Longform

In the Collin County courthouse, due process has a funny way of expressing itself: payback, personal vendettas and overzealous prosecutions.

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That appears to have happened in the shortest-running indictment of the whole saga, the late-December indictment of Greg Davis, Roach's top assistant.

The grand jury indictment grew from Davis' work as the lead prosecutor in the clerks matter. In October, the DA's office disclosed in a legal filing that the district attorney's office also had a policy of altering time records to indicate some employees were at work when they were not. The document said about 40 employees had been granted time off for good conduct. It was accompanied by another court filing in which the DA's office recused itself from prosecuting the six clerks.

The Davis indictment alleged he "intentionally and knowingly made, presented, and used a government record with knowledge of its falsity," a state jail felony. Davis had reported in an October filing in the clerks' cases that he had "first learned" of the DA's time-off program on three dates in October. In fact, he learned about them some months earlier because it had been raised by the clerks' defense lawyers," says Ted Steinke, Davis' attorney. "It was a tortured reading by the grand jury, but that's how they did it," he adds.

The indictment had a major legal problem, though. It didn't spell out what was allegedly false. "Everybody, including me as his lawyer, was left to guess exactly what the falsity was," Steinke says.

Within a week, the charge was quashed on this technical point.

No betting person, including Steinke, expects anyone to have an interest in resurrecting it. Wooten's grand jury, which in Steinke's view hardly passed the smell test of impartiality, has seen its term expire. And the special prosecutor lost his authority with it.

"I hope the new administration isn't going to revisit it," Steinke says.

To the elder Roach, this was just an attempt at payback. "This grand jury was created for the purpose of investigating my office. I believe Judge Wooten has stated to other persons I have statements from that she was going to pay the bastard back for daring to investigate a district judge....

"There's a lot going on in Collin County that people don't know about," Roach concludes. "Much of the push-back that is coming toward me, my office and my administration is the result of our inquiry into those things."

Usually when a reporter telephones a freshly elected official, and is persistent about it, the official or a spokesman calls back. They tend to welcome the chance to talk about their new policies, their new hires, the new energy they intend to bring to the job.

It was odd, then, and a sign of the times at the courthouse, when newly elected District Attorney Greg Willis didn't return a phone call for this story. Then, after two weeks of silence, his lawyer, Michael Pezzulli, phoned.

"When you have a sitting district judge under indictment, a bunch of Collin County employees under indictment, an assistant DA for Collin County indicted...With that much stuff going on, the most you're gonna get out of the DA himself from an ethics standpoint is, to quote Teddy Roosevelt, 'No comment and don't quote me on that,'" Pezzulli says. "Greg thought rather than tell you that, I'm calling about it."

As much as that demonstrates the poisoned atmosphere fogging up the courthouse, exhaustion has also set in after a year of turmoil.

"People want this in the past. They're tired of talking about it," says criminal defense attorney Curtis.

In Willis' office, Roach's top assistants, including Davis and Milner, were let go and the top posts are filling up with new hires.

As Willis' stand-in Pezzulli put it, "You're already seeing a lot of change in that office. It's a new day."

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec