Drug Deals and Insurance Pay Offs for all
I have been doing internet research on East Texas corruption and came across this site posted in 2001 on URL:
regarding a gentleman interviewed from Henderson, TX named Joe Gray and his dealings with Anderson County and his feelings about District Judge Bascom Bentley
Joe Gray believed that there is a nacro-trade that the local officials benefit from. Not only are federal monies sent to them for enforcement under the Byrne grants, but local officials grab up foreclosed property owned by drug dealers under the Tulia Laws. One of Mr. Gray’s points was that Bascom Bentley III now owns over 600 acres in Anderson County; Bentley also operates in Cherokee County, in neighboring Rusk, TX. Tulia law injustices are common and Byrne grant money being swindled to family members and political allies, well that’s even more common. However, Mr. Gray’s para-military/militia preoccupation would make his wild claims of “black helicopters” and DNA theft at the county jail seem laughable to the outside media and the US Attorney’s office, thus making him, in the eyes of local officials, the ideal candidate for property foreclosure.
In Bentley v. Bunton- Texas, in 1996 Judge Bascom Bentley successfully filed a defamation suit against a Palestine radio talk show host who called the judge “corrupt” among other things on air. If that is the case then the South East Texas Political Review whose radio talk show host calls by name, the entire judiciary in Beaumont “corrupt and incompetent” would be liable (libel?) Bentley may have just benefited by being in the system when the thousands of acres in Palestine were seized and put up for sale. Being a district judge may have given him first shot at low bid at the Sheriff’s Auction. Who knows?
Whatever the basis of Joe Buntly’s “personal vendetta” against the Anderson/Cherokee County judge, the fact remains the legal and law enforcement system operating with the corrupt Dogwood Narcotics Task Force out of Palestine, has branched into drug dealing. And under Tulia laws, a simple accusation results in forfeiture of property. The rest of Texas is shying away from this practice and there is now legislation to reign in these rouge anti-drug task forces. It took Governor Rick Perry to pardon 35 innocent defendants convicted under Tulia laws, while the good ol’ boys who prosecuted them ‘retire’ to Lake Palestine and Lake Jacksonville (with a little extra cash and land).
The drug trade in Cherokee County actually involves local constable precincts, not the district courts per se. The district courts are involved in more personal enrichment schemes, like sexual blackmail of enemies and phone tapping. Anderson County probably does not operate the same as its twin sister Cherokee County. I would call Cherokee County the genetically defunct second cousin to Anderson County. Cherokee County is simply not astute enough in its own self-worship to produce an official who would clean up the mess, without being extorted or blackmailed by the District Attorney’s office. God knows they hate people talking about them, i.e. they have convinced themselves that it is moral, albeit illegal, to tape record phone calls of citizens throughout the county. They will collectively smear and repeat any propaganda that the District Attorney tells them, not matter how ludicrous or unrealistic, for job security. Mind you 90% of them are related. What a way to make an East Texas living.
The Cherokee County court system also turns a blind eye to its own brethrens’ narcotic activity. It is the usual suspects, one being a former DEA agent out of the Dogwood Narco-Force and a recently “retired” Cherokee County District Attorney Investigator. Your readers, however should applaud that the corrupt Dogwood Narcotics Task Force, based out of Palestine is no more. The only thing the unchecked Tulia Laws created with this psuedo-agency was the ongoing drug trade by Cherokee County law enforcement. There is a vacuum of drug dealing to fill, now that these good ol’ Christian men have “retired.” It takes neighboring Smith County and the US Attorney to file charges on the current culprits.
To combat the systemic corruption, HB 1239 was written in 2004 and debated after the Tulia debacle, when 46 people were rounded up in Swisher County Texas during a drug sting and put on trial. Their properties were seized and several quick convictions handed down. The Dogwood Trails Narcotic Task Force was quietly dissolved, after bad publicity leaked out. From Bascom Bentley’s court in Palestine, TX a wealthy drug dealer was set free and 72 indigent drug addicts with court appointed Anderson County lawyers were sentenced.
60 Minutes did an expose’ in 2004 of the sham arrests in Tulia, TX.
The interview tells it all. Complete with gypsy cops with criminal records.
There were never any offical arrests on record in Cherokee County by the Dogwood Task Force, though they conducted numerous raids. One botched raid simulataneously occurred in Jacksonville and Alto, TX, when the Force raided the wrong homes in an obvious attempt at “asset seizure.” The Department of Justice documented that the Dogwood Trails Narcotic Task Force operating under the radar in Cherokee and Anderson County reported no seized assets during the year 2002, despite having conducted numerous raids. Where did the seized drugs and money go??? And no arrests to back up the raids.
Click on above pic for larger image.
In neighboring Cherokee County, the get rich scheme of choice appears to be insurance fraud.
Insurance policies are underwritten, then property is destroyed. Unlicensed insurance agents have frequently set up shop in small towns like Alto, TX and Rusk, TX. Any ‘claims adjustment’ is done by local law enforcement. This trend started decades ago.
The county has been operated for 30 years by family members and in-laws of the Cherokee County District Attorney’s office. Namely, former District Attorney Charles Holcomb, who is now a sitting Justice on the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin.
Judge Charles Holcomb has deliberately omitted some factual tidbits from his State Bar profile about his “last big case in Alto, TX” back in 1990, in which Holcomb convicted an innocent man.
Holcomb fails to mention in his profile that the 12th Court of Criminal Appeals in Tyler, which Holcomb was sitting on, reversed this conviction in 1993.
More on this “colorful case” of insurance payout later.
In regards to the drug dealing of law enforcement in Cherokee County; let me give you some info on Cherokee County’s unscrupulous activity to be found on the internet. These news articles list the illegal activity in Cherokee County just this year alone, in 2006!!!
1. The firing of Constable Precinct 3 Randall Thompson who was also the Cherokee County District court’s bailiff for Judge Bascom Bentley III.
Fired for not showing up for his bailiff post. Local media portrays Thompson as missing for 6 months, then gathered a constable’s hearing together the day before Thompson was indicted in federal court. Ostensibly, the district court did not know that Constable Randy Thompson had been making and selling speed, if you believe such nonsense, found at the US Department of Justice news release URL:
Constable Randall Thompson had participated in all his assigned duties until his arrest.
2. The firing of the New Summerfield Chief of Police after being fired from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Dept.
4. Jacksonville, TX police officer Larry Pugh molesting women during traffic stops; it again takes the FBI to arrest him and charge him on 9 counts of rape and assault.
AND when the guy is out on bond he tries to kill one of victims to keep from testifying.
5. More on Troup, Texas Police Chief Chester Kennedy caught tampering with drug evidence.
6. Again in neighboring New Summerfield, north of Rusk on Hwy 84. Chief of Police and city treasurer fired; mayor resigns after cleaning house.
7. A Jacksonville, TX woman is run down and killed in her own apartment complex. No investigation required according to current Cherokee County District Attorney Elmer C. Beckworth, Jr. The victim was a drunk ‘passed out in the parking lot.’ Beckworth offered no explanation for not bringing the case to trial; why bother to convene a formal grand jury when you know the outcome. Why even bother to NO-Bill the culprit, it’s easier to smear a hit-and-run fatality to the media.
Back to Justice Charles Holcomb’s state bar profile, especially the part where he discusses “his last big case in Alto” from 1990. Charles Holcomb, as District Attorney, accepted monies from the widow of murdered business owner Jackie Hicks of Alto, TX as reported by KTRE and the Lufkin News, ostensibly to send a private investigator on a wild goose chase to south Texas. Even though Holcomb had the coffers of the state of Texas at his disposal.
Even though the number one suspect would have normally been the promiscuous widow receiving the $600- $800K insurance policy taken out on her estranged husband, Jackie Hicks. Of course the widow and her lover (a Cherokee County Constable “first on the scene”) were never formally questioned nor deposed by the then District Attorney Charles Holcomb nor by his ‘investigator.’
Holcomb gives his version of events to the State Bar in an attempt to rewrite history. The fact is an innocent man was released after 5 years on the above mentioned technicalities because of Charles Holcomb’s handling of the case.
Jacksonville Daily Progress June 3, 1993 Click above pic for larger image.
Charles Holcomb’s state bar profile on “his last colorful case in Alto, TX” should accurately read:
In 1990, Cherokee County District Attorney Charles Holcomb succeeded in convincing a biased jury to convict an innocent man of murder. The victim’s CPA, Terry Watkins of Nacogdoches, was sentenced to life in prison by relatives of the deceased who were planted on the trial jury. And lied during voir dire to be seated on the case–a typical Cherokee County maneuver. Holcomb also refused to recuse himself.
After intense public outcry and scrutiny, Watkins’ attorney John Heath, Sr. (also of Nacogdoches, TX) was able to successfully petition the Tyler Court of Appeals and had Terry Watkins released 5 years into his life sentence. It was shown that “the sheriff deputy first on the scene,” as Holcomb’s publicist recalls, and the widow shared the “$800K” life insurance policy with the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office “to hire an outside investigator and state witnesses” [and according to Holcomb’s statements to KTRE see article].
District Attorney Charles Holcomb not only accepted money from the deceased’s father to hire an expert witness, Holcomb also accepted money from the murder victim’s widow to hire a private investigator. In an obvious attempt at shifting the onus of suspicion away from anyone other than Mr. Terry Watkins. Or in defense attorney John Heath, Sr.’s comments to hire an investigator but “not to solve the case.”
However the investigator was not allowed by Holcomb to interview the widow nor the Cherokee County Constable first on the scene. Eventually this private investigator came to Terry Watkins’ defense during resentencing. As stated earlier, the sheriff deputy as Holcomb ‘vaguely’ recalls was actually a Cherokee County Constable Precinct 2 who formally married the victim’s wife months after the murder.
The widow and Cherokee County Constable live happily ever after, splitting a murdered man’s estate, the recipients of an accurately reported $650,000 life insurance payout to everyone involved. As if Charles Holcomb, the prosecutor and now a sitting Justice did not remember. Well preserved news article of the murder trial speak volumes.
Jacksonville Daily Progress Aug. 1990. Click articles for larger image.
The question on the jurors’ and the community’s mind was why was the District Attorney Charles Holcomb accepting money to “hire state witnesses” when he had the coffers of the State of Texas and Cherokee County at his disposal?A double indemnity policy pays out for accidental deaths and would not have paid out in case of a homicide, another misdirection of the Cherokee County District Attorney’s office even then. Holcomb’s quick recap of the case in his State Bar profile quotes the widow “was rumored to have multiple affairs” throughout the community. Because of the number of multiple lovers of the widow that the defense called, State v. Terry Watkins (1990) was the longest running criminal trial in Cherokee County history.
Charles Holcomb was elected to the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler, TX and his assistant Cherokee County District Attorney, Elmer C. Beckworth, Jr. continued the facade that the murder of Jackie Hicks was thoroughly “investigated.” The case against Terry Watkins received so much public outcry and so many people cried foul, that the next-in-line Alto, TX police chief Thomas Griffith was called to a grand jury.
Click pic for larger image.
Read the above 5-20-1992 Tyler Morning Telegraph article about former Alto, Texas police chief Thomas Griffith predicting the conviction of Nacogdoches countian Terry Watkins for the murder of Alto, TX business owner Jackie Hicks would be reversed and the case reopened because “there are people in this area who possess information that would be very useful in this case.”Griffith would eventually be drummed out of his position by Charles Holcomb’s relatives on the Alto, TX city council. Thomas Griffith had publicly maintained his belief that Terry Watkins was in fact innocent and had evidence to back up his statements. Holcomb’s former investigator would eventually become the police chief of Alto, TX, a revolving door position. Any evidence maintaining Watkins’ innocence would be ignored by Beckworth, et al, until Watkins’ conviction was overturned. Elmer Beckworth argued for the State and against Watkins’ early release which was eventually granted.
The 12th Court of Appeals reversed that conviction and acquitted Watkins in 1992 of capital murder. At a 1995 resentencing, Watkins was denied an early release and sentenced to five years for murder (he had already served over 4 years) as reported in 1996 by Charles Holcomb’s hometown paper The Cherokeean Herald.
Cherokeean Herald Feb. 22, 1996 click pic for larger image.
Terry Watkins was freed by the Texas 12th Court of Appeals, with a commuted murder sentence, thereby closing the door on a local ‘investigation’ into the murder of Jackie Hicks of Alto. However, the statue of limitations is always open for the State’s Attorney to seek murder charges. If any reader has information on this conspiracy, they should contact the Attorney General’s office. Those guilty of this crime should not go unpunished, no matter whose wing they may be under and no matter how long it takes. It may be commonplace in East Texas for innocent people to be charged with crimes committed by law enforcement, however a sitting Justice on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals lying to the State Bar about a murder case he prosecuted and lost on appeal is another thing all together. Good luck on your website and your expose’ of East Texan politics both good and bad. The narco-trade is alive and well in Cherokee County. Each time I read about one, I’ll post it for the world to see. Who knows, maybe a 6th grader in Rusk, TX might want to do a book report on local corruption or the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Or a kid in China might want to find out what’s going on in East Texas. Or a Houston or Dallas/FW based entrepreneur might have second thoughts about doing business in a county that has an entrenched history of drug dealers, rapists and murderers on the payroll.