District Court Judge Rick Davis has once again asked that Brazos County's District Attorney's office be investigated.
In requesting a court of inquiry for Assistant DA Shane Phelps, Davis writes that Phelps obstructed justice, oppressed a grand jury and abused his power.
The case stems from the events leading up to December 1 of last year, when a grand jury met at the Galleria Village building instead of its usual jury room at the courthouse. In sworn affidavits, grand jurors write that they did not believe the room was soundproofed, and that people outside the room -- located next to the DA's office at the county courthouse -- could hear the confidential discussions. Indeed, another media outlet had listened to grand jury discussions at one point and published portions of those conversations.
The room at the Galleria was reportedly reserved by local attorney Patrick Meece, which is backed up by the affidavit of the Galleria's manager, Jim Lewis.
We now know that meeting was to discuss alleged illegal campaign contributions accepted by Phelps and District Attorney Bill Turner, this according to Davis. The judge alleges one of the grand jurors "snitched" to the DA's office about that meeting, which lead to the DA's office contacting local media, who began looking into the meeting.
When the grand jury exited their Galleria room, they were met by reporters questioning the nature and location of their meeting. In her affidavit, jury foreperson Amanda Short described being "attacked and harrassed" by reporters for The Eagle and WTAW as she left the building, and being "harrassed" later by phone calls by this reporter and others. She later described the "harrassment" in an e-mail as follows: "they've been trying to get ahold of me at my job all day."
That grand jury took no action against Turner or the district attorney's office. More than one statement contained in the court of inquiry request states the alleged intimidation of Phelps and the DA's office, as well as media attention orchestrated by that same office, prompted a lack of action.
The lead-up to the meeting began in August 2005, when Davis writes that Short received a packet of material from Meece. Short is a former client of Meece's. The packet contained information regarding the alleged illegal campaign contributions.
According to the inquiry request, Short tried a pair of times (in August and September 2005) to extend the grand jury past its term. The second request was accepted by Davis, though he writes that he "deliberately avoided learning any details of what the grand jury was doing."
In her affidavit, Short writes that when she mentioned to the grand jury that "some information" needed to be addressed, she "was met with a very negative response from a couple of grand jurors." Short writes that nine of the 11 grand jurors agreed to meet at the new location because of security and to make sure they didn't get in the way of another grand jury coming in. She writes that one juror feared for his and his family's safety, while the other wrote that they might be "bombed."
Short does not mention that she issued a subpoena to one juror to appear that Thursday morning. According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, the foreperson can only issue a subpoena for a witness in a case they are investigating.
Those same affidavits (of which, there are 20 in Davis's inquiry) also write of a phone call placed during that meeting to Phelps asking for info on a case, to which Phelps allegedly began questioning if they were investigating the DA. Jurors state that Phelps became angry and refused to help them, with one juror writing that Phelps made a veiled threat.
Though Davis writes that he specifically refused to have knowledge of the grand jury's goings-on, one affidavit provided in the more than 100-page request may indicate otherwise.
The night before that December 1 grand jury meeting at the Galleria, the building's manager, Jim Lewis, writes that he was meeting with Patrick Meece at Meece's office. Lewis writes that Judge Davis entered the room that evening. Before Meece greeted him, Lewis writes, Davis announced he did not want to hear anything having to do with the grand jury.
Again, this was a conversation between the manager of the Galleria and Patrick Meece, the man who supposedly arranged the grand jury meeting unbeknownst to Judge Davis.
In a stinging response to the allegations, Phelps writes that Davis is "out of control" and "unfit for the bench." He continues that the accusations are a manifestation of Davis's vendetta against the DA's office and those who hold Davis accountable for five years of bizarre and outrageous conduct.
Phelps goes on to call Patrick Meece a "friend and partner in this attack," and that Meece is "beneath contempt and not worthy of comment."
Meece would not comment on this case.
Calls to Judge Davis's office went unreturned Monday evening.
Though he limits his inquiry request to Phelps, Davis also mentions Judge David Peeples, who was appointed the last time Davis asked for a court of inquiry against the DA's office.
"Judge Peeples convened a 'preliminary hearing' (not contemplated by statute) and failed and refused to appoint an attorney pro tem as he was statutorily required to do," Davis writes.
Further, Davis says that prior to that 2003 hearing, Peeples met with attorney Laura Cass, a former prosecutor in the DA's office who filed a grievance against Davis back in 2001, one which prompted a public reprimand of the judge.
Davis writes that Cass met with Peeples, and that the meeting was arranged by fellow Brazos County District Court Judge J.D. Langley.
"I can infer that this private, ex parte meeting was set up to give Cass an opportunity to discredit me in secret," Davis writes. "Even if this were not the case, Judge Peeples certainly created the appearance of impropriety."
Davis also writes that he leaves the decision to "expand the scope" of the inquiry to the presiding judge, Olen Underwood, and whoever is appointed to this case.
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