Friday, September 10, 2010

Robinson Cops Defy AG's Order To Release Crime Info

The Robinson Police Department seems to be highly resistant to the public knowing the facts of a bloody attack on an elderly business man.

The facts of the case are clear enough; the fact that an offense took place and an arrest was made is more than abundantly clear.

And yet, as strange as it may seem, Robinson Police refuse
to release public information regarding a vicious attack on
a business man that left him struggling for his life in an area hospital for a week.

The matter is part of an ongoing investigation, they say.

No doubt. So many things in this round world are, you know.

However, it is a matter of record - public record - that an offense took place and an arrest was made, according to case law and state public information statutes.

The story told by Robinson Police Lt. Jeff Lewellen's probable cause affidavit in support of an arrest warrant speaks of two principle characters - the suspect and the witness.

The suspect is Steven Ray Johnson, a black man, 41, of the 2500 block of Proctor in Waco.

Lt. Lewellen alleges that on August 2 Mr. Johnson stabbed Ray Easly, the owner of Excel Motors on Robinson Rd., so hard and so deeply that the blade of the knife penetrated his skull, causing him a brain injury severe enough to require his hospitalization for a week - three days of which
were spent in intensive care.

The witness is not named. He is the owner of a white Toyota pickup with dents in the driver's door and stickers on the back window who picked up "Stevie Jo" in Waco and drove him to the Robinson location to pick up some car wheels.

What happened when they arrived turned out to be very different than what Stevie Jo told him would happen at the small used car operation.

The witness waited in the truck while Stevie Joe and Mr. Easley went to a garage at the rear of the property. A short time later, Stevie Jo came running, telling him to fire up the truck and get out of there as quickly as possible.

That's when the witness saw Mr. Easley, blood streaming down his torso and head, heading for a phone. Stevie Jo was holding a black bag he thought contained money, but proved to have only auto keys inside.

As they drove away, Stevie Jo held his arms and hands out the truck window, washing blood off himself with water from a bottle in the truck.

A Waco Policeman named Beaman apprehended Stevie Jo and arrested him on a warrant issued by Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Kristi DeCluitt, who released a copy of the probable cause affidavit to The Legendary and other area newsmen with no argument whatsoever. Piece of cake. Nice bunch of ladies in that office.

Arrested on the charge of Attempted Capital Murder on August 17, Mr. Johnson spent exactly 4 days in jail under a $100,000 bond before he was released on a personal recognizance bond approved by Jail Magistrate Ray Britton on August 18, 2010.

A PR bond involves no outlay of cash whatsoever, but only an acknowledgement that if one who has been freed under such terms fails to show up for court when summoned, they will face a levy of a lien of $100,000 against his properties and chattels.

Such a deal.

When The Legendary arrived at the Robinson Police Department on August 27 to get a copy of the Offense Report containing only routine Police Blotter information and a copy of the Arrest Report, Records Clerk Crystal Cogburn refused to turn the information over.

We talked about it and I offered to give her a copy of a memorandum of law written by McLennan County Criminal District Attorney John Segrest regarding public information
requests that concern crime reports.

The "face sheet" or "blotter" information consists only of date, time and place the offense occurred, the name of the complainant or victim and the perpetrator, if known, weather at the time, and other such mundane items. No information about witnesses, ballistics, physical evidence, statements of victims or statements of witnesses, polygraph exams - or any other form of "work product" in an ongoing investigation is allowed.

She refused to listen. She summoned Lt. Lewellen, who didn't bother to identify himself, but only started hollering as loudly as possible through a plate glass window with a small hole cut in it for conversation, his volume escalating as his shaved head turned from bright pink to cherry red. He affects the French Foreign Legion look, though he has been employed as a Lieutenant there for 20 years. His tan line indicates he prefers those skinny little insect-looking sunglasses that are the rage during this war on terror.

He, too, was uninterested in reading up on the fine points of Houston Chronicle Publishiing v. City of Houston, a case settled in the District Court of Appeals in that city in 1972.

I filled out an information request and they forwarded it to the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas, Greg Abbott. His staff sent back a reply that said:

"After reviewing your arguments and the submitted information, we have determined your request does not present a novel or complex issue. Thus, we are addressing your claims in a memorandum opinion. You claim the submitted information may be witheld from the requestor pursuant to section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code..."

This subsection deals with information that might interfere with an ongoing investigation. However, The Legendary was careful to say in his written request that he only wanted the "blotter" or "face sheet" information regarding the "basic" information of the offense report and arrest report.

"However, you must release the basic information pursuant to section 552.108(c) of the Government Code."

The Chief of Police will not budge. He doesn't have a copy of the AG's ruling and he won't trust The Legendary's copy. Who knows, he said, it might just happen to be a fraudulent copy I ran off on a Xerox machine.

Oh, boy! What a guy.

That's why Mr. Michael Pearle of the Open Records Division of the AG's office phoned today to encourge The Legendary to send a copy of his office's ruling, this news story and anything else I can find out about the matter so The Office Of Greg Abbott, The Attorney General of the State of Texas, might be able to look into obtaining declaratory or injunctive relief from a District Court.

"We'll see what we can do for you," he said.

You see, these folks in Robinson think they're going to do this little sashay any time someone requests the basic information on a crime that took place in their city. Just send it out to the AG for a ruling.

Kind of like sending your dirty linen from Honolulu to San Francisco to be laundered, but not nearly as much fun under the mangoes and in the frothy foam of the surf.

Said Keith Elkins, an ex-television newsman and Executive Director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, "When it comes to public information, they should be giving
out public information and not trying to stand in the way and intimidate the citizens. It would be a simple thing to make a call to the AG's office and determine the letter as authentic. "Unfortunately, some people have problems reading the law and following the law."

The foundation is a statewide organization based in Austin of public officials, broadcasters and publishers who are determined to make public information public.

Donnis Baggett, publisher of The Waco "Trinbune-Herald" and former publisher of The Bryan "Eagle," is a member of the foundation's board.

De Oppresso Liber
Illegitimus Non Carborundum

The Legendary

1 comment:

  1. That is so great, you've hit the nail right on the head, all these small town cops and sheriffs think the law doesn't apply to their "neck of the woods" and they can do whatever they please. Half of them don't even know the law they only got the job because theirs brothers mother is banging the captain. Regardless there are reasons they don't want to release any info, anyone that knows the victim will agree, but letting a attempted murderer loose on PR Bond? I cant even get a pr bond on a DWLS, and I am a single mom with a full time job. They are shady and underhanded and just don't want the stupid things they've let slip through their fingers get out to the public.