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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tanna Brown Cops a Plea, Houston Court of Appeals Judge Bullies County Employees, New Wrongful Conviction Blog

From San Antonio Express News: Ex-probation officer admits stealing fines, fees
By Zeke MacCormack

KERRVILLE — Former probation officer Tanna Mozel Tyler Hurt pleaded guilty to 22 felonies Wednesday for stealing thousands of dollars entrusted to her between 2007 and 2010 by those she supervised.
Besides making some of the probationers' money orders payable to herself, records show Hurt also used the stolen funds to pay her electric bills and phone charges, and to buy animal feed.
The admissions by Hurt, also known as Tanna Brown, is another embarrassment for the 198th judicial district, which also has seen a former judge and a prosecutor admit to criminally misusing its funds.
Hurt, a Harper resident, joins a list of former 198th district employees whose conduct has embarrassed former coworkers and eroded trust in the judiciary.

In April 2010, former long-time 198th District Attorney Ron Sutton pleaded guilty to two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property and was sentenced to two years of deferred adjudication and ordered to pay $20,000 restitution.
Later that month, former 198th District Court Judge E. Karl Prohl pleaded guilty to felony theft of district funds and was ordered to serve two years' probation and pay a $2,500 fine.
The common thread in these two stories is that there is a double standard. As one commenter wrote in the Tana Brown piece, "Twenty two (22) felonies and a minimum penalty of two years? Obviously they have done some creative prosecution, a trick reserved for members of the white, Christian, Republican establishment in Kerrville. If Tana was part of the disenfranchised underclass or a minority she would get a typical Kerrville sentence equal to life in prison."
Another wrote "I'm moving to Kerr County to commit my crimes. No jail time for anything. Looks like all the crooks aren't gone."
Yet another: "And who said crime does not pay........... Likes like it pays pretty well in Kerr county. I am with Mya, time to move to Kerr county.

The Arrogance of Power
You have to wonder if 1st Court of Appeals Justice Jim Sharp was drunk or high when he made threats recorded on voice mail and in texts. From the Houston Chronicle:
Appeals judge barred from Brazoria cases over behavior
By Brian Rogers, Houston Chronicle

Jim Sharp, a judge on one of Houston's two courts of appeals, has been barred from working on any criminal cases from Brazoria County because of allegations that he tried to use his position to skirt the law for a friend's 15-year-old daughter who was arrested for shoplifting.

Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne accused the judge of attempting to use his influence to improperly demand the juvenile's release in January, according to court records. The documents allege that Sharp sent inappropriate texts and profane voice messages to county employees, a state district judge and a Brazoria County commissioner.

"You guys are a bunch of backwoods hillbillies that use screwed-umethods in dealing with children, and I can promise you this: Things are about to change in Brazoria County," Sharp said to a juvenile detention center director over the phone, court records show. "I am a judge in the Court of Appeals. I have authority over your judges along with every other judge in 10 counties in this area."

After investigating the Jan. 17 arrest and Sharp's behavior, Yenne filed a complaint about Sharp with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

"If I had been there in person and had a baseball bat that [expletive] would have been cracked upside the head," Sharp said in a voicemail that was recorded and attached to the recusal motion.

He also texted the judge that county employees did not refer to him as "Judge."

"Brazoria County Juvie folks are nit (sic) just arrogant but ignorant! When an Appeals Court Justice calls and identifies himself and then they refer to me as 'Mr.' Sharp, it bespeaks a fundamental misunderstanding of respect and pecking order!"

After calling Payne, Sharp phoned the juvenile detention center to say he had contacted the commissioner. "Your county is going to be sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars for this," Sharp said, according to court records. "You'll have picked the wrong little girl that has friends in high places to mess with."

Check Out New Wrongful Conviction Blog
Daniel P. & Judith L. Carmichael Professor of Law,
University of Cincinnati College of Law;
Director, Center for the Global Study of Wrongful Conviction

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