City Hall

Mayor Caraway Loses Legal Battle to Bury Police Recordings Made at His Home In January

Arthur and Archie did it.

At 8 p.m., after a marathon hearing, Judge Teresa Guerra Snelson shot down Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway's request for an injunction barring the release of an audio recording Dallas Police officers made at his home on January 2, when cops showed up to to investigate an altercation between the mayor and his wife, state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway.

In the course of a very long day of testimony, the mayor seemed to throw everyone at City Hall under the bus -- the former mayor, the city manager, the police chief, the city attorney -- all of whom he said had conspired against him.

"Another win for the high-dollar people," he said in the corridor outside the courtroom.

But in the end it was Arthur and Archie who did him in. They're the two friends the mayor cited in a confabulation he gave to reporters, telling them there had been no domestic incident at his house that night, just two rowdy guys without last names who got into a rhubarb over a football game.

That story was his undoing. Everybody else at City Hall and in the police department who touched this mess seems to have done their jobs.

Between the lines in all the testimony and legal arguments Tuesday, a rough approximation emerged of what really went down at City Hall. Caraway testified that there was an all-male football-watching party that night in a downstairs game-room at his house and that things got rowdy.

"Here's a bunch of guys, a bunch of folks," the mayor said, "and we not necessarily trashed out the game room, but a lot of stuff was going on."

Caraway said after his guests left at the end of the game, his wife became angry about the party. "Tensions escalated," he said, "but not physically."

Caraway insisted he never struck his wife -- something he said he never had done in his life. In fact, the picture he painted was of himself cowering behind a closed door in the game room with his wife raising a serious rumpus on the other side of the door -- serious enough that he was calling some of his football friends and asking them to come back. It's not clear whether any did.

But Caraway said he placed more than half a dozen calls that night asking for help, one to Dallas Police Chief David Brown. He insisted under oath that he did not ask Brown to send police. In fact, Caraway testified, he asked Brown not to send officers.

Sources very close to this thing tell me that's probably true. But by calling Brown, reporting an incident with his wife and then asking Brown not to respond, Caraway had put the chief in a bad spot.

The law requires the police to respond to reports of domestic violence, to go eyeball everybody, especially the women, and find out what really happened. My sources tell me Brown also received advice from within the department that Caraway could be setting him up, trying to establish a record of having made a report without making a report.

Whatever. The cops didn't buy it. They rolled. And when they got to Caraway, they recorded everything he said without telling him.

After talking to his wife, the police wrote it up as a minor incident, meaning they were called and found no crime. It would have remained only that, but for Arthur and Archie.

Some days after the incident, reporters got their hands on the minor incident report, which called it a domestic violence call and made no mention of the bad boys. The reporters confronted Caraway and asked why the police report made no mention of Arthur and Archie and called it a domestic matter.

In sticking to his story, Caraway made it look as if the police department either got it all wrong or was in cahoots with him in covering something up.

In court today, Caraway told a dramatic tale of being called in Austin, where he was attending his wife's swearing-in for the new legislative session. Told of an emergency at City Hall, he rushed back to Dallas.

Arriving at City Hall at 8 p.m., Caraway said he found then-Mayor Tom Leppert, City Manager Mary Suhm, City Attorney Tom Perkins and Chief Brown waiting for him in a conference room. On the table was a CD with the recording of the police interview, something Caraway said he had no idea existed before that moment.

Caraway testified they not only told him he had to speak at council the next day and tell the truth, but that they wrote his speech for him.

Caraway was obviously angry this afternoon about Leppert's role, complaining to reporters that Leppert should not have been allowed to listen to the tape before he was. Of course, as party to the incident, Caraway really wasn't entitled to hear the tape at all. He was also bitter Tuesday, on the stand and in the corridor, that Chief Brown had sent officers and that the officers had made the tape.

Asked why he called Brown at all -- why he called him in the first place -- Caraway said to the Observer, "Who would Leppert have called? Who would Perot call? Give me a break."

When news media, including the Observer, sought release of the tape under the Texas Public Information Act, City Attorney Perkins asked the Texas Attorney General for an opinion. When the AG said the tape should be released, Perkins said he would not appeal the opinion and would release it immediately.

Caraway went to court to appeal the AG's opinion, trying to persuade a Dallas civil court judge to bar the release. At Tuesday's hearing, Caraway's attorney, Michael Payma, made a shrewd and persuasive argument, citing narrow provisions of the law that would seem to bar release of police investigative documents in cases where there is no conviction.

But Paul C. Watler of Jackson Walker, a well-known First Amendment lawyer who represented The Dallas Morning News, took a broader view, arguing that Caraway himself had made the whole mess a public matter with his many maladroit attempts to tamp it down.

Judge Snelson clearly took both sides seriously, asking the lawyers many questions and listening intently to their arguments.

Caraway, meanwhile, was belligerent on the stand, talking over Watler, cutting him off, trying to duck obvious yes and no answers with peevish evasions. In the hallway later, he said, "I'm sorry, but I come from an arena where you push back."

The city is slated to release the documents at 9:30 tomorrow morning, barring further legal action from Payma. Caraway suggested in testimony that the release of what's on those tapes may cost him his marriage, but he said it will not cost him his council district, which he predicted he will retake in the May election by a margin above 90 percent. (As far as the City Secretary's Office is concerned, he's running unopposed in District 4, but Caraway testified he has competition.)

And on one count he remained unmoved. When Watler demanded Caraway reveal the last names of Arthur and Archie, Caraway said, "I will never divulge that." When Watler pressed, he said, "I plead the Fifth."

And that was the only thing I wanted to know.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze