Monday, February 20, 2012

Real estate man perplexed by political tactics

Sheriff's race heats up on personal lines

"There is no lawful authority for judges or a court to direct the law enforcement activities of a county sheriff. He is not part of the judicial system. He holds executive power. He can set up a court, empanel a jury, and can even try judges or federal officials who violate the law…A Sheriff takes on the special responsibility of preserving and protecting the rights, liberties, and freedoms of the people within his county against unlawful acts, including any unlawful act committed by public officials working in the government. He has a direct obligation toward the people living within his county." - Bernadine Smith, founder of the Second Amendment Committee

Waco – Jason Attas was surprised by a series of e-mails he received from homebuilder Marvin Steakley. Looking back, he says he still does not understand what a dispute over a homebuilding contract has to do with who the next Sheriff of McLennan County will be.

He is a commercial real estate agent of the J.S. Peevey Co., and a close personal friend of the McNamara family.

These e-mails alleged that since he, Mr. Steakley, was involved in a legal dispute with retired Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon and his wife Shelly over a cost-plus building contract to build their custom home in a suburb near Waco, that he, Mr. Attas, should not support Parnell McNamara for Sheriff in a race against Chief Deputy Randy Plemons.

According to Mr. Attas, the material he received from Mr. Steakley claimed that Mrs. Cawthon had slandered him, defamed his character by calling him a thief and a liar.

In support of those allegations, his attorney made a motion to discover all financial records pertaining to the home building contract, including personal financial and private identity information of a sensitive nature. Mr. Steakley did not send this information to Mr. Attas. He sent only his impressions of the character of the Cawthons and a copy of an e-mail Mrs. Cawthon sent to her banker regarding the matter.

In the e-mails, Mr. Steakley questioned the quality of character and suitability of the personality of Marshal McNamara's close personal friend, Matt Cawthon.

A company in which I own an interest is in an active lawsuit against Matt and his wife, Shelly. Based on Matt's deposition taken on Septembet 7, 2011 and also in part on email correspondence sent by his wife to third parties, I am of the opinion it may not be in the best interest of the citizens of McLennan County for Matt to have any role in the sheriff's department. People who have seen the aforementioned documents agree and I think others would be hard pressed to not draw the same conclusion if they were to read them.


Marvin Steakley

The exchange of e-mails began after Mr. Attas penned a letter to the editor of the local daily, expressing his opinion that Mr. McNamara is a good choice for Sheriff.

Furthermore, he alleged that because the ex-Ranger, who now works seconded to the Department of Justice as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and employed by the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, refused to pay him an estimated cost overrun of approximately $70,000 over the estimated amount they agreed upon, he should question the character of Parnell McNamara and his fitness to be the Sheriff.

Ranger Cawthon and his jump out flying squad have recaptured many fugitives mistakenly released from custody by elements of the McLennan County Sheriff's Department when they should have in fact been held for federal charges, local warrants, or to face various criminal complaints for which they had not yet posted bond.

What followed was a rich stream of the ins and outs of pending litigation between his company and the Cawthons.

“He initiated all this...He just volunteered all this,” said Mr. Attas, sounding rather puzzled, even though the intervening months have given him a chance to get used to Mr. Steakley's actions.

“I think it's petty,” said Mr. Attas.

It is no secret that Mr. Cawthon favors Mr. McNamara for the elected position, nor is there any mistake that they are sidekicks and very good friends to one another.

But beyond that point, Mr. Attas, recalls, he became very confused as to what Mr. Steakley expected him to do with the information he had received through an e-mail from this stranger, Steakley, the homebuilder from Houston.

So, he told him so in e-mailed replies, and then turned the correspondence over to the Cawthons' attorney, Henry Wright, of Waco.

“I'm not sure what any person is supposed to do with this information,” Mr. Attas replied to Mr. Steakley.

Mr. Wright obtained a protective order from the judge enjoining Mr. Steakley from further propagation of any such personal information about the Cawthons' financial affairs.

“What I got from Steakley was a handful of e-mails about what he sent to the Sheriff,” Mr. Attas recalls. "He did not send me the same material he sent the Sheriff."

“The truth has only one side...There is no doubt which side I'm on.”

Mr. Steakley admitted under oath that he did, indeed, send personal banking records such as cancelled checks, credit card statements, the couples' loan applications, bank statements, their social security numbers and personal cell phone numbers, to Sheriff Larry Lynch and Deputy Plemons.

Both have denied they received any such information.

Mr. Cawthon said in an interview on the day he received the Court's protection against any further revelations that a confidential informant came forward to let him know that the matter had been under discussion in the Sheriff's office, that there was abundant evidence that Sheriff Larry Lynch and Chief Deputy Randy Plemons had, in fact, received the information.

One of the chief allegations of complaint in Mr. Steakley's suit was that of defamation of his character in a one-page excerpt of an e-mail between Mrs. Cawthon and her banker, Mike Schmidt of American Bank in Waco. In that e-mail, she ventured the opinion that Mr. Steakley is a thief and a liar, and that she, Mrs. Cawthon, intended to run him out of town.

Obviously, the 11 women and 1 man on the jury believed her. Truth is an absolute defense against the charge of criminal libel, slander and defamation of character.

A week of evidence and testimony elicited from witnesses and exhibits, including examination of Mr. Steakley and his son, Andrew, revealed enough information about the matter that the jurors were convinced by a preponderance of the evidence that what Mrs. Cawthon had written to Mr. Schmidt is the truth.

The homebuilder lost his bid to make the Cawthons pay money he said they owed, received a take nothing judgment on his claim of slander and libel, and was ordered to pay the Cawthons' attorneys' fees in the matter. This led to a week-long jury trial in 74th State District Court in Waco. The questions were among 19 they were instructed to decide by Judge Gary Coley before returning a near-unanimous 11-1 verdict in some of the questions, and agreeing unanimously on the rest.

Where did Mr. Steakley obtain the memo Mrs. Cawthon wrote to her banker, Mr. Schmidt?

Only Ranger Cawthon and his attorney, Henry Wright, have asked that question, said Mr. Attas.

“It came from the discovery materials she was ordered to turn over to Steakley's attorney...Shelly Cawthon was not going to be accused of withholding any information she was ordered to produce.”

This is what Mrs. Cawthon wrote to Mike Schmidt of American Bank:

“...I hope that we can obtain enough information to file criminal charges on them...I am going to make it top priority to ruin their reputations in this town...”


  1. The sheriff need to preserve and protect the rights, including the special responsibility of any wrongdoing committed by public officials in the government's work. I love it, Thank you for all information.

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  2. Thank you for your kind compliment. The tradition of the Shireve is at least 1,000 years in longevity in the English Common Law. According to my minimal understanding, the County Sheriff has 5 principle duties - to serve process in all law suits; detain inmates of the court until their bond has been set, a judge has released them, or their sentence is executed by the State; provide courtroom security; conduct foreclosures and asset seizures and forfeitures; and, finally, to conduct law enforcement patrols and perform criminal investigations. Those duties prescribed by Consitutional or statutory writ are deemed to be ministerial, all others being considered by courts as administrative. In this area of the world, the local government has opted to erect detention centers and operate existing jails under contract with for-profit corporations, a ministerial duty which appears to have been abrogated for private purposes. - The Legendary

  3. Good to see that our Chief Deputy has such upstanding people on his Election Committee. I hope to see Mr. Steakley facing charges of Fraud in this matter. Of course once he gets arrested, he will probably be "mistakenly" release from the jail by Plemons' cronies the SLMEAC officers.