No protective order against investigator
Polk County Enterprise, September 2007
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON – At the end of an arduous hearing on an application for a protective order made by Katherine Siobban McGee against William Douglas Willis, visting Judge Vann Culp denied the request for the order.
“Something for his case, ma’am,” Wright answered. An investigation into possible criminal charges is under way by Houston-based Texas Ranger C
But in announcing his decision Friday afternoon at the Polk County Courthouse, Judge Culp stated from the bench that the seriousness of other potential charges that could come out of an ongoing criminal investigation would deter Willis from any future threats or actual violence far more effectively than a protective order.
“This is an unfortunate situation involving the problem that develops when public officials – whether elected or employed officials – fall into the trap of commingling personal business with official business,” Culp said.
“Having heard the evidence, it appears to me that there is evidence that the initial stop of the vehicle was a pretext stop,” Culp said.
“Willis’s statement was that he clocked the Gillenwater’s car and believed that the vehicle was speeding, but no one was given a speeding ticket. The main thing that happened was that a passenger was put in handcuffs and confined in his vehicle.
Then there’s testimony that (Willis) thought maybe that vehicle contained stolen goods, but he saw the bags in the trunk of the vehicle.
What’s even more disturbing, if that’s true, is that he released the bags to be sent back to his residence rather than turning them over to the sheriff’s office or somebody to keep in custody.
“If this was a theft case, the district attorney wouldn’t have any way to make a case,” Culp said. “The main evidence is gone. He released it.”
“It brings into doubt the claims about being concerned about a theft,” Culp said.
“If you look at this from a strictly technical standpoint – I mention this because it’s going to have a bearing on the ultimate ruling.
“If it’s a pretext (traffic) stop, then there are some criminal statutes that come into play.
“There are also rules of law providing grounds for civil action. If he didn’t have any reason to make an arrest, then he can be charged with illegal restrain under Section 20.02 of the Penal Code,” Culp said.
“The deputy found in his report that there was probably an assault.One of the grounds, intentionally and knowingly causing physical contact that the subject knows or should reasonably believe another person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative,” Culp said.
“There is evidence to support a charge of assault. I doubt it is aggravated assault. If it is, Mr. Willis has got serious problems. Acting under color of employment would make those go up to a first degree felony.
“He could be charged with official oppression for acting under color of office or employment and intentionally subjecting to mistreatment by arrest, search or intentionally denies or impedes another of the rights, privileges or immunity,” Culp said.
“For purposes of this section, acts under color of employment is to act in an official capacity. There might even be a charge of impeding the civil rights of a person.
“All of those can be pursued in civil claims. Under 42 USC 1983 of federal court, imposes a liability on a public official or law enforcement person. Denying any U.S. citizen the privileges afforded and secured by the constitution and laws. That’s a type of case that most times is filed in federal court.
Allegations can be made that a person without cause was handcuffed, arrested and placed in his vehicle.
I agree wholeheartedly with respondent that it is a family matter. It appears that’s what this rose out of.
To grant a permanent protective order, the judge would have to make an affirmative finding in two areas: that family violence did occur and that there is a likelihood it will occur in the future.
Culp said he cannot make an affirmative finding on the second part so therefore denied the motion for a protective order.
“Because of those things I mentioned, Willis has a strong motive not to cause any trouble at all,” Culp said.
“I’m not saying he’s guilty of any of these other criminal matters but there’s enough evidence that the grand jury should consider.
That’s something that gives Mr. Willis greater incentive not to commit any acts in the future that’s more effective than a protective order could be.
Willis’ attorney Jane Scott Vara asked the court to grant an affirmative finding that if the evidence could have been presented at the ex parte hearing for a temporary order, it would have been denied.
“I don’t know why I should,” Culp said.
Vara argued that if Willis had an opportunity to present evidence at the ex parte hearing, that there couldn’t have made a finding of family violence.
“I don’t find that proper.” Culp said.
Special prosecutor Mike Little added that only the second prong of the request for protective order failed.
The first prong – that family violence occurred – is all that’s necessary in an ex parte hearing, Little said.
The evidence was presented over three days during which Judge Culp heard testimony from Katherine “Katy” McGee, Willis and his wife Brenda Willis as well as Ross and his mother Frieda Gillenwater.
Deputy Scott Wright testified about the events that took place following the altercation out on 1988.
Investigator Stan Galloway was present throughout the three-day hearing but was never called to the stand.
Sheriff Kenneth Hammack, Polk County District Attorney Investigator Mark Jones and Angelina County Sheriff’s Deputy David Wells were called as character witnesses and testified about Willis’ interactions and relationship with Katy McGee.
The final day of the hearing focused on what happened after deputies arrived at the scene of the altercation between Willis and McGee and where Katy when afterward.
Little played a DVD recording copied from the onboard video recording taken by Scott Wright’s patrol car.
Willis’ attorney Jane Scott Vara asked Judge Culp to close the hearing to the public and the media while the video was reviewed, so it would not be publicly seen until he ruled on its admissibility.
Culp denied the request.
The video shows Investigator Stan Galloway, Bill Willis and Scott Wright talking at the front of Wright’s patrol car, which is parked behind Willis’ county-issued vehicle.
Before the video begins, Wright had arrived at the scene and had removed Bill Willis’ handcuff from McGee’s left wrist. She had been able to remove the cuff her right wrist on her own.
The deputy took her from Willis car, placed his own handcuffs on her with her hands in front of her body and put her in his patrol car.
At that time, Wright was not aware that McGee is Willis’ stepdaughter.
When Willis told him of the relationship, Wright testified he was shocked.
The only audio during this portion of the video is the sound of McGee crying.
Willis’s comments become audible with Willis saying he doesn’t know how they (the Gillenwaters) got in there.
“He doesn’t have permission to show up on my property.” Willis said. “This drives me wild”
Wright and Galloway cross FM 1988 to the Gillenwater’s car and ask them to step out of the vehicle so they can talk.
“We were called out here and some things were moved out of his (Willis’) house and he’s not sure what was being moved out of his home,” Wright said.
There is some dispute about where the girl wants to go and we’ll deal with that in a minute.
He does not want you back on his property and you cannot go back there. If you do go back there, you can be subject to arrest.
The Ross and Frieda provide their driver’s license and are issued a criminal trespass warning while a dually-pickup being driven by Brenda Willis’ brother David Fisk has finished loading up Katy McGee’s belongings and is seen driving away in the direction of the W3 Ranch.
Frieda can be heard asking the two deputies about Katy’s condition.
“She was breathing find,” Wright said. “She was breathing good enough to get a handcuff off.”
Wright added that he would not handcuff someone and put them in his patrol car if they needed first aid.
While Galloway and Wright are continuing their conversation with the Gillenwaters in a driveway across FM 1988 from the patrol cars and Willis’ official unmarked car, Willis is shown crossing the street back to his car carrying a purse, which he puts in the front seat of his car
Willis remained by his car for a few minutes, while Wright’s microphone is recording the conversation with the Gillenwaters.
Frieda tells the officers that she didn’t know they were doing anything wrong and they won’t do it again.
“Maybe she can on her own, come to us,” she added.
Willis walks back to the car as Frieda is saying, “I don’t know what to say. I feel bad for her.
Wright, Galloway and Willis return to the patrol car.
Wright goes to Katy, removes the handcuffs and attempts to calm her.
“All I’m going to do is take the handcuffs off,” Wright said. “Sit here for a minute and as long as you don’t steal my patrol car, I’ll do what I can do, OK?
Katy is still sobbing heavily.
Wright walks back to Willis.
“She said she doesn’t want to go with you, Bill,” Wright said. “You know I can’t legally make her go.”
Willis answers,” I’m going to get her out of your car and her mother an I are going to make a decision. Either she’s going to leave work and go sit on her or I’m going to half her over there. And if I do, I’m going to restrains her.” As Willis makes the statement, he reaches back to where his handcuffs have been replaced on his gunbelt.
At that point, Wright tuns off his body mic and has what he testified later was a “heart to heart” talk with Willis.
Willis makes a cell phone call and Galloway walks to the patrol car.
Galloway asks McGee if she is OK and she responds that she needs her inhaler.
“What if we took you to the house?” Galloway said.
“I’m not going to my house.” McGee answered.
“Where are you going to go? Your momma’s work?” Galloway then asked.
“No I’m not staying there. Take me to the sheriffs office and I’ll call them to come get me,” McGee said.
Galloway asks again about getting McGee back with her mother and McGee answers that she’ll just take me back to the house.
“Just take me to the sheriff’s office,” McGee said and she seems to be noticeably out of breath.
Willis steps up to the patrol car and tells McGee she “can’t ride around with Deputy Wright all day.”
“They can’t just put you out on the highway. You’re going to have to go back to the house for a little bit. Your mother needs to at least speak to you, then if you want to run away … “ then Willis’ remarks become inaudible.
Katy asks twice for her inhaler.
“Come get in my car and you have your inhaler,” Willis said.
“Either catch a ride with me to Escapees where your mom is, or you can go home,.” Willis said.
“Essentially, they’re not a taxi service. They need to go do their duty,” Willis said.
“Katy, our office is in trial and I have to go back.”
Katy says she does not want to ride with Willis.
“Escapees is not on their way back. If you go there, I have to take you. So where are you going?” Willis asks.
McGee and Willis get out of the patrol car, get in Willis’ car and leave.
Wright follows Willis to Escapees at what appears to be a high rate of speed.
During the trip, the recording system captures one side of a conversation Wright is having with another member of the sheriff’s department staff.
“This is really bad (inaudible) before it gets any badder.”
They discuss listening to the tape and Wright asks if the other person heard him say he would take her anywhere she wanted to go.
McGee gets out of Willis’ car at the Escapees Car Center and Wright calls her over to him, separating her from Willis.
“You understand that we would have given you a ride anywhere,” Wright said. “I want to restate this. You’re 19 and this is a family matter.”
McGees comment is inaudible and Wright responds, “He has no control over what I do.”
“When you said ‘You won’t take me.’ I told you I would. Why didn’t you ride with me?”
“He told me that I had to ridge with him,” McGee said.
After the video was shown, Special Prosecutor Mike Little asked Wright who he thought was going to transport Katy away from the scene of the altercation.
“Polk County Sheriff’s Office … Myself.”
Wright added that it took him by surprise when Katy walked past him and got in the car with Willis. He told Little that he asked Willis, ‘Where are ya’ll going?’
Vara asked Wright who asked him to review the tape.
“At the Ranger’s request,” Wright said.
“And do you know why he was asking you to review the tape?”