Saturday, September 17, 2011

'Scary' security situation extends to county jail

Reporting by R.S. Gates
Story by The Legendary Jim Parks

Waco – District Attorney Abel Reyna was in a position where he needed to make a decision about a violent convicted domestic violence offender who has been previously convicted for assaulting a disabled person.

In fact, Chazz Carter, a 39-year-old Mexia native was in the Limestone County jail waiting to catch the penitentiary chain on two concurrent 12-year sentences, so Mr. Reyna sought and got a misdemeanor warrant for a domestic violence charge pending in McLennan County.

Deputies brought him to justice at Waco because, according to Mr. Reyna, a subsequent offense would be enhanced to a felony following his local conviction.

Mr. Carter saw the judge, who sentenced him to 200 days and gave him credit for time served.

The jailers released him – as per routine – and he went on his merry way to a rendevous with the Federal Marshals' Service's Lone Star Task Force, a jump out flying squad that chases down dangerous felony offenders at large and wanted.

Sure enough, Mr. Carter was wandering down a popular street in Mexia when the Marshals found him and took him back into custody. Mr. Carter has served time for bank robbery in Dallas, as well as various domestic violence offenses in Mexia.

Why was he released? According to the jail captains and Sheriff Larry Lynch, it was all about an unspecified paperwork error.

He promised an internal investigation.

An investigation done a year ago by Legendary reporter R.S. Gates, a one-time jailer in the McLennan County system, revealed that prisoners are routinely jailed, bonded out and released by area judges in the absence of an order of commitment on file.

It's easy to make an error in the absence of a complete record of the status of an inmate.

Knowledgeable sources say that it's the Sheriff's Department policy to arrange the personal recognizance or bonded release of most offenders as quickly as possible due to former conditions of overcrowding.

In fact, many such security concerns press upon the budgetary status of the department, according to a letter written to the County Commissioners. Chief Deputy Randy Plemons explained just last week that he had spent an extra $42,000 that was not originally budgeted because the new DA's administration and the two Criminal District Courts have modified their policy to convening two grand juries each month instead of only one and returning indictments weekly instead of every two weeks, as previously done.

Deputy Plemons has found it necessary to hire part time officers from the Waco Police Department at $30 per hour to screen all visitors to the Courthouse for metallic objects with magnetometers set to detect an object the size of a tiny handcuff key.

All visitors to the courthouse are required to remove their belts before gaining admission to the building.

In this taped dialogue from Septmber, 2010, Legendary Reporter R.S. Gates talks to Jail Administrator Paul Wash and other officials about the release of a Mr. Livingston after serving 3 months in jail - for the burglary of a habitation, which is a felony crime.

As it turns out, the charge had been dropped by then DA John Segrest to theft over $50, and the man was released with credit for time served. But, as you may hear by listening, there was no documentation on file to support the facts. A County Court-at-Law judge had authorized the release for a misdemeanor crime, something very confusing to behold from the information available.

Deputy Wash may be heard clearly saying "That's the way it's done."

Indeed, it appears that it is the way it is done.

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