six lead back to Judge John Roach Jr…. a rotten apple who didn’t fall far from the tree. This is well beyond mere “dirty politics”. The charges in the Wooten case and against the District Clerk Six are serious, but most likely no more than misdemeanors. Pumping misdemeanors up into charges that carry LIFE IN PRISON is an outrageous abuse power that should be a felony. When all is said and done, like Mike Nifong of the Dukesboro Boys Scandal, the only person likely to spent a day jail will be Judge John Roach Sr.
Regarding the district clerks, they were indicted July 29, 2010. Apparently something was wrong with the facts supporting that indictment because they felt the need to have another hearing to issue another indictment on September 23, 2010. Now apparently they feel the need to seek a third indictment so the facts supporting the second indictment must be false. Now we find out that both John Roachs were behind the original indictment, and probably are responsible for the whole thing while all the time claiming it was solely the Texas Rangers, who look like they have been caught holding the bag for a personal grudge. Why isn't this just a personality using the power of the courts for personal gain?
Then there are the persistant rumors that these indictments are because the district clerks refused to falsify documents to help Roaches attack on Judge Wooten and they are retaliation. It will be fun to watch them try to indict the district clerks on illegal campaigning because almost all of the sitting elected officials in Collin County have engaged in the same, including Charles Sandoval which Roach knows and ignores.
Don't let former DA Roach fool you all either. Check out the number of felony convictions Collin County had during his tenure, the numbers are amazing. The funny thing is, you should see how long of sentences repeat offenders were given for their crimes. The typical sentence was around three days in jail, much less than first time misdemeanor offenses, so long as they plead guilty. The charges ranged from state jail felonies to felony levels one and two. You are going to do more time for a DWI offense than a manufacturing or delivering charge in Collin County. Tell me why someone gets convicted of a felony offense and does three days in jail, while someone who gets convicted of a misdemeanor DWI gets 9 days in jail? Shouldn't it be the other way arround? Or why does someone who gets convicted of manufacturing coccaine get a seven day sentences and a kid caught with pot gets 30 days?
Hmmm. I'm Republican, but I can't vote for people who occupy the bench and don't allow our advesarial trial system and jury system to work properly. Nepotism is unacceptable, favoritism and pandering for political gain by misusing one's judicial powers on the executive branch/operations cannot be tolerated. Nice article...as a new Collin County resident, it has come just in time for registering to vote and a look around for replacement candidates...
I don't care which party folks come from. If you are crooked or I think you aren't doing a good job, I will vote against you. I'll even do my party the long view favor of crossing party lines in a primary to vote for the weakest candidate to improve the spread. I am not alone...these running roughshod people better clean up. Collin County is truly urban enough to sever family ties and loyalties in favor of fresh blood. Us new folks don't give a damn who you are! But, we do care to know we may actually get a fair trial if we ever get in a scrape...and know it won't be settled informally in some star-chamber setting.
It may be time for an audit of county spending, too.
Excellent coverage and superbly crafted review of what's going on in Collin County Courts. There is so very much more to what is involved with these Courts and our County including some to the sources quoted in the article.. What a pleasant change to have media review and exposure of what truly is just the tip of the iceberg here! Regardless of political afffiliations, it's time we took back our Courts and restored due process.. minus the self dealing and abuses which are "business as usual" in our Courts. If all connections between various parties are finally put up for review, it's easy to see how checks and balances built in to our systems are consumed to protect self interests for so many involved. It's not just the serving officials, but their relatives, their business connections, supporters, and interests which reach to Austin and Washington. Any one who challenges the "powers that be" is put under unconscionable duress to quit. So many people are regardless of law, ethics or fairness. Check out postings on Bill Baumback's Colliin County Observer for additonal intormation, including postings by author and guest commentator "WakeupCollinCounty".,,Please keep up the great work!
In primitive hunter-gatherer societies where the gene pool was getting a tad shallow, the young warriors raided neighboring tribes to steal wives from them. Sounds like Collin County needs to find some equivalent method of boosting the old DNA supply.
I am a provider of substance abuse treatment services in Collin County. I have a vendor relationship with the County, meaning I evaluate and provide treatment for persons convicted DWI and Drug Offenses. The atmosphere you describe is all too real, but there is another side to the story. For every poisoned, bitter and vindictive person, and there are many beyond just those you cite, there is a truly noble and decent person dedicated to serving for the public good. Like many I am proud to be associated with those who have held their heads high. I look forward to a new day and tone under Greg Willis a man who, in my brief court dealings with, showed common sense, decency and fairness to all sides.
Of course, New D.A. Willis has already proven himself to be a crook by not going after Roach for his admitted criminal act of filing false documents to the state. The statute that governs only says that the documents have to be false. Despite what Roach and his lackeys say, the law does not require that the false documents be connected to campaign activities.
The fact that Roach and his lackeys can go into a court, file sworn statements admitting that they routinely broke the law as a matter of course and suffer no consequences for it just shows that Willis is just as crooked as Roach ever was.
A gag order has been placed on the Judge Wooten case. The Roaches are violating this gag rule so that they can taint the jury pool. They continue to feel they are above the law and continue to pursue their illegal goals. The folks at the 1st United Methodist Church of Plano must be proud.
Sopranos on the ollin County Citizens dime. I wonder what the fully loaded financial impact of these actions will be. $500k? $750k?
Would the shareholders of a fortune 500 stand for this waste of resources?
The abuses of power described in this article are happening to people who find themselves in front of Roach Jr. for civil cases. This article mentions a favorite weapon of this piece of garbage...indictments for "tampering with a government document". This guy fancies himself as a real bad ass...which made it all the more ironic when he got himself shot while playing courthouse commando on his dad's private SWAT team. Roach Jr. is just like papa Roach...a bully and a thug cloaked in judicial black robes.
Hmmm. I guess not a coincidence that a Collin County DA was brought into Dallas in 2004 to etch indictments against former Sheriff Jim Bowles...all of which were thrown out later for lack of substance.
A someone with personal experience of the Injustice in Collin County, I am glad to see things are coming to light. I am sick of their good ol' boy mentality. Something has to change.
OLD sadly I think some of these Judges made it thru Law School since the Law School Prof at BU (not Boston U) liked their pants around their ankles
Understatement of the decade. In Collin County, nepotism is an art form. Its not just elected officials. It seems that every employee in county government is related.
Michael, all the best with what you do to help people to start, continue and recover. You need to check a lot more closely about DA Willis, Judge Jill Willis, Judge John Roach Jr, and everyone else who has employed attorney David McCall III and his law firm Gay McCall Isaacks in Plano. Will you tell us you think that anything has changed after you connect all the political dots just because David McCall III and his law firm are supporting another DA and cronies, based on what Judge Greg Willis did while hearing your cases?
Gov. Rick Perry appointed Jill Willis as judge in our brand new State District Court. You may want to check out attorney David McCall III and his law firm's support and very active role in so many ways for so many, many Texas politicians, incumbenets and new.
Grandfather David McCall was one of the very few people serving federal prison sentences who recieved a President George W. Bush pardons for McCall's role in the Texas Savings and Loan crisis. Our just retired State Representative Brian McCall is David's son. And the grandson, David McCall III, is a key player for Texas politicians. He's worked as campaign manager for various Collin County judges, elected law enforcement and so many others.
Gay McCall Isaacks is reportedly the law firm which does most of the tax and other appraisal work for Collin County including City of Plano. Our probate judge, Weldon Copeland has a campaign manager who is a real estate attorney. Former DA former Judge Roach Sr even worked with a Senior Judge on that judge's personal mortgage for one of his many properties, while the Judge was still on the bench.
If our DA former Judge Greg Willis, is supported by Gay McCall Isaacks, and its emplyee attorney David McCall III worked as his campaign manager to get Willis elected, what do you think the chances of DA Willis doing anything on any criminal complaints which may have been or may be filed by anyone victimized by what Gay McCall Isaacks do in any matters? Our DA is essentially the elected top cop, who may not be able to address all parts of what his political supporters are doing....which Texas Republican politician would bite the very Gay McCall Isaacks' hand that feeds him?
State Senator Florence Shapiro, a Karl Rove protege, is married to Plano attorney Howard Shapiro, who used to office in the second floor above Gay McCall Isaacks. Attorney Shapiro has done very well to date, and now has his own separate offices connected by skywalk to Gay McCall Isaacks, in adjacent bright white buildings in downtown Plano. I'm not sure if Howard Shapiro being listed as a person who has no interest in these matters is sustainable given the facts. Does anyone else join with me in wondering what cases or favourable rulings various attorneys and law firms get as long as they protect their judge buddies convincing clients that what these judges are doing is right or even if wrong, can't be challenged?
Does anyone remember what Probate Judge Weldion Copeland did to Michael and Eugienia Kidd by making them wards of the State without merit? Check out how many Texas politicians supported byy Gay McCall Isaacks et al were brought in to "handle" the investigation of Judge Copeland, and do the math on how many were returned to office last year for protecting the Honorable Judge Weldon Copeland. Even the limited investigation by Becky Oliver into what Judge Copeland did may be of concern, given her recent marriage to one of the senior partners in one of the law firms which has substantial presences within all parts of our Texas State Bar Association.
It's amazing how Gay McCall Isaacks and their employee attorneys support so many politicians locally, in Austin and Washington! Governor Perry and so many of our current public servants on his ticket benefit greatly from such support and involvement in the political, legal, judicial and financial power elites.
What we voters need to know is the full extent of this involvement and which banks, brokerage houses, accountants, attorneys, relatives, friends, spouses, businesses, at local, State and Federal levels.
Election records listing details per candidate, office holder are available for all of us to read, to know just how active David McCall III and Gay McCall Isaacks are, with other attorneys and law firms, which individuals and businesses donate which monies when to whom. Once you're read several, you recognize the names which are common to most, including some judge's spouses. Then those judges reward their supporters with very choice Court appointments which help those supporters in so many ways.
Another valuable resource for any of us is to go to the Texas First Administrative Judicial Division website. This lists all our local judges, who the head administrative judge is and how various judges get assigned, in short the judicial administration of our Courts.
Then if you're curious, check out which of those judges are supported by Gay McCall Isaacks, other judges, judges' spouses, children, elected law enforcement, business interests etc. There is another great resource, Texans for Public Justice, a non partisan non profit that works to report what we need to know for all our sakes. Griffin Perry, Gov Perry's son, works for UBS, a company hired by our governor and the State of Texas to manage our tax payer dollars in part.
Our good mayor, Phil Dyer, notes that he has worked for LegacyTexas Bank for 30 years. This bank was put under Written Agreement with the Texas Banking Authority and the Us Federal Reserve Washington by published internet records since August 2009. LegacyTexas Bank and everything connected to it is represented by local Plano law firm Gay McCall Isaacks 777 E 15th Street, Plano TX 75074.
Draw your own conclusions but it's time to set aside any partisanship and hold all who keep this public corruption, self dealing and so many abuses inside and out of our Courts, accountable for what is being done to all of us, by so very few, especially the lawyers who have been elected by their friends, and now, using our tax dollars to keep themselves and their pals in power.
Guess it goes without saying that Judge Suzanne Wooten was not supported by any attorneys or others at Gay McCall Isaacks, right?