Woman Who Says Ex-Constable Cortes's Deputy Assaulted Her Sues County For $3.5 Million
Former Dallas County Deputy Constable Howard Watson
A woman who claims a former Dallas County deputy constable demanded sex in exchange for burying outstanding arrest warrants has filed suit against the county, claiming it failed to perform proper background checks on the deputy.
In January 2010, a Dallas County grand jury indicted Deputy Constable Howard Watson on nine criminal counts, among them two counts each of sexual assault, official oppression and bribery. According to the indictment, Watson, then working for former Dallas County Constable Jaime Cortes, told two women he'd make their tickets disappear if they'd have sex with him. One month later, The News reported, Watson "left a trail of troubles in California" -- a laundry list of charges and allegations that included his having sexually assaulted his foster daughter, who was 13 when the assaults began.
Watson's trial on the charges in Dallas County is scheduled to begin August 8, according to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office. But yesterday in Dallas federal court, Linda Wilson, one of the women Watson allegedly assaulted, filed a federal suit against Watson.
Wilson is also suing Dallas County and the commissioners court for failing to run a background check on Watson. Claims the suit: "Dallas County deputy sheriffs are required to take a written test, a physical assessment test, psychological assessment and a polygraph test before hiring. These were not required before hiring a deputy constable." She's also suing Cortes, who was indicted late last year on charges of tampering with government records.
She's suing for damages in excess of $3.5 million.
Wilson says that on April 30, 2009, she went to the county building on Beckley to "transact some civil business," at which time she was stopped by a deputy and told to see Cortes, which she did. She was then told to see Watson, who asked how she'd pay the fines, she claims. "In conversation, Defendant Watson asked Plaintiff several inappropriate questions concerning her sexual relationship," the suit alleges. "These inappropriate questions of a sexual nature were asked within earshot of her minor daughter," who was 6 at the time.
Watson gave Wilson his card and told her to call her the next morning, Wilson says. She did, explaining to Watson she didn't have the money to pay the fines. He called back and said he was coming over, she claims. And he did -- in full uniform driving his county-issued car, in which, he told her, he had the warrants, which he was prepared to act upon if she didn't have sex with him. "Plaintiff felt that she was going to be arrested if she did not comply with any requests Defendant Watson made," claims the suit, which goes on to explicitly detail what happened next.
Cornelius Kasey, one of two attorneys representing Wilson, says she is indeed one of the two women mentioned pseudonymously in the Dallas County criminal case, and tells Unfair Park today that they filed the suit yesterday because "we were waiting to see what what would happen in the criminal matter, but had to get it in within the two-year time limit."
When asked why Wilson didn't initially go to the authorities about Watson's offer to dismiss the warrants in exchange for sex, Kasey says, "Watson picked and chose his victims very carefully." He says he'll leave it at that for the time being.
About the amount being sought, Kasey says of the $3.5 million: "What is that worth -- being raped by an official in uniform under the cover of law and under coersion and duress? Watson is who Watson is. But why didn't somebody see this wolf before they gave him a badge? His backround was checkered and open for review, and the county, if they had had the proper mechanism in place, would have revealed something."
Coincidentally, Watson's wife, Janette, who was also arrested last year, was to have stood trial two weeks ago for having falsified the title on a 2001 Cadillac. But the case was dismissed because it "should never have been filed in Dallas County," as Jennifer Emily explained. The Dallas County District Attorney's Office blamed it on special prosecutor Ted Lyons filing the charges in the wrong county; Lyons said he was just relying on the indictment he inherited from Craig Watkins's office.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.