Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins started out with one question to answer. Now that he has defied a subpoena, he's got at least a couple more.
Last week Watkins was ordered to appear in the court of state District Judge Lena Levario to answer an accusation that he brought criminal charges against a defendant only because a rich, powerful benefactor of the Democratic Party in Dallas County asked him to. Lawyer Lisa Blue, the benefactor, is trying to squeeze many millions in legal fees out of the man Watkins is prosecuting. Watkins launched his prosecution right after phone records show a flurry of phone calls between him and Blue.
That part should have been simple. Watkins has all kinds of law and custom on his side. He's the elected district attorney in these parts. Probably all he had to do was go sit in Levario's court, get sworn in and then tell the judge, "This is nobody's business but my own."
Rich lawyers who are mad at former clients who won't pay them are perfectly good sources of information about crime. So are poor drug addicts, jilted lovers and strange North Korean travelers calling from the airport who won't give their names. Who cares where it comes from? And Watkins had every right to go to the courtroom and say just that.
But he didn't go. He didn't show. His refusal to show had all the earmarks of a last-minute panic attack. First, his own people told the court he was protected by law from having to appear. Then they said he was protected and real busy. Then they said he was protected, busy and sick. Maybe it's a good thing Judge Levario called a halt at that point so they didn't have to tell her their boss was protected, busy, sick and just got run over by a bus.
So exactly what meteor struck the courthouse at that moment causing our brave district attorney to hide under his desk? The only one I can think of was the suggestion by a lawyer for Blue that she and Watkins were being investigated by the FBI. On that basis, Blue, who did show up, took the Fifth for the day, lending considerable credence to the FBI story and maybe to the selective prosecution story as well.
I can tell you that the calls I started getting the moment Watkins didn't show were all about the FBI probe and the likelihood Watkins didn't want to answer questions about it under oath. The selective prosecution question would have been a slow pitch for him. He could have told everybody to butt out, and the court in all probability would have agreed with him. But not the FBI question.
That story would have far eclipsed the one about the fee dispute. A story about Watkins under investigation by the feds would have led the news. He knew that. So that's my question No. 2, highlighted by Watkins' own behavior: Is he under investigation or not?
His spokesperson gave a bunch of what I would consider to be non-answers to reporters last week to the effect that, "Yeah, we talk to the FBI every day about stuff." And under normal circumstances, that might pass muster. But now the FBI question is central to the subpoena defiance question. Is it the real reason? Was Watkins protected, busy, sick, run over by a bus and under investigation by the feds?
What's my third question? Oh, yeah. Well, it's more personal. Maybe I shouldn't even bring it up here. It's almost embarrassing. But, wow, I feel like I need to know. I have this very bad habit -- I get so mad at myself over it -- of making fun of white people in this space. It's stupid. I only do it because it's so much fun. I get such a bounce out of it when a certain set of commenters start foaming at the mouth and dragging their knuckles through the dust. When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike by this huge really ugly dog behind a fence, and I couldn't resist taunting it. Never grew up I guess.
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Anyway, I am not just the world's most huge fan of white people, but I do have a problem. I am one myself. So I was very concerned when I read that Watkins' staff were telling the court the rich guy making the charges of selective prosecution is white and therefore is not covered by the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. They said the clause, which says a state cannot "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," only applies to minorities.
To be fair, Watkins did not say that. His staff did. And they said it in the midst of heaving everything else but the kitchen sink at the judge to see what stuck. But I really want to know if the district attorney himself thinks the constitution no longer applies to white people.
If the answer is yes? I don't know. Maybe I could get behind that. I'd have to think about it. But I would like to be able to think about it from within the protective boundaries of some other county. I would like to be protected, in other words, plus busy and sick and in another county just for grins.
And actually I have a fourth question. Can anybody, any citizen, any official, any member of any minority or any white person just tell a judge to kiss off? Really? That may be the best question of the day.