DA Watkins Fights Misconduct Accusations

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Tuesday, Mar 5, 2013  |  Updated 8:55 AM CDT
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Attorneys in District Attorney Craig Watkins' office claim a federal judge's ruling Friday helped clear Watkins of prosecutorial misconduct allegations that are also pending against him in a state court.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

Attorneys in District Attorney Craig Watkins' office claim a federal judge's ruling Friday helped clear Watkins of prosecutorial misconduct allegations that are also pending against him in a state court.

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Attorneys in District Attorney Craig Watkins' office claim a federal judge's ruling Friday helped clear Watkins of prosecutorial misconduct allegations that are also pending against him in a state court.

Watkins is under order by State District Judge Lena Levario to answer those accusations, in person, on the witness stand Thursday.

In February Watkins refused to appear in court to testify in the case.

Oil heir Al Hill III accused Watkins' office of pursuing mortgage fraud charges against he and Erin Hill at the behest of campaign donor Lisa Blue, who is an opposing attorney in Hill’s family inheritance dispute.

On Friday, Federal Judge Renee Toliver stated in her rulings, "The actions that the Hills describe simply do not demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that BAM [attorneys Lisa Blue, Charla Aldous and Stephen Malouf] was involved in the Hills indictment."

Watkins did not speak to reporters Monday but two of his top assistants held a press conference to discuss the federal court ruling.

"Judge Toliver's ruling vindicates the District Attorney's office of any wrongdoing," said Assistant District Attorney Russell Wilson.

Wilson said Hill’s fraud indictment was the result of a 14-month Dallas County Grand Jury investigation and not campaign contributions.

"This isn't a case about Mr. Watkins. This is a case about whether mortgage fraud should be prevented," Wilson said.

First Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris said dragging Watkins to court over this matter would set a bad precedent for other cases.

"We've got 17 felony courts. We've got 40 to 50 thousand indictments that are rendered every month. Is he going to have to answer to those indictments?"

Harris said the prosecutorial misconduct claim is an unfounded political smear against his boss.

"You've got an election season coming up. They want to hinder his credibility," Harris said. "You get this type of character assassination litigation and that’s all this is. And you know what? It’s not going to work."

Former State District Judge John Creuzot confirmed Monday that he is considering a campaign against Watkins next year but Creuzot declined to say any more about Watkins business.

Hill's attorney John Hueston released a statement Monday:

The suggestion earlier today by the District Attorney’s Office that Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins played no role in the decision to indict Albert III and Erin Hill is directly contradicted by former First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore, who recently stated in a sworn affidavit that Watkins was personally involved in the decision to present the case to the grand jury.

Although the District Attorney’s Office has touted a federal magistrate’s recommendation that was issued on Friday, that recommendation was made in a separate civil case that does not involve District Attorney Watkins, and has no bearing on the prosecutorial misconduct allegations that have been made before the Dallas County Criminal Court.

District Attorney Watkins is not above the law and has an obligation to respond to the pending subpoena and answer questions about his involvement under oath. His actions thus far - refusing to testify or even provide documents related to this case, and now issuing a press release that mischaracterizes a recommendation made in another case to which he is not even a party – is an injustice both to the Hills as well as the people he represents. We look forward to having our allegations of prosecutorial misconduct decided in the Dallas County courtroom.

Watkins is also appealing the order to testify Thursday in a state appellate court so the appearance could be cancelled or delayed.

NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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