On Monday, July 10, 2023, DailyTrib.com reported that the case against suspended Burnet County Judge James Oakley has taken another turn after visiting District Judge Dib Waldrip quashed three of the four charges against him during a pretrial hearing.

The grand jury indicted Oakley on four charges on March 7, including three misdemeanors and one felony. The charges were divided between two issues, one challenging Oakley’s dual service as a county judge and a PEC director, and the other concerning a vehicle collision on April 2, 2021, at the intersection of Texas 71 and CR 191 in Spicewood.

Oakley was accused of tampering with evidence by moving a bumper at the scene of an incident in which he was involved. He was also accused of subjecting one of the people involved in the accident to mistreatment. The third charge involved dual service as a public servant and a member of the board of a nonprofit corporation. The fourth charge was a misdemeanor involving Oakley’s use of a county vehicle to drive to PEC board meetings.

During the pre-trial hearing, Judge Waldrip quashed three of the charges, including the felony charge of tampering with physical evidence and the misdemeanor charges of official oppression and abuse of official capacity. The only charge that will go to trial is the misdemeanor charge involving the use of a county vehicle to drive to PEC board meetings.

Judge Waldrip granted the motion to quash based on the argument that the charging instrument failed to adequately accuse Oakley of tampering with physical evidence. Furthermore, he stated that the charging instrument lacked clarity regarding the defendant’s intent and did not specify the unlawful manner in which the alleged mistreatment occurred, whether criminal or tortious.

In his ruling, Judge Waldrip highlighted the legislative intent behind the writing and amendment of Chapter 171 of the Texas Local Government Code, which pertains to the regulation of conflicts of interest for municipal, county, and certain other local government officers. Initially, this law focused on officials who neglected to disclose a substantial for-profit business interest that could be influenced by their public servant position.

Waldrip stated, “acting in the capacity of a public servant” and “serving as a member of a board of directors of private, nonprofit corporations” are two distinct roles.

“The mere fact that an individual received compensation and remuneration for his service as a member of the board of directors of a private nonprofit corporation while serving as a public servant does not constitute a violation of the criminal office of Abuse of Official Capacity,” Waldrip added.

The only remaining charge against Oakley is Cause No. 55345, Abuse of Official Capacity, which will go to a jury trial on August 28 and is expected to last three days. District Attorney Wiley “Sonny” McAfee of the 33rd and 424th judicial districts must now decide whether to appeal the charges to a higher court or rewrite and refile them.

Oakley’s attorney, John Carsey of Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey P.C. in Austin, cautioned against calling the orders “a win” after the hearing. “We have to see what the state is going to do. All that’s happened here is that the judge ruled all the allegations except one were not legally sufficient to go to trial. They may be able to fix some of those or they may not.”

Oakley was suspended without pay by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct on March 15 after the grand jury indicted him on four charges. He said the Commission automatically suspends if there are any charges, and he doubted the suspension would be removed with one charge still pending.

 

Source: DailyTrib.com