The District Attorney's office very excitedly announced today that a federal judge found no merit in Al Hill III's allegations of misconduct against Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins.
The allegations stem from a dispute Hill had concerning legal fees he owed his former attorney Lisa Blue, a prominent Dallas lawyer and Watkins contributor. Just before the case was set to go to trial, Hill was indicted on charges of mortgage fraud. Hill contends this was done as a political favor for Blue.
Last Friday, federal Magistrate Judge Renee Toliver issued a ruling that Hill's arguments "simply do not demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that BAM was involved in the Hills' indictment." ("BAM" refers to Blue, Charla Aldous, and Stephen Malouf, who were involved in a payment dispute with Hill.)
At the news conference at the Frank Crowley Courts Building, Russell Wilson, an assistant district attorney representing Watkins, called Tolliver's ruling a "vindication of the Dallas County grand jury that chose to indict this case." The district attorney's office is "looking forward to continuing litigation."
The dispute between Hill, Blue and Watkins made headlines last month when Watkins refused to answer a subpoena issued by state District Judge Lena Levario to testify about Hill's claim that the indictment was issued at Blue's behest.
Wilson admitted that a federal judge's ruling does not necessarily bind Levario to make the same ruling when she reconvenes the case this Thursday, but he noted that Tolliver heard the same material being presented to Levario.
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Wilson and Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris said Watkins will appear in Levario's court Thursday, but they don't know if he will testify.
"The notion that this case is about Craig Watkins is hot air and smoke," Wilson said, and Harris called the nothing more than politics and "character assassination."
Not to be outdone, John Hueston, the attorney for Hill, also released a statement today.
"Although the District Attorney's Office has touted a federal magistrate's recommendation that was issued on Friday, that recommendation was made in a separate civil case that does not involve District Attorney Watkins, and has no bearing on the prosecutorial misconduct allegations that have been made before the Dallas County Criminal Court."