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Valdez "Shocked" and "Confused" Over Discovery Channel Uproar

Sam Merten
Sheriff Lupe Valdez and District Attorney Craig Watkins, trying to put the commissioners' threat of a lawsuit out of commission.

As you may know by now, the Dallas County commissioners voted unanimously this morning to seek a court order stopping the Discovery Channel from filming a documentary inside Dallas county jails, which had been authorized by Sheriff Lupe Valdez. But Valdez, along with fellow Democrat and Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, says the decision was politically motivated -- and that the law is on her side.

At a joint press conference at the Frank Crowley Courts Building this afternoon, Watkins cited a 1978 ruling by then-Texas Attorney General John Hill, which states: “The sheriff shall exercise a supervision and control, and the nature of this authority is such that it precludes the commissioners court for such authority over the jail.” Watkins said that after he explained the law to one of the commissioners, who he did not name, the commissioner “had second thoughts.” Watkins also said it is “well within [the sheriff's] responsibility” to determine who is allowed in the jails.

“The question I would have of any individual that would question this is: How many times did the commissioners question the former sheriff as to who was allowed the jail?” Watkins said. “You would be remiss to find anyone who can come up with that answer.”

This reminded us of what Watkins was telling us back in March, when he was complaining that he was being criticized more than his predecessor, Republican Bill Hill. And before Valdez, there was Republican Jim Bowles.

And what crazy Republican is to blame for this? Both Valdez and Watkins essentially pointed the finger at Commissioner Ken Mayfield, who has Democrat Elba Garcia breathing down his neck for his seat on the court.

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Valdez said Mayfield and other commissioners were not presented all of the information, and made their decision based only on the information given to them. When asked if she rejected legal advice against allowing the filming, she said, “I don’t remember ever receiving any advice.”

The sheriff stressed that she will have final say on what footage is aired, although she admitted no contract was signed -- only an agreement was made. The filming is scheduled to begin Wednesday, and Valdez said today she won’t know if it will continue as planned until Wednesday morning.

Valdez added that she was surprised at all the attention that this issue has received. She said her intent was to focus on the progress that has been made in the jails under her watch.

“I’m shocked that someone else has sought to bring that down,” she said. “I’m confused as to why someone would want to not show positive things about our county.” --Sam Merten

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