In April 2009, assistant Denton County District Attorney Cary Piel walked into the office of his colleague, assistant DA Nadiya Williams-Boldware, to discuss a case he was preparing for trial. He had just watched video of the crime that showed a black woman drive drunkenly through a cemetery, then fought and verbally abused arresting officers.
Piel told Williams-Boldware that he was infuriated by what he saw, according to a lawsuit she later filed. It made him "understand why people hung from trees" and want to go home and put on his "white pointy hat." When he saw that Williams-Boldware, who is black, was becoming upset, he changed the subject to affirmative action and how it leads to discrimination against white people.
Later that evening, Williams-Boldware related the incident to her chief -- her immediate supervisor, Susan Piel, is married to Cary Piel -- and from there the complaint made its way up the chain of command to District Attorney Paul Johnson. Meanwhile, assistant District Attorney John Renz, whom a colleague had heard telling Piel that he was from Louisiana and understood the pointy-white-hood sentiments, twice called Williams-Boldware a troublemaker as she passed his desk.
Williams-Boldware met with Piel who expressed some regret that he wasn't better at controlling his emotions and issued a sort-of apology, then told her she would be a better prosecutor if she got in touch with her inner feelings. When Williams-Boldware later met with Susan Piel and expressed surprise that she hadn't been more proactive in mediating the dispute, Piel asked, in her husband's defense, if Williams-Boldware didn't sometimes feel it was "us against them."
Cary Piel was reportedly made to take a "diversity class," though there was no evidence that he actually had other than loud pronouncements from him in her hearing, and she eventually filed a complaint against him through Denton County's human resources department. No disciplinary action was ever taken, and Williams-Boldware sensed that the Piels, Johnson and others were closing ranks against her. Which prompted the lawsuit and the decision late last week by a federal jury to award Williams-Boldware $510,000.
And then, yesterday, housecleaning. Johnson fired both Piels, Renz, and another assistant DA, Ryan Calvert. I called the DA's office, which isn't commenting on the case or the firings.
"It ought to be a message to Denton County to stop discriminating against women," said William Trantham, Williams-Boldware's lawyer, referring to another discrimination suit he won in the 1990s on behalf of a female deputy sheriff.
No hard feelings, though. Trantham said that his client no longer feels intimidated at the office and was, in fact approached, by Johnson after the trial. Patted her on the back and shook her hand.