Longform

Anatomy of a smear

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Page hired David Miller as her lawyer and asked Johnson to examine her attendance evidence. Grudgingly, Johnson gathered up the calendars -- and hasn't gotten back to her in about three months, Page says. "All I wanted was my legal liaison job back," she says. "Instead, they put me back in an entry-level job. Anyone knows once you have gotten out of prosecution and are put back in, your career with the city attorney's office is over. This tastes like, smells like, feels like punishment to me."

Around the city attorney's office, she says, she remains under some sort of cloud and gets the impression that, in the city at large, her name has not been cleared. "Based on my experience as a prosecutor, 'cleared of criminal wrongdoing' means 'We know you're guilty; we just can't prove it.'"

She says the lingering effects on her reputation have already hurt her in the job market and seriously handicapped her aspiration to one day become a judge.

With all that, Page's story is about to enter a new chapter: the lawsuit phase. In September, Miller wrote the city attorney's office a "demand letter," saying her case had "striking similarities" to another Dallas police case, dating back to 1989, in which Willard Rollins demoted two narcotics detectives after they complained he imperiled their lives. That case ended up with the city paying more than $1 million in damages.

In the Page matter, he wrote, the police were faced with "a public relations quandary of explaining to an inquiring media why numerous cases against rather notorious slumlords had to be dismissed...The police department targeted Ms. Page as their scapegoat." What ensued, he said, was a systematic attempt to ruin Page's reputation and career.

These days, Page is back at work in the municipal courthouse, bringing speeders and owners of unmowed lawns to justice. And once again she's working side by side with Dallas cops.

When Page is asked whether she trusts them, her reply has the ring of real life. "I don't think the problems are with the department as a whole, just certain members," she says. "I go to court with officers every day, and we have a great rapport. Some are hilarious. They'll say, 'Here comes the money launderer. Hide your money!' or 'Can you put me on your payroll?' When they're serious they say, 'Go get a piece of them.' You know, for all the little underdogs who have been unjustly accused or punished, they're saying, 'Get a piece for me.'"

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec