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Judge Says Case Against Watkins Can Continue

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - There was a legal setback for Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins on Monday.

The Chief Administrative Judge, John Ovard, ruled the criminal contempt case against Mr. Watkins will go forward.

Judge Ovard also ruled that the original judge who held him in contempt, Lena Levario, will remain on the case.

In court, attorneys for the DA stated they worried Watkins wouldn’t get a fair hearing, and asked that the original judge, Lena Levario, be removed from the case, claiming she was biased against him.

Judge Levario held Watkins in contempt last March after he wouldn’t answer questions about why he and his office prosecuted oil heir Albert Hill III for mortgage fraud.

Judge Levario then dismissed the case against Hill.

Now, the Judge must update her contempt order against Watkins to include a proposed penalty if another judge finds him guilty.

In court, it was revealed Judge Levario is only considering a fine – $500 is the maximum penalty under the law.

An attorney appointed to represent her, Robert Hinton, was asked how Judge Levario was handling the controversy.

“She has been wholeheartedly restrained,” Hinton said.  ” I’ll just tell you that I don”t think I could have done it as well as she has done. She’s composed and restrained and understands that this is what happens once in awhile down at the courthouse.”

Russell Wilson, an assistant attorney in the district attorney’s office, said the case has never been about a fine that was imposed.”

“It’s about a sitting DA, district attorneys throughout Texas and the US have the right to assert a privilege that’s been asserted since we’ve had laws,” Wilson said.

That’s an argument the DA’s office will continue to make when a trial is set once again.

Also Monday, there was a controversy that erupted over comments made by Hinton.

When he was asked why the DA was trying to discredit Judge Levario, Hinton said Watkins’ lawyers were trying to get the DA’s head out of a noose.

Watkins’ attorney said it was a terrible comment to make and said it proved this case was a political lynching.
Hinton says he is apologetic, and that he didn’t intend to say anything with racial overtones.

He says he meant to say Watkins was in the hot seat.

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