Mayor Dwaine Caraway still doesn't get how he abused the system.
You needed to be there. Last week, moments after Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway lost his attempt to suppress an embarrassing police voice recording, he strode out into the courthouse corridor loaded for bear.
A large crowd of press had been waiting, meek as scolded third-graders in the principal's outer office. We were all gathered in a gaggle on the very mark he had instructed us to stand on.
The mayor marched up, lifted a hand in the air like a concert conductor and announced that the issue of his domestic dispute with his wife, State Representative Barbara Mallory Caraway, was as of that very moment officially closed, off limits and no longer open to media inquiry.
"I don't want to see any more cameras in my face," he told the large assemblage of cameras.
But, see. There you have it. That's not up to him. Never was. Never will be.
If you were in Dallas last week and conscious, you know what was on the recording—Mayor Caraway, sitting in an unmarked police car last January 2 answering detectives' questions about a row with his wife. The city released the recording March 22 after a Dallas judge turned down Caraway's request to keep it under wraps.
Most of you who listened to the recording—available on our news blog, Unfair Park—seemed to feel sorry for Caraway. If anything, he comes across in the recording as gallant—a loyal husband trying to do damage control for his wife, who he says was crazy that night.
Since the recording came out, she has spoken only to say she's not going to talk about it. I have known Mrs. Caraway for a long time. She's a bright, charming lady with tons of poise and perfect manners, never out of control in public. She probably won't talk.
The problem with her husband, the mayor, is that he did talk. Talk and talk and talk. And in all of that talking, he told a bunch of lies, tried to use his status as a city council member to compromise public officials and then, at the end of the day, threw them all under the bus.
Look. One reason I feel I have to write about it one more time (at least) is this: Before Judge Teresa Guerra Snelson ruled that the recording had to come out, I was one of the writers around town who said keeping it secret raised questions about the integrity of public officials, especially City Attorney Tom Perkins and Police Chief David Brown.
In Judge Snelson's court, the outline of the full story—what really happened at City Hall—came into view, not so much explicitly as between the lines. And this needs to be said before the story slips from view. They did their jobs. They did the right thing.
Brown, Perkins, City Manager Mary Suhm, First Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans, Deputy Chief Craig Miller, Detectives John Davison and James Gallagher who did the taped interview, and...can I say it?...yes, yes, Jim, you must say it...you can do this...force it out now...breathe deeply...even former Mayor Tom Leppert stood up and did the right thing in spite of Caraway's attempts to exploit and abuse the system.
Wow, I made myself say something good about Tom Leppert. I think I should get a sticker.
This is what you have to know about Caraway. If you had been in the courtroom, you would have seen it plain and simple. He does not know what's right. He just does not get it.
Caraway told the court he called Chief Brown during the January 2 incident and told him his wife had become violent. He said in court he had called Brown not as police chief but as a friend.
"It was nowhere close to calling 911," he said. "I called the chief, because I called a friend. It was just in an advisory capacity. I didn't need help." He said he instructed the chief not to send officers.
And here we go. They may be friends. I have no idea. But the chief is a cop. Cops get shot on domestic disturbance calls. The Dallas Police Department has a carefully drawn policy on response to domestic disturbances based on the content of the 911 calls.
And then there's all the rest. Last June Chief Brown's son shot and killed a police officer before being shot and killed himself following a domestic disturbance call to suburban Lancaster police. Later the chief was accused—and cleared—of abusing his authority because Dallas officers directed traffic at his son's funeral.
We can speculate about why Caraway called Brown. Caraway could have been trying to lay down a record without creating an official report discoverable by the press. Maybe he was trying to head off any police action in case a neighbor called.
I asked him in the corridor at the trial why he called the chief that night. His answer, like a lot of what the mayor says when he's excited, was tough to figure.
"Who would Leppert have called?" he said. "Who would Perot call? Give me a break." He called his defeat in court "another win for the high-dollar people."
So what does that mean? Did he mean to say that Leppert and Perot also are close personal friends of David Brown who would have called him for solace and spiritual advice? I don't think so. I think it was a typical moment of extremely convoluted and unintended Dwaine Caraway candor.
I think he meant Leppert and Perot are big-shots who would have called the chief in order to get the situation handled. If I'm right, it tells me two more things.
First, he doesn't know how big-shots get things handled (not by bringing in the police in any way, shape or form). Second, Caraway did call Brown to get things handled.
Caraway himself provided further evidence in court in his attempt to prove he did not believe the police officers who came to his house were formally investigating anything.
His lawyer asked him explicitly: "Did you believe you were being investigated?"
"No, not at all," Caraway responded. "I was completely speaking in private about my private affairs."
Well, then what were the cops doing there?
Deputy Chief Miller already had testified that Chief Brown had told Caraway on the phone, apparently after Caraway asked that he not send officers, that he would have to send officers in keeping with departmental policy. Caraway testified that he asked Brown not to send a marked car.
According to Caraway and Miller's testimony, Chief Brown told Caraway he would send a special investigative team experienced in high-profile cases in a "smooth" or unmarked car. He did. They showed up. They interviewed Caraway and recorded the conversation without notifying him.
On the stand and after the trial, Caraway expressed indignation that police had recorded him without his knowledge that night. Think about it.
If the cops stop me after I've had one too many green teas and T-boned a church bus, will they say, "Now, Mr. Schutze, we want you to be aware that we have a hidden recording device in the car, so be careful to kind of shade your answers and not give yourself away."
Not me. So why him?
But Caraway was clearly incensed that the tape even existed. I ask again. What in the hell did he think the police were doing at his house?
He thought it was a scam. That's the only answer I can come up with. He believes that the high-dollar people pull scams like this all the time. As a member of the Dallas City Council and chair of the city's public safety committee, he thinks he should have been able to pull a scam, too—call the chief, get some cops over to kind of fake up a record in case questions ever were asked but keep everything on the low-down in the meantime.
Did Caraway stop once to consider that he was risking Brown's career by asking him to do that? Did he even remember that the chief lost his own son less than a year ago and lost a fellow officer in a heartbreaking nightmare closely related to this situation?
Who the hell knows?
Later, when Caraway went so far as to fabricate a cover story that cast doubt on police actions, he was confronted by Suhm, Evans, Perkins and Brown. They told him Leppert had heard the tape. They told Caraway that he was going to go before the city council and state what really happened. Caraway testified that they even wrote his speech for him.
Caraway made his statement to the council on January 12. He told them the incident was a fight with his wife, not an Animal House brawl over a football game on TV as he had previously insisted. It was his one honest moment in this whole affair, and it still leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
When he was on the stand, Paul C. Watler, attorney for The Dallas Morning News, tried to get him to just say one time that he had made an honest statement of the facts that day.
"I read a statement," he said.
"You did speak publicly," Watler said.
"At their request."
Watler gave him chance after to chance to say he told the truth that day.
"I followed instructions," he said. "It was suggested. It was advised to me by the city attorney, the chief of police and the city manager."
I'm sitting in the cheap seats thinking, "Well, so we have an honest city attorney, an honest chief of police and an honest city manager."
And then we have Dwaine Caraway. Our mayor.
This is what you have to know about Caraway. If you had been in the courtroom, you would have seen it plain and simple. He just does not get it.
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