On March 17, 2023, KVUE news reported that a grand jury indicted James Oakley, County Judge for Burnet County, Texas, on two counts of abuse of official capacity, one count of evidence tampering, and one count of official oppression.
The Burnet Bulletin reported that Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd confirmed that on March 9, a warrant has been issued for Judge Oakley’s arrest. Oakley turned himself into the Lampasas County Jail that afternoon of the day. However, he was released immediately following his indictment on the said charges. The bonds charged amounted to $1,000 for count one, $500 for count two, $ 2,500 for count three, and $1,000 for count four, a total of $5,000.
Specifically, the charges of Judge Oakley are as follows: one count of abuse of official capacity, a class A misdemeanor; one count of abuse of official capacity, a class B misdemeanor; one count of tampering/ fabricating physical evidence, a third-degree felony; and one count of official oppression, a class A misdemeanor.
The alleged tampering and one of the official oppression charges are reportedly rooted in an apparent minor collision that happened on April 2, 2021, in Spicewood in which Judge Oakley was driving a personal vehicle.
Judge Oakley stated that it involves, “a fender-bender at a gas station 2 years ago, where I moved a piece of a plastic bumper on the ground to clear for drivers.” According to the reports, Judge Oakley attempted to “tamper” the vehicle collision with debris on the roadway “with intent to impair its verity and availability as evidence in the investigation.” Allegedly, judge Oakley was acting under the color of his office as Burnet County Judge.
On the other matter, Judge Oakley explained that the abuse of official capacity charge relates to what he said was his legal “multi-term service as a member elected director of the board of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative.” Judge Oakley, for nine years, served as a county judge and he has also served as an elected member of the PEC board. The document stated that Judge Oakley with the motive to obtain an advantage, intentionally and knowingly misused government property – namely a vehicle owned by Burnet County – which had come into the defendant’s possession by virtue of the defendant’s employment and office as a public servant. Judge Oakley used the said vehicle to the Pedernales Electric Cooperative for personal gain and a personal purpose.
On March 16, Burnet County provided the following statement regarding the investigations:
“Within my capacity as Burnet County Judge, I serve or have served on several Boards and Commissions that include CAPCOG, CARTPO, TARC, TCOLE & CAMPO. In addition to those affiliations, I’ve been elected by the members of the PEC for the last ten years to serve on its board as a stipend-compensated Director as clearly allowed for within Local Government Code 171. Throughout this transparent service, there has never been any overlap of agenda items considered that would require abstention. The Burnet County Attorney signs off on Commissioner’s Court agendas and attends each meeting.”
Source: Kvue abc