Special Prosecutor to Handle Deep Ellum Bartender Assault Case

Austin Shuffield, accused of aggravated felony assault on a woman, was a bouncer at  High and Tight, a barbershop that serves alcohol.
Austin Shuffield, accused of aggravated felony assault on a woman, was a bouncer at High and Tight, a barbershop that serves alcohol. Beth Rankin
The case of Austin Shuffield, the bartender accused of a brutal, caught-on-video assault in Deep Ellum this spring, will move forward without the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.

"Due to the bias the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has shown in the prosecution of this case, the defense filed a motion to disqualify the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office," Shuffield's lawyers, Scott Palmer and Rebekah Perlstein, said in a statement Monday. "The motion to disqualify was granted by District Judge Lela Mays. Former Dallas County Prosecutor Russell Wilson has been assigned as a special prosecutor. Mr. Wilson will now take over the case and the presentation of charges to the grand jury."

Video recorded before dawn on March 21 appears to show Shuffield, who was then employed as a bartender at High and Tight, attack L’Daijohnique Lee as she blocked the entrance to a parking lot after driving the wrong way on Elm Street in Deep Ellum. Holding a pistol in his right hand, Shuffield appears to confront Lee, and then slaps her cellphone out of her hand. Lee then shoves or punches Shuffield before Shuffield repeatedly punches her with his right fist, knocking Lee to the ground.

Police officers initially cited Shuffield for public intoxication and charged him with the two misdemeanors. Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot's office later tacked on a charge of unlawfully carrying a weapon and referred aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge against Shuffield to a Dallas County grand jury.

Creuzot also charged Lee with criminal mischief for allegedly breaking out the back window of Shuffield's truck, but those charges were quickly dropped.

The district attorney's office confirmed Wilson's appointment but disagreed with Palmer and Perlstein's statement.

"We do not agree with Mr. Palmer’s legal analysis and conclusions publicized in this case. It was out of fairness to the defendant and victim in the case, and to avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety, that our office consented to the appointment of the Attorney Pro Tem to handle the matter," the office said in a statement. "Our office acknowledges that the presiding judge appointed Russell Wilson as the Attorney Pro Tem for this matter."
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young