Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins Facing Prosecutorial Misconduct Charges and Maybe an FBI Investigation: Here’s the Scoop (The Hearing is March 7th)
Without any opinions or asides, here’s the scoop on the growing controversy surrounding Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Al Hill III, heir to the H.L. Hunt Oil Dynasty; and local attorney Lisa Blue.
- Things apparently began when Lisa Blue took on the representation of Al Hill III in a courtroom battle over the Oil Money, undoubted very Big Oil Money, where Mr. Hill was fighting in court for his piece of that Hunt Pie. Things ended in a settlement with Hill getting around $115 million but then there was a conflict over how much Hill believed he should rightfully pay Blue and a couple of other lawyers who represented him in the inheritance litigation.
- Doing what lawyers do, when Attorney Blue didn’t get paid for some legal services provided to her client, Al Hill III, Blue filed a lawsuit to collect those attorneys’ fees, taking the conflict into a courtroom to get herself paid. The legal fees fight between Hill and his three lawyers was over $50 million. Big Money.
- Then, within days of the Fee Fight’s trial date, Mr. Hill and his wife found themselves facing Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins who was charging them with the crime of mortgage fraud based on an application they had made for a $500,000 home equity loan. The Grand Jury issued an indictment of both Mr. and Mrs. Hill and these are felony charges. Charges against the wife were later dropped.
- Next, Hill countered with a charge against the Dallas County District Attorney of prosecutorial misconduct based upon Watkins allegedly consulting with Lisa Blue in the mortgage fraud criminal investigation at the same time that attorney Blue was a plaintiff in a civil suit (the legal fees case) filed against Hill. This was filed in the pending mortgage fraud criminal case.
- The Fee Fight between Hill and Blue (along with two other lawyers) went to a dispute hearing and when the dust settled, Hill was to pay $22 million in legal fees out of the $50 million claimed.
- Hill is arguing that the felony mortgage fraud case should be dismissed because of the misconduct charge against the Dallas DA.
- The presiding judge in the criminal mortgage fraud case, State District Judge Lena Levario, who presides over the 204th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, set a hearing on the misconduct allegations for Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013, first thing in the morning.
- Day before the hearing, Lisa Blue files an affidavit in the case to support her pending motion for a protective order seeking protection from the subpoena requiring her to testify in the misconduct hearing: Blue swears, “At no time have I ever suggested, requested, recommended, demanded or even intimated that I wanted Al III or his wife Erin to be investigated, indicted, charged, prosecuted or convicted of any crime.”
- By ten o’clock on the morning of the hearing, the news was zipping through the courthouse that Judge Levario was delaying the hearing because there was said to be an FBI investigation into Watkins’ actions and she was checking into it before proceeding with the hearing in her court.
- Legal arguments were made to the judge both pro and con on whether or not the trial judge could dismiss felony charges if misconduct by the prosecutor was shown; she didn’t rule on this issue.
- Lisa Blue appeared at the hearing and took the Fifth Amendment on all testimony. Apparently, it was one of Lisa Blue’s lawyers who brought up the possible FBI investigation into things.
- Meanwhile, an assistant district attorney appeared before Judge Levario and announced to the open court that Dallas County DA Watkins would not be coming to Levario’s courtroom to take the witness stand that day. Watkins was in his office, but he was ill. (Yes, there was a subpoena served on him.)
- The misconduct hearing has been rescheduled to March 7, 2013.
- As of yesterday afternoon, DA Watkins was still declining to speak about the misconduct allegations and reporting that he remains ill, but no reports on what the illness is from which Watkins is suffering.