Former Top Assistants Describe Susan Hawk's Erratic Behavior

Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk, who will begin fighting removal charges this week.
Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk, who will begin fighting removal charges this week.
Courtesy KERA/Stella Chávez

Two of the biggest names dumped by Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk during the months before she sought treatment for suicidal ideation and severe depression at a Houston mental health facility have given affidavits in the lawsuit that, if successful, will see Hawk removed from office. Bill Wirskye and Jennifer Balido, previously two of Hawk's top assistants, describe delusional and erratic behavior by their former boss in statements given to Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson, who has been tasked with prosecuting the removal suit, which accuses Hawk of being unfit to serve.

Wirskye, as he describes it, was at the center of many of the weirder incidents during Hawk's descent. He was named her top assistant prior to Hawk taking office on January 1, 2015. Hawk, who'd defeated incumbent district attorney Craig Watkins, quickly began to make statements and exhibit behaviors that could very easily be described as paranoid, according to Wirskye. 

"Soon after taking office in January, Ms. Hawk began to exhibit signs of paranoia focused on her computer and on her phone. She told me that someone had 'hacked' her email and that someone was 'in her phone.' She was never able to rationally explain who was doing this to her, or why. Both DA employees and Dallas County’s IT personnel were summoned numerous times by her to fix these issues. Several new computers and phones were provided to her. I was told by these IT experts that there was nothing wrong with Ms. Hawk’s computers and phones," Wirskye writes.

Hawk was so sure that Wirskye was monitoring her through his phone that her top assistant began leaving it behind when he met with his boss — because it was just easier that way. Before they took office, Hawk told Wirskye that she wanted to be radically transparent with the media. Afterward, Hawk accused Wirskye of talking about her behind her back to his friends — members of the media or not — and Wirskye stopped talking to "many longtime friends." He says Hawk forbid him from communicating even basic information to the media. 

Hawk also, Wirskye says, accused him of breaking into her home:

"On Saturday morning, March 14th, was at the office working when Ms. Hawk appeared, looking disheveled. Instead of coming into my office as would have been customary, she passed by my door and went into her office. After a few minutes. Ms. Hawk came into my office telling me in a loud, agitated voice that she “would never hurt my family” and that our “families should be off-limits.” Her tone was both bizarre and aggressive. When I asked what she was talking about, she accused me of calling her mother and harassing her, breaking into her parent’s garage, and breaking into her house and stealing a photo of her. (These accusations were all untrue.) It was apparent to me that Ms. Hawk was completely delusional and detached from reality. Not knowing what to do, and trying to jolt her back to reality, I encouraged her to call 911 right now if she was delusional enough to think I committed these crimes. Instead she demanded that I call our chief investigators and get them to the office. By the time they arrived, Ms. Hawk had calmed down some. The four of us talked and while she maintained that these things had happened to her and her family, she now admitted that she now no longer thought I was responsible. We tried to further calm her down and encouraged her to cancel an appearance scheduled for later that afternoon. After a few hours, she apologized to me profusely and begged my forgiveness. We were uncomfortable letting her leave the office that day but felt we had no choice. Ms. Hawk and I traded texts later that day. I wanted to check on her well-being and state of mind. She seemed somewhat stable," he says.

Balido's statement dovetails with Wirskye's. She backs up his claims about the district attorney's tech-related paranoia and Wirskye's suggestion that Hawk's pupils did not respond typically to light, implying that she might've had a continuing substance abuse issue — Hawk went to rehab in the midst of her 2014 campaign to fight painkiller addiction. Balido also says Hawk refused to make an effort to understand certain policies or memos that were issued to the office. Once, after Hawk insisted that candy meant to be thrown out during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade be purchased with forfeiture funds, Balido was forced to pay for the candy herself, she says. When she met in her office with Wirskye, her direct supervisor, Hawk became convinced that her two assistants were plotting against her.

Both attorneys would eventually be fired by Hawk. The district attorney's lawyer in the suit did not return a request for comment, but has suggested previously that Hawk's actions before seeking treatment are not indicative of how she will perform in the future.

Friday, Judge David Peeples will hold the first hearing in the case. Dan Hagood, Hawk's attorney, will seek to have the removal suit dismissed. Wilson will seek to have Hawk temporarily removed from office as the case moves forward.

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