Bowles Investigation: Milner 0 for 5 on Indictments

After almost 6 months, hundreds of hours and a cost to Collin County taxpayers
which may never be fully known, a Dallas judge today threw out the last of 5
special grand jury indictments by Collin County Assistant D.A. Chris
Milner
in connection with his investigation of Dallas County
Sheriff Jim Bowles
.

District Judge Karen Greene threw out the indictment because
the provision of the Texas Election Code used by Mr. Milner does not specify
criminal penalties for violations.  In dismissing the indictment, Judge
Greene indicated that the case was likely a civil matter as opposed to
criminal--something claimed all along by Sheriff Bowles' defense attorneys and
experts on Texas Election law.


Mr. Milner's latest failure means that none of his indictments, in connection
with the Bowles affair, have been successful.


The Dallas District Attorney's office originally appointed Collin
County District Attorney John Roach
as a special prosecutor in October,
2003, to probe irregularities in Sheriff Bowles' relationship with county jail
commissary vendor Jack Madera.


Mr. Roach assigned Mr. Milner to lead the investigation.


On December 4, flanked by TV cameras, Mr. Milner's team raided the Dallas
County Sheriff's office--leaving later in the day carrying several boxes claimed
to be evidence.  At the time, some accused Mr. Milner of "grandstanding"
and using the opportunity to "go on a televised fishing expedition."


On January 17, Mr. Milner announced a 15-count indictment against Jack Madera
and two associates in connection with a jail contract in Kaufman County. 
In March, Mr. Roach announced he was dropping Mr. Milner's indictments. 
The Kaufman County D.A. subsequently claimed the indictments were flawed.


In March, Mr. Milner's grand jury indicted Denton County Sheriff
Weldon Lucas
along with Sheriff Bowles, just one day after the
election.  The indictment against Sheriff Lucas was thrown out by a judge a
little over a week later.


None of the indictments, interestingly enough, issued by Mr. Milner have been
related to dealings between Sheriff Bowles and Mr. Madera--the charge of the
original probe.  Nor are these the only indictments of Mr. Milner's to be
called into question.


In December, 2003, Mr. Milner indicted lawyers Deric Walpole
and James Vasilas on charges of tampering with government
records.


"It wasn't tampering; it was clearly a mistake on a court form," said
Peter Barrett, attorney for Mr. Vasilas. "Everyone who has seen
it says it was a mistake except for [Mr. Milner]"


"Why would [Mr. Milner] go to extreme circumstances over people who haven't
committed a crime."


Indeed, Mr. Barrett is not the only one critical of Mr. Milner's
tactics.  Joe Kendall, the defense attorney for Mr. Madera
has accused Mr. Milner of "indicting people, ruining their lives" and
then "worrying about proof later."


"He seems to be going after people for vague offenses," added Mr. Barrett.
"He's targeting people who haven't done anything wrong."


"I've never seen a situation like this.  It's an abuse of his
office."


Mr. Milner's indictments against both Mr. Walpole and Mr. Vasilas have been
thrown out.


A key question that may never be known is how much Collin County money and
taxpayer resources have been tied up by Mr. Milner in the failed investigation
of Sheriff Bowles.


href="http://assets.dallas.org/sheriff/PIA-CollinCoDA-12-29-03.pdf">Records
obtained from the Collin County D.A.
by Dallas.Org showed that
Collin County investigator Rodney Neal's car spent more than 80
hours parked at the Frank Crowley courthouse in the first two months of the
investigation.  Over 200 people have been subpoenaed to appear before Mr.
Milner's special grand jury--whose term expired at the end of March.


Attempts to obtain more details about time spent investigating the case were
unsuccessful.  "The Collin County DA's office does not keep time records,"
said Jennifer Castleman, a former prosecutor who until
recently worked in the Collin County D.A.'s civil litigation section.


"One of the first things Mr. Roach did after being elected D.A. was to get
rid of time cards," she said.


Asked if this meant that the Collin County D.A.'s office does not track the
time its employees spend on a case, Ms. Castleman responded, "that is
correct."


"Everyone [at the D.A.'s office] seems to like it this way better."


No one in Mr. Roach's office has been able to estimate how many staff
hours had been devoted to the Sheriff Bowles investigation.  "We hope that
if Collin County needs a special prosecutor we can ask Dallas County to return
the favor."


Mr. Milner has said he'll appeal the quashed Bowles indictment. "I don't see
how he can," said one attorney we talked to, "if there's no law there to begin
with, appealing it won't make a law magically appear."


Mr. Milner has said that he plans to convene another grand jury in his
ongoing quest to indict Sheriff Bowles. However his investigation may be
ending sooner rather than later.  Reed Prospere, the attorney representing
Sheriff Bowles, has challenged Mr. Milner's authority because Mr. Milner did not
ask a judge to appoint him an "attorney pro-tem" in Dallas County--a process
required by Texas law of a special prosecutor.


No one in the Collin County D.A.'s office was available for comment.


[ href="http://www.dallas.org/content/category/1/67/2/">Read More News on the
Bowles Investigation ]





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