Texas Judge Suzanne Wooten Indicted for Bribery, Suspended With Pay
Suzanne Wooten isn’t on the bench today, but she’s still getting a Collin County pay check. This week, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (the same organization that’s been so busy with the Justice Keller mess) announced that Judge Wooten was suspended from presiding over the 380th Judicial District Court of Collin County, Texas, an action taken by the Commission within a week of Judge Wooten being indicted on bribery charges.
Texas Judge Indicted on Bribery Charges Stemming from 2008 Political Campaign
Suzanne Wooten took the bench a couple of years back for the first time, after a hard fought campaign; last week, the Collin County District Attorney saw Judge Wooten indicted on six (6) counts of bribery and one (1) count of organized criminal activity.
Three other individuals were also charged: Judge Wooten’s campaign manager James Stephen Spencer along with David Cary and his wife, Stacy Stine Cary, also face the same allegations of bribery and organized criminal activity.
These are big charges. Engaging in organized criminal activity is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. Each charge of bribery is a second-degree felony carrying up to a 20-year sentence. That’s 120 years in total, folks, in case that life imprisonment for the organized crime charge isn’t big enough for you.
The Crimes that Judge Wooten Allegedly Committed – What We Know Now (Stay Tuned for More)
According to the Collin County District Attorney’s office, these criminal charges against a setting district judge arise from Suzanne Wooten’s hard-fought campaign in 2008, where she ran for the position of judge and claimed victory over Judge Charlie Sandoval, who had presided over the 380th Court for over a dozen years without ever having any run against him.
The indictments claim that Mr. and Mrs. Cary forked over around $150,000 to campaign manager Spencer — and they didn’t do this just to help her win the election. Allegedly the Carys additionally slid that large amount of cash across the table (purportedly in a series of six payments – the indictment gives dates and amounts) so they would get favorable rulings from Judge Wooten after she took the bench.
Judge Wooten’s Position – It’s a Witch Hunt and Judge Wooten’s Fighting Back
Judge Wooten and her co-defendants are all calling foul here, claiming that the District Attorney has his own agenda. Her court filings from July 2010 allege that the morning after Wooten beat Sandoval in the 2008 election, Charles Sandoval was meeting with the local D.A., John Roach, to complain that Wooten had cheated somehow.
These same court filings by Judge Wooten allege that D.A. Roach was “intimidating and harassing her” and that she believed the District Attorney’s Office was trying to force her resignation.
Judge Wooten has impaneled a grand jury and she’s asked for a special prosecutor to investigate “possible criminal wrongdoing” in D.A. Roach’s office. This happened last month.
What about the Local Lawyers in this High Noon Face Off?
This Monday, before court began, 30+ lawyers took the time to go over to the 380th Courtroom and when Judge Wooten entered to take the bench that day, they all gave her a standing ovation.
This is a big deal for a group of defense lawyers to do, mind you. The lawyers practicing down at the local courthouse usually know the lay of the land, and having this coordinated public effort speaks volumes about what the defense bar thinks of the charges made against the Judge.
In fact, local attorney Sharon Curtis, president of the Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, stood in the courtroom that morning to tell Judge Wooten that the group was there to publicly acknowledge that they were 100% behind the judge, and would work to help her. According to media reports, Curtis went so far to claim that the charges against Wooten were “… nothing but a witch hunt.”
Stay tuned. This is going to get a lot bigger before it goes away.
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