LISD theft case ends with plea bargain
Polk County Enterprise - November 2007
BY JAMES E. BAUGH
LIVINGSTON – A case against two former employees of Livingston Independent School District ended in plea bargains for both defendants on Wednesday.
Michael Sidney Horton and Edwin Michael Watts both pleaded no contest to Class B misdemeanor offenses of abuse of official capacity.
Both men received six months of deferred adjudication with probation, court fines, 24 hours of community service and a $50 fee payable to Crimestoppers.
Barbara Watts, wife of Edwin Watts, said in a statement given to the Enterprise after the trial that after the jury appeared to be hung after the 26-month ordeal, her husband agreed to the sentencing agreement in order to bring the situation to an end.
The charges stemmed from a police investigation into several improprieties at the Livingston Independent School District transportation department, or bus barn, in August 2005.
Several individuals were charged with theft during the investigation, including Homer Burks who was charged with stealing new tires and selling them to local stores.
In conjunction with the Burks investigation Watts was questioned regarding his personal use of a school-owned welding machine and water cooled fan at his residence for a period of at least one week.
Watts stated that he was given permission by his immediate supervisor, Michael Horton, in direct violation of LISD policy and the Texas penal code.
During the trial it was disclosed that the rental value of the welding equipment was valued at approximately $400 per week, making the offense a misdemeanor.
A six-person jury was seated on Monday with testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Closing arguments were made around mid-day on Wednesday with the jury beginning deliberations just after 1 p.m.
Just after 3 p.m. the jury sent a note to District Court judge Elizabeth Coker stating that they were deadlocked.
Coker ordered the jury to continue deliberations.
Several additional notes were sent from the jury seeking clarification of various issues. In the meantime, defense attorneys met with District Attorney Lee Hon in a attempt to reach a plea deal in order to avoid a mistrial.