Wichita Falls District Judge Bob Brotherton will resume the contempt hearing for Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins on Friday, Aug. 23 at 9 a.m., according to an e-mail issued today, Tuesday, July 30 by the judge’s office. Brotherton, a native of Wichita Falls, will travel to Big D for the hearing probably in the same courtroom in which the hearing began before it was interrupted on Monday, July 15.
Brotherton, who is the presiding judge of the 30th District Court in Wichita Falls, was appointed to hear the high profile hearing to determine whether or not Watkins committed contempt when he refused to answer questions in a previous hearing in March. The fireworks in this case which has attracted the attention of the news media from the New York Times to an Australian publication began in April when Dallas Judge Lena Lovario held the Dallas DA in contempt for refusing to answer questions about a conversation he had with attorney Lisa Blue.
Watkins invoked the work product privilege of the Dallas District Attorney’s office as a basis for refusing to answer the questions at that March hearing.
Attorneys for the DA filed a last minute motion in the contempt hearing on July 15 in which they claimed Lovario’s contempt order was invalid because it failed to mention the punishment Watkins faced and also failed to recite how he could purge himself of the contempt citation. Brotherton then ordered Judge Lovario to amend her contempt order to include the punishment and a manner in which Watkins could purge himself.
Lovario was on the verge of doing that when the DA’s attorneys struck again and filed a motion to recuse the Dallas judge because of her alleged bias against the prosecutor. Judge John Ovard then convened a hearing to determine whether or not Lovario was biased and should be recused (or removed) from the case. He ruled the burden of proof had not been met to prove she was biased and allowed her to stay on the case.
Lovario is expected to amend her order to comply with Brotherton’s ruling before Aug. 23.
Judge Brotherton will continue a de novo hearing regarding the contempt issue. In that hearing he will determine whether or not the Dallas DA should be held in contempt based on evidence which may be presented at this hearing as if there had not been a previous hearing. If Brotherton finds Watkins should be held in contempt, he will then determine the punishment which could includ a fine or jail time.
Judge Lovario testified at her recusal hearing that she intended to fine Watkins $500.
The courtroom is expected to be packed again with all major news outlets from Dallas as well as other national news media. Although Brotherton has heard many major cases before in Wichita Falls including capital murder cases, it is likely he has not heard one with more national interest than this one.
The hearing in which the contempt order was issued on March 7 revolved around accusations by Dallas oil heir Al Hill III that the DA indicted him for mortgage fraud as a favor to political supporter and benefactor Lisa Blue who was suing Hill for legal fees. Hill is the grandson of Lamar Hunt.
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