River tale – east and west

Waco – This is a tale of the river.Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 6.40.19 PM


Cross the Brazos, and where have you gone? If you head east, you’re in a place where all the rules apply, whether you’ve broken them, or not.

Head west, and you enter a world of privilege, power, political connections. It means a lot, most days, and every night.

Let’s take a look at the case against James Johnson. One day in 2013, he was driving through East Waco in his 1996 Cadillac, the one with the big gangster wheels and the skinny little tires. A cop thought he saw something wrong, so he pulled him over and took him to the station for a breath-a-lyzer test, under suspicion of DWI.

He blew less than the legal limit for intoxication, but that didn’t matter. The cops pressed their charge, anyway.

Prosecutors finally withdrew from the case, saying there was  little likelihood of obtaining a conviction.

But all was not well, not for Johnson. More on that later.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 6.38.58 PMThen there’s another 2013 case, this one made against Sarah Cross.

She is a business owner who is married to a local business owner, a man in the security business. Her employer, a Mr. Hobbs, learned she had embezzled more than $40,000 from his company, given herself a raise, paid her family’s health insurance premiums, banked his money.

He pressed charges. At her arraignment, she entered a plea of guilty. The judge ordered her to pay restitution of slightly less than $400 per month, to start soon after her probation period for the suspended sentence began, to continue until she had paid back $30,000. So far, so good.

At this point, Eric Carrizales, an investigator for the McLennan County Criminal District Attorney who was hired especially to look into cases of possible fraud in obtaining legal services for the indigent, entered the picture.

When he looked into the Johnson case, he learned that there were more than the one nearly 20-year-old Cadillac registered in Johnson’s name. There was an even older Caddy and a Chevrolet slightly older than both. A clear case of fraud. You see, Johnson is a permanently and totally disabled SSI client who is unable to work.

In fact, if you ask Jeff Foxworthy, he would tell you that if you mow your yard and find a couple of cars you didn’t even know you owned, you might be a redneck. Maybe, maybe not. Either way, Johnson gets less than $1,000 per month from his disability check.

Cue the laugh track, Mr. Foxworthy.

Carrizales did not look into the appointment of Cross’s lawyer. He didn’t even make a cameo appearance because that appointment never generated any paperwork. Judge Ralph T. Strother of the 19th District Criminal Court appointed a lawyer. He signed an order. No papers are filed in the indigent defense coordinator’s office.

He charged Johnson with fraud by tampering with a government document.

Ms. Cross filled out no documentation in the appointment of her lawyer, but if she had done so, honestly, it would have revealed she had a sizable income from her tanning salon business, a business with a healthy inventory of goods.

Here’s the upshot.  Neither one of them were convicted for fraud in obtaining legal services.

Go figure.

Johnson’s address is east of the river; Cross’s abode is located to the west of that mighty organ.

Johnson stands guilty of driving while black; Cross is guilty by her own admission of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from her employer. When contacted, Mr. Hobbs revealed that he was never informed of any forward progress in the case. Suddenly, one day it was settled, and that was that.

And the floggings will continue until morale improves.

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