Two things. The first is serious business. The second, not so much.
As you know by now, a Dallas judge today granted lawyers for Mayor Dwaine Caraway their request for a temporary restraining order forbidding the Dallas City Attorney from releasing an embarrassing police investigative tape of the mayor.
The Texas Attorney General already had told the City Attorney to release the tape, which was made by police the night in early January when Caraway called the police chief to help him settle a dispute with his wife, state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway. Dallas City Attorney Tom Perkins said in court today he intended to release the tape under the requirements of state law.
But state law also provides Caraway a chance to go to court and argue against the release. Caraway's attorney, Michael Payma, persuaded Judge Teresa Guerra Snelson to halt release of the tape for 14 days while Payma perfects his argument for a permanent ban.
The problem with the court hearing was that there was no one there to argue for the public. Judge Snelson solved that problem by calling Dallas Morning News reporter Steve Thompson up to the rail. Speaking off the cuff, Thompson made a strong argument to the effect that the tape will have to come out eventually anyway.
Thompson ticked off the many ways in which Caraway already has acted to put this issue in the public domain -- a fact that's going to outweigh any issues of embarrassment when all is said and done, he said. I was especially impressed that Thompson was able to bring up Arthur and Archie without smiling or in any way behaving disrespectfully to the court. Usually only trained lawyers can do tricks like that. I was staring down at my notepad pretending to sneeze in order not to get kicked out of court.
Snelson wound up giving Caraway's team what they wanted -- a 14-day temporary restraining order -- after Payma made a carefully argued case: Basically, he said that without the order, the tape would go out to the press and the damage would be done. The only way Caraway could have his day in court -- for the judge to decide whether or not to overrule the AG and order the release -- was for the judge to keep tape under wraps while that case was being brought to court.
But when it was over the judge complimented Thompson and told him he should go to law school if he ever gets tired of being a journalist.
Now. Not so serious.
I am worried that when the tape does come out, people will be disappointed, not because there won't be good stuff on it, but because the cops will make the quality of the tape so bad that nobody will be able to understand it. Believe me, I have been around this block before.
Just for example, and I'm just making this up, but imagine that the cops also made a tape of the mayor's imaginary friends, Arthur and Archie, discussing the Caraway incident with each other. Based on my experience with these matters in the past, it would probably sound something like the dialogue below. And remember, I made this up, and I offer it only as a public service, so people won't be too disappointed if and when the real tape comes out:
Archie: (Redacted) ... like in a pirate movie ... inaudible ... chopped ... inaudible ... everywhere.
Archie: Inaudible ... Dwaine was (deleted) ... inaudible ... and I was running around after him ... inaudible ... escape ... inaudible (deleted) ... so scared ... right off the end of the porch, and Dwaine ... (redacted) ... underneath me like a surfboard.
Arthur: I thought it was Barbara who was ... inaudible (deleted).. the neighbor's house.
Archie: Well, yeah, but that was after Dwaine ... inaudible ... down the street ... (deleted) pants .. inaudible.
Arthur: No, Dwaine didn't do that.
Archie: Yes, he did!
Arthur: No, he didn't!
Archie: Yes, he did!
Arthur: No, he didn't!
Archie: That's not even the half of it. Dwaine ... inaudible ... butcher knife ... inaudible ... (deleted) ... pants ... (redacted) ... inaudible ... cops ... inaudible ... inside the church ... inaudible ... out the back door ... (redacted) ... like a stuck pig.
Archie: Yes, Arthur.
Arthur: That's terrible.
Archie: You're tellin' me.
Arthur: What's Dwaine gonna do if the tape of it ever comes out?
Archie: I told him he should ... inaudible (redacted) ... change his name ... inaudible .. (deleted) Ohio ... inaudible ... at midnight with all his stuff ... (redacted) ... fresh start.
Arthur: Oh, man. No wonder Dwaine didn't want that tape to come out. Now the mayor of Dallas looks like he's a (deleted) (deleted) (deleted) (deleted).