A Dallas real estate developer has been put on house arrest after two federal judges found that he violated conditions of his release by contacting a potential government witness in his pending bribery trial.
Ruel Hamilton was recorded in January telling a former employee that she doesn't have to talk with investigators and that his company would cover the cost of a lawyer for her, according to court records unsealed Tuesday.
Hamilton was charged with two counts of bribery in a corruption probe that has shaken local government in Dallas. He pleaded not guilty and was released ahead of his trial.
Prosecutors argued Hamilton was trying to keep his former employee quiet despite "carefully framed" statements that she was free to talk to the FBI.
In July, a federal judge ruled this was an "egregious" violation and ordered Hamilton jailed, but another judge modified the order to house arrest after Hamilton's lawyers argued that sending him to jail amid the coronavirus pandemic would put his life at risk.
Hamilton's attorneys declined to comment on the record. They said in court filings that he "erred" in contacting the former employee but that he didn't know she was on the government's witness list at the time.