South Dallas activist Dominique Alexander awaits Judge Gracie Lewis’ decision, flanked by his defense attorneys. Alexander is not worried. “I haven’t done anything new,” he told the Observer on Aug. 25, the day before his hearing. “It’s kind of like double jeopardy. So this thing ain’t going nowhere.”
He is no stranger to Lewis’ courtroom in Criminal District Court #3 in Dallas. The 27-year-old Alexander has visited on multiple occasions since he first violated his felony probation in July 2012. This time he faces prison for violating his probation on eight different occasions since September 2015. He was arrested for these violations two hours after he was released from jail in early August for failing to pay old traffic tickets.
He wasn’t sure why he’d been arrested again since, as his attorneys Kim Cole and Cameron Gray argue, he’d been already disciplined for missing two probation meetings and leaving the state without permission twice in July. They say the court already handed him additional community service for leaving the state twice without his probation officer’s permission.
Dressed in a dark suit, with short black hair, neatly trimmed beard and mustache, Alexander quickly realizes this thing was going somewhere when Judge Lewis looks at him over her glasses and says, “I’ve given you multiple chances.”
From the judge's point of view, there is a long list of missed opportunities and bad choices.
Alexander received his first chance when he pled guilty in her courtroom to injuring his ex-girlfriend’s 2-year-old child. Judge Lewis sentenced him in June 2011 to 10 years deferred adjudication. He could have received 5 to 99 years in prison for causing serious bodily injury to a child.
All he had to do was stay out of trouble for 10 years and the felony conviction would disappear from his record. Instead, that same year, he was arrested for stealing a car. (He claims it was a simple dispute with the car lot over a payment.) The next year he was charged with check forgery. (He says he’d written the check long before the injury to the child charge.) The year after he was involved in a domestic disturbance that led to a police chase through the streets of Carrollton. (He claims he was under the influence.)
In July 2012, the Dallas County DA’s Office sought to revoke his probation. The state claimed that he evaded arrest, gave a false report to a police officer and failed to report to probation or pay his court costs, fines and fees. He also didn’t complete his community service hours, his anger management course, his parenting classes or Safe Neighborhood Training.
But Judge Lewis gave him another chance. He received credit for his time served in county jail as well as seven years community supervision in January 2013.
“Many people think like I’m a person trying to hide from their past,” Alexander says. “My past life has me doing the things I’m doing now, you know? Because I thought there was actually a justice system. I thought it was actually about justice. But I realized it’s not about that.”
For nearly two years, Alexander kept up with the conditions of his probation. An Oak Cliff native, he grew up living with his great grandmother who was known as “Gangster Granny” in the neighborhood. It was the slaying of a childhood friend from the neighborhood that led him to step in front of the news camera as an advocate for a victim’s family instead of a criminal fleeing from police.
He criticized the way the police handled his childhood friend’s murder investigation and later called for the creation of the “Kelley Alert,” an Amber Alert for adults. (The legislature ignored him.) He later began leading protests against police brutality in downtown Dallas and quickly became a nuisance when he led protesters to shutdown Interstate 35E. One of his supporters at the time said, “It’s going to take more people like Dominique who is willing to challenge the injustice and not afraid to speak truth to the powerful. He has enough faith in God, and he has the courage to stand and not sell out.”
In January 2015, he sought a seat on Dallas City Council but quickly changed his mind. His wife ran instead. (She lost.) He then created a nonprofit called the Next Generation Action Network and quickly became the face of the Black Lives Matter movement in Dallas.
His relationship with the group is murky. He told local news outlets that he wasn’t drawing a salary from the group, but admitted to the Observer that he was receiving a monthly stipend. Alexander also earned money working as an owner of convenience store and from processing credit cards. But he didn't seem eager to pay to get clear of his legal troubles.
The Dallas County DA’s Office filed a motion to revoke his probation on Oct. 27, 2015 for failure to pay his community service and urinalysis fees as well as his Crime Stoppers payment. He also failed to report twice or complete his community service hours or his anger management or parenting classes.
But Lewis gave him another opportunity. He continued on probation with modified conditions to his community service to include serving 10 days in jail on Dec. 10, 2015.
Seven months later, the Dallas County DA’s Office filed another motion to revoke his probation again. This time the prosecutor claimed Alexander failed to report to his probation officer in May, did not pay his community supervision fees or complete anger management classes. He also traveled outside of Dallas County without his probation officer’s permission.
Lewis, though, continued his probation again and gave him 30 hours of community service to complete within 30 days.
Two weeks later, another motion to revoke Alexander’s probation was filed. Only this time, the violations listed both in the Oct. 27, 2015 motion to revoke and the Aug. 2 motion to revoke, combined. A warrant was issued for Alexander’s arrest.
Alexander posted the $50,000 bond shortly after his arrest. He received an ankle monitor and house arrest as his condition of release. “It’s not about the stipulations,” he says. “She already disciplined me. She already took care of it. So why did she violate it?”
Sitting in his small one-bedroom apartment in South Oak Cliff, Alexander reaches over to plug in his electronic monitor. He’s visibly agitated about having to stand before Judge Lewis the next day, once again for a probation violation. He blames Dallas Police Chief David Brown, whom he’s been criticizing. A gunman killed five Dallas police officers and injured several others after one of Alexander's protests against police brutality in early July. In the aftermath, Alexander and Brown sparred over how to conduct further protests.
The Next Generation Action Network also handed DPD a list of demands, including ending police quotas for tickets and arrests, de-prioritizing enforcement of the consumption of alcohol in public, marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, criminal trespassing, littering, disturbing the peace and spitting. Brown responded and claimed the Dallas Police Department doesn’t require or suggest a quota for officers to follow. He also rejected the idea that police would not enforce all laws.
Brown said he would meet with Alexander if he agreed “to discontinue protests in the downtown area given the tragic circumstances of July 7, 2016, and the associated concerns for our officer’s safety."
Alexander says the chief is trying to violate his constitutional right to protest and simply silence his Next Generation Action Network movement in Dallas. “We’re suing them,” he says. “It’s a constitutional violation. They violated my constitutional right.”
Alexander says he was told that Brown had called a friend over at the DA’s Office to see if he could do something to get him off the streets. He says it explains why he was arrested on old traffic tickets, then picked up two hours later on another probation violation that he’d already been disciplined for committing.
“I heard the chief had told somebody that, ‘Oh, he don’t represent nobody,’” he says. “Ding dong, chief, I’ve shown up with thousands at one time. July 7 wasn’t the only protest that I had high numbers at. Hell, we’ve been protesting real strong in Dallas since 2014 when we shut down the highway. Hell, we are the reason why Victory Park and WFAA don’t put their back to the screens, to the window no more.”
He leaves out the fact that recent protests have drawn few attendees. The
July 7 protest drew more than 1,000 people. A July 29 event drew maybe 200 and an Aug. 10 event drew fewer than 100.
As Judge Lewis sentences him to serve two years in the state penitentiary, Alexander looks surprised and defeated. She reminds him of the different chances he’s received from her court and reprimands him for continually violating his probation. The few friends who show up to support him are shocked by the sentencing, but the prosecutor seems pleased that the judge has finally revoked his probation.
Alexander’s attorneys put up a good fight in the courtroom. They present two witnesses to speak on Alexander’s behalf. But one witness has only known him for a few weeks. The other, a preacher, has known him for a few years but didn’t know he was serving a felony probation for injuring a child.
Alexander doesn't have time to speak with the Observer after he is sentenced. He's immediately taken back to jail. In the hallway outside of the courtroom, his attorneys address his family and friends as well as an Associated Press reporter who’d been lingering in the audience.
Alexander’s attorney Kim Cole told the Observer that Dallas police had been very active and vocal about trying to silence her client because he was “getting on their nerves.” She claims that they blamed him for the actions of the lone gunman who killed five police officers.
“Chief Brown has made it his personal mission to take down Dominique Alexander,” she says. “Police have emailed the judge, the court coordinators and the probation office. It’s like they have no one in Dallas to police but Dominique Alexander.”
Brown denies her claims. In an Aug. 31 email to the Observer, he says, “I’ll be praying for him and his family during this difficult time.”
Since he received his sentencing, Alexander speaks with The Dallas Morning News from Dallas County Jail. He claims his past run-ins with the law are “a few blemishes,” and he is ready to serve the rest of his time so he can be free from probation. Yet he still doesn't believe that he had done anything wrong, that he's only behind bars for political reasons. He blames the Dallas mayor and the police chief for his current predicament.
“I didn’t do anything but walk down the streets being Dominique Alexander,” he said.