DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Dallas County’s top prosecutor found himself in the legal hot seat Monday.
District Attorney Craig Watkins came to court as a defendant facing a criminal contempt of court charge.
But right from the start, his attorney told the special judge in the case, Bob Brotherton, that the charge against Watkins should be thrown out.
Scottie Allen, attorney for Watkins said, “The order alleging contempt and misconduct is void in that the initial order failed to set a specific punishment or state a manner in which the contempt could be purged.”
But Judge Lena Levario, who held Watkins in contempt last March, said at the time, a different attorney representing Watkins had requested she not specify what the penalty would be, and instead wanted the case referred to another judge.
Watkins’ attorneys have consistently said Judge Levario’s decision was wrong, and that Watkins was within his right to refuse to answer questions about his decision to prosecute oil heir Albert Hill III on mortgage fraud.
But one of the special prosecutors in the case, Robert Hinton, says the case should move forward. “We’ve got rules, laws, and courtrooms and if we allow someone other than a judge to run the courtroom, we’ve got a real problem.”
Judge Brotherton agreed with Watkins’ legal team, postponed the case, and ordered Judge Levario to say what her punishment would be if Watkins was found guilty of contempt.
But even before Judge Levario can act, Watkins’ legal team raised new accusations against her, saying she can’t be fair and impartial.
They asked Judge Levario to take herself off the case.
Heath Harris, the First Assistant District Attorney says, “We don’t believe she can be fair and impartial based on all the evidence that’s out there.”
In court papers, Watkins’ attorneys filed an affidavit from an employee in the criminal justice department who works with Judge Levario and other judges.
In the affidavit, the employee claims, “…Judge Lena Levario stated to me that she was going to serve Craig Watkins-Dallas County District Attorney up on a silver platter to the FBI…”
The employee continued, “…She said that all you have to have is enough money to have the right attorneys with the right relationships to control the outcome of a court case in any courtroom including mine…”
One of the special prosecutors in the case, Robert Hinton, rejected the claims. “It’s absolutely preposterous, when you read the affidavit, it makes no sense at all. It’s a 1+1=3.”
Judge Levario wouldn’t remove herself from the case, saying she gave Watkins a fair trial.
Now, the chief administrative judge will have to decide whether Levario can stay on.
No word when that will happen.
The FBI has been investigating the DA’s decision to prosecute Albert Hill III.
The FBI hasn’t commented.
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