Dallas County

Outcome of District Attorney Craig Watkins' Contempt Case Still Up in the Air

Today was supposed to be the day when we found out whether District Attorney Craig Watkins' contempt of court citation would be upheld. State District Judge Bob Brotherton traveled here from Wichita Falls just to make the decision. What he decided instead was that the original contempt charge hadn't been properly written and must be redone.

Before we delve into the details, a bit of a refresher: A while back, Watkins brought not-terribly-strong mortgage fraud charges against Hunt family scion Al Hill III. Hill, in turn, accused Watkins of bringing the charges at the behest of high-profile lawyer and Democratic donor Lisa Blue, who was then engaged in a multimillion dollar fee dispute with Hill. Lena Levario, the state district judge hearing the case, determined Hill's claims had merit and ordered Watkins to testify, which caused the district attorney to suddenly fall ill. When he finally did take the stand, he sat in stony silence. Hence, the contempt charge.

A couple of additional wrinkles have developed since then. Levario was subpoenaed last week to answer questions about this:

Which, if true, raises obvious questions about Levario's objectivity. Also, Watkins' only formidable potential opponent in the district attorney's race, retired Judge John Creuzot, decided not to run, leaving Watkins' opponents focused almost entirely on the contempt case.

Levario did end up testifying today, but she didn't really say much before Brotherton decided she'd botched her contempt order by failing to specify what type of punishment Watkins might face. Levario turned around and had a hearing to remedy the omission but was derailed when Watkins' attorneys asked that she be removed from the case, which will be decided by an administrative judge.

So, once that judge makes his ruling, Watkins may or may not be re-cited for contempt, at which point Brotherton may or may not decide that the ruling was justified. No telling how long that might take.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson