The Tennell Atkins Assault Story as Barometer for Things Generally at Dallas City Hall

On the one hand there is the immediate case of Tennell Atkins, the Dallas City Council member accused of assaulting a city employee at City Hall in early December. On the other hand, there is City Hall. I thought they were having a security crackdown to protect the council from violent persons. I'm so confused.

Hallelujah, there's going to be a trial after all. At first Atkins said he was going to plead "no contest" to charges he had assaulted a female employee on December 10 after the employee refused to open a locked security door for him.

Now it looks as if Atkins has changed his mind. The plea on the books is "not guilty," set for a lawyers' hearing on January 22. I am mightily relieved. For a while I thought we'd never find out what happened.

Atkins was ticketed for shaking a 61-year-old woman while screaming in her face, "Do you know who I am?" In the midst of the much ballyhooed City Hall crackdown on security, the woman had declined to open a locked door for Atkins when he failed to produce a security badge required for entry.

See also: "Tennell Atkins Ticketed for Assault on City Hall Security Guard

At least one other witness was present, but the city said the surveillance camera for that location -- in the midst of the security crackdown -- was, sadly, out of order. Later the city provided the media with video showing Atkins in the distance down a long corridor in another part of the building at another time. Maybe we were supposed to use it for biographical background.

When Atkins was going to plead no contest, which, by the way, means guilty, his lawyer said he was doing so because he "had the best interests of the city at heart." That one went right over my head. I was sitting there thinking, "No, wait, I'm in the city, and I want a trial so I can hear what happened."

Who knows? People get falsely accused of stuff in this world. Maybe he spoke disrespectfully to the employee and she decided to up the ante. That scenario seems unlikely, since it would have required her to enlist the other witness into her conspracy, and then both of them would have had to make false statements to the police officer or officers who wrote the ticket. That would have been a crazy thing to do, but people can be crazy.

Let's consider it the other way -- she told the truth. The councilman was standing outside the door from the garage into the basement of City Hall rapping on the window, demanding to be let in. She told him through the door that under the rules and maybe in view of the ballyhooed security crackdown she couldn't let him in unless he showed her his credentials, which he didn't have.

Apparently the other witness let him in. He charges past that person, grabs the woman who wouldn't open the door and shakes her, screaming, "Do you know who I am?"

If it happened that way, that really was crazy. If you're a man who's out of control, shaking a lady and screaming at her, you should hope she has no idea who you are. You don't tell her, "Madam, you are being assaulted by an elected member of the Dallas City Council."

At least I wouldn't. If I ever got a grip on myself, I'd say, "Well, I have to get back to my home in Uzbekistan now for the last of my chemo treatments that have had no effect."

In fact, what does lend some credence to the complainant's story is Atkins' subsequent behavior and statements. Atkins said he went straight to his council office after the incident and demanded that the head of City Hall security appear before him to explain the lapse in security that had caused him to be barred from entry only because he lacked the credentials required for entry.

In a statement Atkins said, "I suppose I raised my voice a bit, but I did not touch, much less shake either of the ladies." Then there was the business with him pleading no contest supposedly for the good of the city. Atkins never has apologized to the woman. In all of it, the unifying theme would seem to be extreme arrogance.

Or not. Maybe he's innocent as a baby and the city employees have ganged up to falsely accuse him. It's not impossible.

People sometimes think a plea of no contest is equivalent to "whatever." You shrug, pay your two-bit fine and forget about it. Maybe Atkins figured out just in time that a no contest plea is treated by the law as a plea of guilty, with all the same harsh ramifications. It doesn't say "no contest" on your record. It says, "convicted of assault."

I just want to know who's telling the truth. The incident was not trivial. A man losing it and physically assaulting a woman amounts to a serious matter, as would anybody lying about such a serious thing. I hope we get to hear this one out.

Oh, and that other thing -- the security crackdown. How do we think that's working out for the city? I'm sorely tempted to go stand outside the security window in my rabbit fur mad bomber hat holding a black bowling ball with a big red fake fuse sticking out of it screaming, "Do you know who I am?" By now they're probably so confused they'll invite me in for a tour. (Serious note to self: do not, repeat NOT really do that.)

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