Reporting Jack Fink
DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - First, a judge held Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins in contempt for failing to testify about the planned prosecution of oil heir Albert Hill III.
Now, CBS-11 News has learned the FBI and federal prosecutors are looking into Watkins’ handling of the case.
Russell Wilson, who heads the DA’s special fields bureau, defends their office’s actions.
Wilson says, “We did what was right. The Dallas Co. grand jury that indicted this case. We believe did what was right and they acted on the information that they received.”
Wilson says the DA’s office says it prosecuted Albert Hill III for mortgage fraud after getting a complaint from his own father.
But Hill and his attorneys claim Watkins only brought the case against him as a personal favor for a major political donor Hill was fighting in court.
His attorney, John Hueston issued a statement Tuesday saying, “We have provided federal law enforcement with information relating to prosecutorial misconduct issues involving Dallas County D.A. Craig Watkins, and we intend to cooperate with any investigations of these issues…The indictments against Mr. Hill were obtained to further the interests of Mr. Watkins’ political supporters.”
But Wilson says, “That’s nonsense. That’s absolute silliness. We have not heard of a prosecutor being prosecuted for prosecuting and we don’t expect to hear of it in this case.”
He says neither Watkins nor the DA’s office has been contacted by federal investigators.
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment on the case.
Former U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Texas Richard Roper says the public shouldn’t jump to any legal conclusions just yet. “I think you have to be careful not to draw any inferences from the fact that an FBI agent may be asking questions of somebody. It could mean something, it may be nothing.”
The political stakes may be growing for Watkins.
Former Dallas County Chief Judge John Creuzot wouldn’t comment on Watkins, but says he’s considering running a primary challenge against him.
Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Darlene Ewing doesn’t think Watkins is in trouble.
Ewing says, “No, I think Craig has done a lot of good in his job. I think he’s made a lot of positive changes and people recognize that. Obviously, this is a hitch in the road, but I think he’ll overcome it.”
Ewing says Creuzot would be a formidable candidate.
She says Creuzot had been considering a run before this case made the headlines.
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