Somehow Dallas City Council member Tennell Atkins managed to escape the cameras on his way to his municipal court hearing this afternoon. By the time they arrived -- one from the Morning News, one from one of the TV stations -- he was seated with his attorney in the front of the courtroom, and their lenses were blocked by a set of double doors. But there was no escaping them as he left, and so he faced them gamely, greeting them with a confident grin. It was the grin of the innocent, or maybe of the sufficiently politically astute to know a scowl will look awful on the evening news.
"My name means more to me than anything," he said, offering pablum about the greatness of the American justice system and vowing to fight the assault charge filed against him in December after he allegedly grabbed a City Hall security guard by the shoulders while yelling DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? She had refused to unlock a door for him when he showed up early to City Hall without his city identification.
This was a sharp contrast to his demeanor in the courtroom. He had sat there stony faced, sometimes folding his arms across his chest, sometimes drumming his fingers on his smooth pate, but never once cracking a smile.
To be fair to Atkins, this may have simply been an expression of boredom. This was merely a pretrial hearing, dedicated almost exclusively to procedural discussions.
Ed Voss, the private attorney enlisted by the city attorneys office as a special prosecutor in the case, sought to make a motion for a preferential setting.
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"There are," he explained to Judge Paula Rosales "some unusualities here."
Atkins' attorney, Scottie Allen, then sought to make a motion to appoint a visiting judge, presumably one not appointed by Atkins and the rest of the City Council. (Voss said after the hearing that he would "imagine" that having Rosales try the case would be a conflict of interest, but it looks like Allen will be the one making the request for a new judge).
The lawyers agreed that there should be another hearing and, after disappearing into a side room for five minutes, they emerged with a joint motion to that effect. After a quick conference with his client -- "Thursdays would probably be better," Atkins whispered --Allen agreed to a hearing date of February 26.
And so, a month from now, today's exercise will be repeated, probably down to the folded arms, drumming fingers, and confident grin. Later there will be a trial and then there will be the justice Atkins is so eager to see.