Former Top Dallas County Investigator Gets Light Sentence for $200,000 Bribe

Anthony Robinson, who worked for former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, admitted taking a $200,000 bribe.
Anthony Robinson, who worked for former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, admitted taking a $200,000 bribe. Dallas County District Attoney's Office via Flickr
Anthony Robinson, a longtime employee of the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, avoided federal prison Wednesday despite admitting taking a $200,000 bribe from a man attempting to keep his name off the sex offender registry.  Robinson rose through the ranks to become former District Attorney Craig Watkins' chief investigator from 2007 to 2013.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade sentenced Robinson to three years probation, a $10,000 fine and restitution of $31,708, the amount of remaining bribe money that hasn't been seized by authorities. Robinson's sentence could've been much harsher. When he agreed to plead guilty in June 2016, Robinson subjected himself to up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, in addition to restitution.

In September 2012, Robinson met with Wayne Sweeney, who was wanted for failing to register as a sex offender, in Las Vegas. On their way back to Dallas, Robinson — who made $88,000 per year at the time — told Sweeney he wanted to get into the cattle business. According to court documents, Sweeney told Robinson he was wealthy and would help get Robinson set up in the business if Robinson helped him get his criminal charges dropped.

Seven months later, in February 2013, Robinson drafted a business agreement stating that Sweeney would provide the initial $200,000 in startup cash for the venture and Robinson would manage the business. Sweeney deposited the cash in a joint checking account, and Robinson and his wife used some of the money to pay for personal expenses.

In exchange, Robinson said, he leaned on an assistant district attorney to dismiss the case against Sweeney. Heath Harris, then the first assistant district attorney and the man who gave the final sign-off on Sweeney's dismissal, denied knowledge of the bribe last June.

Robinson's lenient sentence may indicate that he's agreed to be a witness in a larger investigation into the DA's office during Watkins' tenure, which was sparked by charges against Robinson. Federal agents recently served two subpoenas to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office — one just before Watkins left the office at the end of 2014 and one just after his successor, Susan Hawk, took over the post the next year.

“Although what he did was incomprehensible, we’ve tried to make amends,”

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Both U.S. attorneys involved and Robinson's attorney, Kirk Lechtenberger, refused to talk to reporters Wednesday about Robinson's potential to be a witness. But according to reporters in the courtroom, Lechtenberger emphasized to Kinkeade that his client has been cooperative.

“Although what he did was incomprehensible, we’ve tried to make amends,” Lechtenberger said to the judge.

Kinkeade referred to "sealed matters" in Robinson's file and ordered the former investigator's case file sealed during the sentencing hearing. By late Wednesday afternoon, Robinson's files were gone from PACER, the federal court system's document retrieval service.

Sweeney, named as an unindicted co-conspirator, is serving a nine-year federal prison sentence for his role in a synthetic marijuana distribution organization.
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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

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