Spying allegations suit against Ellis County DA tossed

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Ellis County Courthouse

A lawsuit detailing criminal allegations against the Ellis County district attorney, including that he illegally read another public official’s emails without a warrant, has been dismissed with no explanation or hearing, and the attorney behind the suit wants to know why.

“It’s certainly frustrating when you make credible, serious allegations of felony conduct by the district attorney’s office and a judge rules without explanation and without any hearing,” attorney Dan Gus said. “We were treated as if we were some Republic of Texas kooks filing frivolous lawsuits. It was dismissed out of hand with no explanation and no hearing.”

Gus represents Mike Jones, an Ellis County constable whom District Attorney Patrick Wilson has been attempting to remove from office, claiming Jones misused his power in part by making unauthorized purchases and also by misusing his county email. Jones was briefly removed from office, but is now back after being cleared by a jury.

The Ellis County District Attorney’s Office did not return a call seeking comment.

 

The main issue that Gus wanted to question Wilson about was the DA’s alleged warrantless spying on the constable.

From the lawsuit:

Patrick Wilson somehow obtained access to Constable Jones’ county e-mail account and proceeded to monitor his e-mail correspondence for a period of two to three months or more. This secret monitoring of Constable Jones’ email account occurred on an ongoing basis from approximately February 2016 through at least May 2016… This secret interception and monitoring of Constable Jones’ email occurred without any warrant authorizing the interception and monitoring of the Constable’s e-mail account and without Constable Jones’ consent.

“Here we are alleging serious crimes against the district attorney, and the judge said you can’t even serve him with a citation, with no explanation of why,” Gus said. “We didn’t even have an opportunity to make our case as to why a citation should be issued. We didn’t get a hearing, we never addressed the merits on why a citation should be issued. We never got to make an argument to the court. This was just denied without any explanation.”

The constable and the district attorney have a rocky history and their political trajectories mirror each other. Jones was elected constable in 2012 and reelected in 2016. Wilson was appointed by commissioners court to fill a vacancy as district attorney in 2011 and then elected in his own right in 2012. He was reelected in 2016.

Most recently, in December 2017, the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office filed a civil lawsuit against Jones in an effort to remove the constable from office. Gus claims that Wilson, in that suit, used evidence illegally obtained in Jones’ email.

A judge removed Jones during the course of the trial, in which the charges were “tampering with evidence, the misuse of official information, retaliation, and deadly conduct,” according to the Waxahachie Daily Light.

Specifically, according to media reports, Jones was accused of recklessly driving toward a woman after using a law-enforcement database to obtain information against her. Jones was also accused of evidence tampering after authorities said he altered or destroyed information on a county-owned iPhone in order to keep it from investigators. Prosecutors at that time said Jones used a phone, computer and vehicle owned by Ellis County to run his re-election campaign and his private business.

A jury in May found charges against Jones “not true,” according to reports from the Light. Jones was reinstated as constable after the verdict.

Wilson’s office has also filed criminal charges against Jones, based on some of the charges examined in the civil trial.

“With that in mind, the only thing I will say is that we are disappointed with the verdict in last week’s civil trial, but we are moving forward with the criminal prosecution,” the Light quoted Wilson as saying after the civil trial verdict.

Gus said that some of the information for the district attorney’s civil and criminal actions came from the alleged illegal spying on Jones’ email.

Wilson has said in interviews that Jones should have no expectation of privacy because he was using a county email address, and copies of those messages could have been released through a public records request. He said that a county manager would have the right to read an employee’s emails on the government account.

Gus noted that Patrick’s office did not file any public records request for the records and that Jones is not Patrick’s employee. Jones is an independently elected public official and has an expectation of privacy from other public officials, the attorney said.

Gus also alleges that Patrick’s actions have less to do with any supposed misdeeds by Jones than with ugly, local politics.

From the lawsuit:

Since his appointment to office, Patrick Wilson has been a dutiful political ally of Ellis County Judge Carol Bush, who presided over the commissioners’ court that appointed Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson has used his office to run political interference for Carol Bush and to prosecute some of her detractors … . Most notably, Patrick Wilson made repeated efforts to target Constable Michael Wade Jones for removal from his duly-elected position as Constable for Ellis County, Precinct 4. Constable Jones was a vocal critic of Carol Bush during her re-election campaign in 2014. Constable Jones had publicly criticized Carol Bush’s filing of false affidavits with the State of Texas in 2012 and 2013 in which she claimed an additional salary supplement for supposedly spending 40% of her time on judicial matters even though the Ellis County Judge does not engage in any judicial activities. In 2015, Constable Jones also considered filing complaints against Carol Bush for the false affidavits she had filed. In the fall of 2015, Constable Jones made several public statements concerning gun control, combating terrorism and illegal immigration, some of which drew widespread media attention. In October 2015, Carol Bush publicly criticized Constable Jones for his political views and she and Patrick Wilson exchanged private e-mails in which they spoke approvingly of those who criticized Constable Jones. Patrick Wilson also wrote a letter to the Texas Rangers in which he conveyed that Constable Jones had supposedly threatened Carol Bush’s safety even though nothing of the sort had occurred.

The criminal case against Jones is pending.

Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.

18 COMMENTS

  1. This last election was a good one. Lots of good people were voted in. You cannot blame the machine if the people keep voting the same ones in. I love my county and have very high hopes and expectations with the changes that were made. With that being said I’m going to go read the article.

  2. I wasn’t talking about the new sheriff… I’ve been in Ellis County for 30 years. The skeletons in the closet are stacked a mile wide and just as deep!!!

  3. Why? That’s a sealed order for Security Reasons. If people knew how corrupt the DAs were in this State…. I guess lives could be in danger… ??? Makes sense to me.

    • and to be clear…that 40 thousand that the county judge takes….Most Texas county judges take that additional money and are simply required to sign an affidavit that they spend at least 40% of their time doing what a JP usually does. But they still take 100% of their county judge salary. My experience is that you can’t even get a discussion from a single county judge regarding this money. It cost the Texas taxpayer an additional 5 million dollars every single year for this perk. .It also requires them to follow different rules regarding them running for office of course not enforced. But back to the affidavit…they simply sign saying they do magistrate 40% but they are never required to prove that statement.

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