It's always nice when the gray clears into black and white, and we find ourselves with a clear case of right and wrong. And that looks to be exactly what's happening up in the Dallas metroplex.
Specifically, in a North Dallas suburb and Republican stronghold (last Democratic Presidential candidate to carry the county was LBJ in 1964), where a district judge and the local district attorney are squaring off like a Wild West gunfight at High Noon.
Judge Suzanne Wooten v. DA John Roach
Officially, we're talking Collin County, Texas -- McKinney is the county seat, if you've been there -- and the big story revolves around State District Judge Suzanne Wooten who was suspended with pay this Monday after being indicted by a grand jury last week on 6 counts of bribery along with 1 count of organized criminal activity.
You read that right: a Texas judge has been indicted on 7 felony counts -- of import, the single organized crime count alone carries a life sentence.
Along with Judge Wooten, facing the same charges are two of her backers, David and Stacy Cary, along with her campaign manager, James Stephen Spencer.
Is this a Political Agenda or a Crusading District Attorney? We're Gonna Find Out ....
Judge Suzanne Wooten claimed victory in 2008 over Charles Sandoval, who had presided over the 380th Judicial District Court for the past twelve years. Wooten is a Republican and the first opponent that had challenged Sandoval in an election since 1996.
A Republican won in a recognized Republican stronghold. An officeholder loses the first time he's faced with an opponent. No big news yet, right?
July 2010: Judge Wooten Seeks Special Prosecutor to Investigate Possible Criminal Wrongdoing by DA Roach
According to papers filed of record in July 2010 by Judge Wooten, the morning after Election Day Charles Sandoval was over at the office of John Roach, Collin County District Attorney, voicing his belief that Wooten had cheated to get elected.
Two and a half years later, Wooten is filing papers alleging that Roach was trying to force her resignation, that he was "intimidating and harassing her," and that she was requesting the state Attorney General appoint a special prosecutor to look into the goings-on in Collin County for possible criminal wrongdoing by the District Attorney's Office.
October 2010: DA Roach Gets Grand Jury Indictment Against Judge Wooten - Felony Charges
DA Roach's follow up has culminated in the October 2010 grand jury indictments that claim the Carys handed over $150,000 to Wooten's campaign manager via a series of payments (listed in the indictment) with the intent that Wooten would rule in their favor once she took the bench. (No details on what cases, if any, the Carys had/have pending before the 380th.)
Someone is Doing Bad Things Here, Folks
Well, well, well. Isn't this scenario fascinating? First of all, I'm really interested to know what imminent danger the Carys were facing that needed alleged judicial sway worth $150,000 to them.
After all, the general idea that political contributions of any size carry with them the hope that maybe the judge will be swayed when the time comes isn't big news. Tell it to the plantiffs' bar as they contribute millions to political campaigns. Tell it to any lobbyist.
I want to know what was so special about the Carys' situation. If they're just political benefactors without any specific case or claim that had the potential to come across the judge's bench, then these bribery charges are gonna start stinking with the big ugly smell of "trumped up."
I'm not buying "organized criminal activity" here already -- alhtough I'm no criminal lawyer, that sounds like a charge that's gonna get dropped. Please, this isn't the Mafia here.
Defense Bar Publicly Supports Judge Wooten With Standing Ovation
Meanwhile, I'm reading that a big bunch of defense attorneys strode en masse into Judge Wooten's courtroom bright and early Monday morning led by the president of the local Criminal Defense Lawyers' Association. After their standing ovation, the association president stood to speak, telling Judge Wooten that she had their support and publicly voicing the attorneys' collective opinion that this is a "witch hunt."
Interesting. Very interesting. Because these folk work in this courtroom all day long, going against the prosecutors in the District Attorney's Office. They know the skinny. Their action here makes me think that Judge Wooten isn't the bad apple in this barrel.
Commission Suspended Wooten With Pay
Another thing to consider: the State Commission on Judicial Conduct DID suspend Judge Wooten this week. But they did it with pay, which they didn't have to do. I'm betting that they were forced to suspend her since she was indicted. No option on their part to suspend, but they gave her as much of a break as they could.