For the second time in as many weeks, a motion by the defense team of suspended justice of the peace Eric Williams was denied.
On Monday, Dec. 19, 422nd District Judge B. Michael Chitty denied a motion to remove District Attorney Mike McLelland and his office from the Williams state felony cases.
“It’s personal. This whole case is personal,” said defense attorney David Sergei.
“We need someone to prosecute objectively. That’s what this whole (hearing) is about.”
Sergei’s argued that political opposition by Williams was the source of dislike by McLelland. He referred to an advertisement in opposition of McLelland that ran in county newspapers and Williams’ known involvement with it.
On the stand, McLelland termed Williams’ involvement with the advertisement, an open letter, as “pretty dumb.”
McLelland also testified that he contacted the Judge Advocate General’s office at Camp Mabry to let them know that Williams, a serving member of the Texas National Guard, was under indictment.
Under examination by Sergei, McLelland said the JAG office asked for a copy of the indictment, which was sent, but that he did not know if any action was taken.
The district attorney, who retired from the Texas National Guard as a major, said he felt “as a former army officer that they might want to know about it.”
Lead prosecutor Mark Hasse said that whether not the district attorney likes Williams or not is irrelevant.
“One of the perks of our job is that we can dislike criminals, your honor,” Hasse said.
He cited case law that allowed only narrow abilities of the court to remove a district attorney from a case and argued that the neither of the two areas that gave the court that ability applied in this case.
Williams is presently indicted on two counts of theft and one count of burglary of a building. Each of the three counts is a state jail felony.
Williams’ defense team challenged the wording of the latest indictment — a theft charge connected with Williams’ administration of the county’s law library fund — saying that Texas law requires the indictment to end with the phrase “against the peace and dignity of the State.”
That phrase does not end the indictment, the defense noted, while Hasse noted it was contained within the indictment.
And lawyers for Williams said their client would not enter a guilty or not guilty plea to the latest charge, saying the indictment was not valid.
Hasse said he would write up a legal brief supporting the indictment and have it to the court and to the defense by Dec. 21. Judge Chitty ordered the defense to have its brief in response to the prosecution, back to the court by Wednesday, Dec. 28.
Chitty also denied a motion to quash another of the indictments, since that motion was connected with the same issues the defense had argued in trying to have McLelland removed from the case.
One motion remains from Monday’s pre-trial hearing. With a witness out of town on vacation, Chitty rescheduled arguments on a motion to suppress evidence gained from search warrants in the case.
That pre-trial hearing is tentatively set for Jan. 4.