Category: CRIMINAL CASES

Not guilty

INDECENCY WITH A CHILD BY CONTACT

Criminal Charge: Indecency with a Child by Contact
Case: State v. Acquitted Defendant [F13-xxxxx] [Dallas County]
Result: Not Guilty Verdict


Summary: In this classic case of a child seeking attention during her parents’ divorce, Haslam and iconic Dallas trial lawyer Frank Jackson tried this felony to a jury in the summer of 2016. The defendant – whose name is omitted here because a jury acquitted him – was charged with illegally touching a granddaughter twice during family gatherings.  The jury took only an hour to acquit him after a three day trial.

The early teenage granddaughter actually admitted to a Dallas County District Attorney prosecutor two weeks before trial that she was “uncertain” her allegations had occurred.  While the prosecutor informed the defense of the admission, she didn’t inform the so-called expert who testified for the prosecution that the granddaughter exhibited many behaviors consistent with a sexual assault victim.  On cross examination, this “expert”, a woman with a college degree who routinely “testifies” for the Dallas County District Attorney, admitted the child should have been interviewed by her organization, the Dallas County Child Advocacy Center, after the admission because this kind of recantation is inconsistent with actual sexual assault. She further admitted that had she been made aware of this admission by the granddaughter, she would have told the prosecutor the young woman should be re-interviewed.

The case is just one more illustration of the reality that prosecutors can lose their commitment to truth in the blind devotion to career advancement. And an illustration of the value of experienced trial counsel.

Plea Bargain

CONSPIRACY TO DISTRIBUTE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE

Criminal Charge: Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance and Unlawful Use of a Communication Facility
Case: U.S. v. Tasmin Stewart [3:15-cr-44-D(22)][NDTX]
Result: Defendant sentenced to time served


Summary:

Mr. Stewart was charged in a two-count indictment for [i] conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance [oxycodone & hydrocodone] in violation of 21 U.S.C. 846, and [ii] unlawful use of a communication facility in violation of 21 U.S.C. 843[b].  The U.S. Attorney alleged he bought pills from a man engaged in a large-scale corruption of Texas health-care facilities.

While the allegations contended only a single purchase, conspiracy law casts a broad legal net that can make even someone who had no idea about the greater scheme nonetheless guilty of conspiring to advance the scheme. The use of a telecommunication facility statute criminalizes the use of devices as common as cell phones when used during the commission of a crime.

In this case, the DOJ dropped the much more serious conspiracy count.  However, the government sought the statutory maximum 48 month sentence for the remaining count phone count.

After a sentencing hearing that involved witnesses called to the stand and examined by Haslam before the federal judge, the Court sentenced Mr. Stewart to only 27 months in prison.  After the hearing, however, the government advised it expected Mr. Stewart to be held for a substantial amount of time before his release. Haslam promptly challenged this position, and persuaded the Bureau of Prisons that an accurate accounting of his time credits warranted immediate release.

Mr. Stewart was released from custody to just one year of supervised probation the day after his sentencing.

Plea Bargain

CONSPIRACY TO POSSESS WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE

Criminal Charge: Count 1: Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, Count 2: Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance.
Case: US v Christopher Alexander [3:14-cr-367-B(35)][NDTX]
Result: Guilty Plea


Summary:

In this case with almost 70 codefendants, the federal government alleged Mr. Alexander drove a man to a Dallas area motel put him together with a seller of meth.  To increase the sentencing ramifications, the government further alleged the meth was from Mexico.

Federal drug prosecutions increase the sentence as the drug amount increases and as the defendant’s criminal history increases.  In this case, the Garland DPS lab conducted the lab tests.  In a fascinating development, lab analysts refused to qualify the meth presented to it by law enforcement as “actual” meth rather than a meth mixture, a characterization that vastly increases the sentence. In response to this refusal, the the U.S. Probation and Parole Office employed an equation to up-convert the quantity reported by the lab to a greater quantity of actual meth.  And, then, of course, the USP&P Office reported that greater amount to the Court in its Presentence Report after Mr. Alexander plead guilty.

Haslam challenged this process as a deception on the Court: the proposition that federal probation officers are conducting organic chemical analysis in felony prosecutions is unauthorized, and for good reason. When confronted with this issue by Haslam, the AUSA prosecuting the case agreed to plea Mr. Alexander to the low end-point of his sentencing range under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines to avoid an evidentiary hearing that would reveal this practice to the federal judge.