Polk County Publishing Company, P.O. Box 1267, Livingston, TX. 77351 - (936) 327-4357
Main Sections

Polk County Enterprise

Houston County Courier

Groveton News

Big Thicket Messenger

San Jacinto Newstimes

Trinity Standard

Tyler County Booster

Corrigan Times



Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - September 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company

Police chief sues county, city, sheriff, former DA, others
Houston County Courier

By Lynda Jones
Managing Editor

In a law suit filed Aug. 9 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Lufkin Division, Crockett Police Chief Jimmy Fisher alleges his civil rights under the first, fourth and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution were violated by the defendants named in the case. Fisher is seeking a total of $41,250,000 in damages. The defendants named in Fisher's (the plaintiff) original complaint filed with the court are former Houston County District Attorney David Cervantes, former Houston County Assistant District Attorney James Ashworth, Houston County Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt, City (Crockett) Administrator Ron Duncan, the City of Crockett, Houston County and the Houston County Sheriff's Department. Also named in the suit are Clayton Smith, who was employed by the city of Crockett or Houston County during “all times relevant to this suit” and Ben Gardner, who was “at times relevant to this suit” employed by the City of Crockett and Houston County. Fisher is seeking the following damages: Against Cervantes in his official capacity, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Cervantes in his individual capacity, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Ashworth in his official capacity, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Ashworth in his individual capacity, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Smith in his official capacity, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Smith in his individual capacity, Fisher seeks $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Bobbitt in his official capacity, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Bobbitt in his individual capacity, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Duncan in his official capacity, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Duncan in his individual capacity, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Gardner in his official capacity, Fisher seeks $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Gardner in his individual capacity, Fisher seeks $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against the City of Crockett, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against Houston County, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. Against the Houston County Sheriff's Department, Fisher seeks actual damages of $750,000 and punitive damages of $2,000,000. The complaint also states Fisher is entitled to recover reasonable and necessary attorneys fees and costs associated with the cause and he is entitled to recover his costs associated with the cause. A jury is demanded for the case. Additionally, the suit requests an injunction requiring the defendants “to do whatever is necessary to clear Plaintiff's name of false charges brought against him and the publicity associated with such charges.” Fisher has been the Crockett chief of police since 1991 and still holds that position. The “Plaintiff's Original Complaint” filed with the court states that Fisher “files this suit as a result of a conspiracy undertaken by various county and city officials, along with certain officers of law enforcement, which resulted in the Plaintiff (Fisher) being indicted on six felony counts and arrested. “The indictments and the arrest were the subject of a great deal of publicity within the local media. The criminal charges were all without merit, but rather were the result of personal and professional differences on the part of the Defendants with the Plaintiff. All charges were ultimately dismissed with prejudice or dismissed due to the statute of limitations having run.” The complaint also alleges, “For reasons unknown, there has been a long-standing, publicly-understood and readily acknowledged animosity between the Houston County Sheriff's Department and the City of Crockett Police Department.” In the complaint, Fisher alleges his arrest in August, 2008 for credit card abuse and fraudulent use of identifying information was motivated by personal and professional differences. A chronology of alleged events is outlined in the plaintiff's (Fisher's) complaint. In what is called the “Factual Background”, the complaint states Smith worked as a Crockett police officer under Fisher from Feb. 4, 2005 to March 7, 2008, and as “an agent of and lead investigator for” Cervantes, Ashworth and Houston County at times during 2007 and 2008. The document alleges Smith resigned from the Crockett Police Department twice when Fisher did not promote Smith to the rank of lieutenant. “Defendant Smith resigned in January of 2007 due to the fact he was denied a promotion to the rank of lieutenant by the Plaintiff,” the complaint states, and “Again, Defendant Smith in January of 2008, sought a promotion to the rank of lieutenant from Plaintiff, and again, the Plaintiff denied Defendant Smith's demand.” The complaint further alleges that Smith overheard a phone conversation in February, 2008, in which Fisher voiced his support in favor of Donna Kaspar Gordon (current district attorney and not a party in this law suit) over the incumbent, Cervantes. The reported phone conversation took place when Cervantes and Gordon were opponents in the Republican primary election in 2008. According to the complaint, Smith resigned from the police department and went to work for Cervantes on March 8, 2008. The complaint further alleges, “Defendant Smith informed Defendants Cervantes and Ashworth, among others, of the telephone conversation between Plaintiff and the newly elected District Attorney (Gordon).” In describing Gardner, the complaint states that Gardner worked as a Crockett police officer under Fisher's supervision between approximately September, 1997 through January, 2008. According to the complaint, on or about Jan. 4, 2008, Gardner, a former lieutenant of the Crockett Police Department, resigned and immediately became employed as a Houston County Sheriff's deputy. “Defendant Gardner had been employed by the City of Crockett Police Department and reached the rank of lieutenant; however, Gardner had been recently demoted to the position of patrol officer by the Plaintiff for Defendant Gardner's intentionally failing to obey direct orders in July of 2007,” the complaint alleges. According to the document filed by Fisher's attorney, Gardner is still employed by Houston County and the Houston County Sheriff's Department. Fisher's complaint alleges, “In early June of 2008, Defendant Gardner began to advise those within the Houston County community that Gardner was assisting named Defendants in order to see that criminal charges were filed against the Plaintiff.” The allegation in the complaint continues, “Defendant Gardner also specifically identified Defendants Bobbitt and Duncan as being actively involved in the attempt to have criminal charges filed against the Plaintiff. “On or about June 16, 2008, according to the official reports of Defendant Clayton Smith, 'an individual known by Smith', came to the District Attorney's office with information regarding the Plaintiff possibly obtaining credit cards in the name of the Plaintiff's son. “Defendant Smith's official report, which was the basis upon which the multiple indictments of the Plaintiff were obtained, stated that 'due to a number of other cases,' 'approximately a month went by' before the investigation actually began.” The next scenario described in the suit involves Damon Taylor, who filed a lawsuit against two former Houston County sheriff's deputies and Houston County one month prior to Fisher's filing. (See related story on Page A1) Fisher's complaint alleges, “On or about July 11, 2008, a young, black male and resident of Houston County, Texas, had been abducted, threatened with death, hit in the face and injured with a county-issued firearm, 'tased' with a county-issued taser device, and transported to adjacently-located Trinity County, Texas, where he was abandoned in the woods and left to walk home, by two white males; both Deputies of the Houston County Sheriff's Department.” The complaint continues, “The reasoning for the criminal acts undertaken on the part of the deputies was race-related, as one of the deputies, both white males, found his daughter in a room within the deputy's home, with the young black male who was the daughter's boyfriend. The young man was then held against his will, until a decision as to what should be done with him was made. This decision was ultimately made by Deputies of the Houston County Sheriff's Department.” According to Fisher's complaint, when the young black male reported the incident to Fisher, he decided the Federal Bureau of Investigation should be involved “in this sensitive and racially-motivated matter.” The day after the FBI took over the investigation, Fisher's complaint alleges, “Defendant Duncan visited the Plaintiff (Fisher) and accused the Plaintiff of compromising the justice system of Houston County, Texas and the City of Crockett by way of his involvement in bringing the federal government into the case.” Fisher's complaint notes that the two former deputies were recently sentenced to federal prison. Fisher's complaint alleges, “On or about July 17 of 2008, Defendant Bobbitt was quoted in local papers and publicly accused the Plaintiff of compromising the case due to the decisions made by the Plaintiff with respect to the approach being taken by the Plaintiff, the Chief of Police, in connection with the investigation of the matter.” “According to Defendant Clayton Smith,” the complaint alleges, “it was around this time that he 'actually began the investigation' into the accusations made against the Plaintiff as the investigator was busy on a 'number of other cases that were assigned' to him.” Fisher's complaint further alleges, that “it was around this time that Defendant Duncan, acting as City Manager of Crockett, Texas, confronted the Plaintiff with regards to the Plaintiff attempting to influence “black” city council members. “Defendant Duncan accused Plaintiff, in early July of 2008, of having an unauthorized 'city council meeting' when in fact it was merely the Plaintiff visiting with a friend, who just so happened to be a member of the city council. This member of city council just so happened to be a gentleman of color.” The allegation states further, “The animosity of Defendant Duncan towards the Plaintiff had, up to this point been rather extreme, however, Duncan's animosity increased after the Plaintiff, acting in his role as Chief of Police of the City of Crockett, involved the FBI in the investigation of the two Houston County sheriff's deputies.” Fisher's complaint further alleges, “The involvement of the FBI into this matter, along with other legal, prudent and constitutionally protected actions taken upon the part of the Plaintiff, resulted in the 'powers that be' deciding the Plaintiff must be taught a lesson and pay for his actions.” According to Fisher's complaint, “It was at this time that the limited 'investigation of the Plaintiff began to be officially conducted.” The complaint alleges, “The named Defendants in this case began telling others that the Plaintiff was 'going to get what was coming to him'.” The complaint states the case was presented to a grand jury on Aug. 26, 2008, and that “The Plaintiff was never sent a target letter, nor was the Plaintiff informed of the fact that his case was going to be presented to a Houston County Grand Jury.” The complaint further alleges, “There were no attempts made to interview the Plaintiff's son in an attempt to clarify any questionable conduct on the part of the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff's son was not presented to the Grand Jury. “Any real investigation into the matter would have uncovered that the cards and accounts in question were used in the Bryan/College Station area during the times in which the Plaintiff's son was a student at Texas A&M University. “Ultimately, it was discovered, by way of subpoenas by the current District Attorney's Office, that the credit cards were used in the Bryan/College Station area and at locations not frequented by fifty plus (50+) year old men.” The suit alleges, “These reasonable, necessary and fundamentally-fair actions undertaken on the part of the newly elected District Attorney were not undertaken, or even attempted, on the part of the Defendants named herein.” Fisher's complaint also alleges, “Plaintiff contends the motivations, acts and omissions undertaken on the part of the named Defendants were based on the race of the Plaintiff and the Defendants' personal disagreements with the Plaintiff, as opposed to any legitimate and lawfully authorized activities undertaken on the part of the Defendants in accordance with their assigned duties.” The complaint filed by Fisher's attorney alleges, “As a result of the conduct of Defendants named herein, the Plaintiff has suffered legally cognizable injuries in the form of lost income, attorney's fees incurred in defense of the actions undertaken on the part of Defendants, and mental anguish and distress as a result of the unlawful and unconstitutional acts and omissions undertaken on the part of Defendants.” Fisher's complaint was filed by J. Paxton Adams, attorney at law, Huntsville and Daniel Maeso, attorney at law, Montgomery.

 

Polk County Publishing Company