Dallas County DA is acquitted of contempt charge

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins criticized the judge who accused him of contempt after the prosecutor was acquitted of the charge on Friday.

Watkins said Judge Lena Levario “didn’t know the law or didn’t follow it,” the Dallas Morning News reports. Levario had cited Watkins for contempt on March 7 when he refused to testify during a hearing on allegations that his office was improperly prosecuting an oil heir. Watkins had claimed his work is privileged.

On Friday, Judge Bob Brotherton said Levario should not have granted the hearing sought by oil heir Al Hill III without proof of misconduct, the story says. Lawyers for Watkins had argued that Hill’s lawyers had used the hearing in an effort to obtain the evidence.

Levario had dismissed the case against Hill after Watkins refused to testify. The case had alleged Hill took out a $500,000 loan using the home where he lived as collateral. Hill, a great-grandson of the late H.L. Hunt, owned only 20 percent of the home, the indictment had alleged. A trust benefiting Hill’s father owned the rest of the home, prosecutors said.

Hill’s lawyers had claimed the mortgage-fraud case against their client was brought as a favor for Watkins’ friend and campaign donor, Lisa Blue, who was among three lawyers seeking attorney fees from Hill in federal court in a dispute over family money. Hill has said the indictments kept him from testifying in the attorney fee case. He was ordered to pay $22 million.

A lawyer for Levario, Tom Mills, defended his client. “Judge Levario knew the law. Judge Brotherton, in a brand-new hearing, simply came to a different decision,” Mills told the Dallas Morning News. “There is no basis for him to say she didn’t apply the law properly.”

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