On August 9, 2023, DailyTrib reported that a jury trial for the suspended Burnet County Judge James Oakley has been moved to the Blanco County District Court in Johnson City. The said trial is set for 8;30 a.m. on August 29, 2023.
In a report by the AbusiveDiscretion, it was stated that Oakley was charged with three misdemeanors and one felony. The specific charges leveled against Judge Oakley consist of the following: one charge of abusing official capacity, categorized as a class A misdemeanor; one charge of abusing official capacity, categorized as a class B misdemeanor; one charge of tampering or fabricating physical evidence, categorized as a third-degree felony; and one charge of official oppression, categorized as a class A misdemeanor. The allegations of tampering and one instance of official oppression appear to originate from a seemingly minor collision that took place on April 2, 2021, in Spicewood, involving Judge Oakley driving a personal vehicle.
Regarding the other charge, Judge Oakley clarified that the accusation of abusing official capacity is connected to what he asserts was his legal “multi-term service as a member-elected director of the board of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative.” Having served as a county judge for nine years, Oakley also held an elected position on the PEC board. The official document outlines that Oakley intentionally and knowingly misused government property, specifically a vehicle owned by Burnet County. This vehicle came into Oakley’s possession due to his role as a public servant, and he used it to benefit himself personally by driving it to the Pedernales Electric Cooperative.
However, during the pre-trial hearing, Judge Waldrip invalidated three charges, including the felony charge involving tampering with physical evidence, as well as the misdemeanor allegations of official oppression and abuse of official capacity. The sole charge that remains slated for trial pertains to the misdemeanor charge linked to the utilization of a county vehicle to attend PEC board meetings. Judge Waldrip agreed to the motion to quash based on the contention that the charging document inadequately accused Oakley of tampering with physical evidence. Furthermore, he asserted that the charging document lacked precision concerning the defendant’s intent and omitted the explicit description of the unlawful manner in which the purported mistreatment transpired, whether it was of a criminal or tortious nature.
In his ruling, Judge Waldrip underscored the legislative purpose behind the formulation and amendment of Chapter 171 of the Texas Local Government Code, which addresses the regulation of conflicts of interest for municipal, county, and certain other local government officials. Initially, this statute centered on officials who neglected to divulge a significant for-profit business interest that could be influenced by their role as public servants.
In the latest development of the case, the jury trial concerning Judge Oakley has been relocated to the Johnson City-based Blanco County District Court. Oakley said, relating to the matter, that he had no problem with the trial changing venues, “I’m confident the jury pool (in Blanco) can look through the facts of the case and determine the outcome we desire, I’m looking forward to getting through this and getting back to work for the people who elected me in the office.”
A Blanco County District courtroom at 101 E. Cypress in Johnson City will host the trial, which is located across the street from the courthouse.