A judge in Texas has been accused of issuing blank warrants in order to give local cops the authority to draw blood from motorists whenever they so desire. Now Dallas County authorities stand accused of covering the whole thing up.
Body camera footage from 2016–just recently released to the public–features Mesquite Police Department Officers Nichole Shire and Christopher Odom engaged in a discussion about Mesquite Police Department Officer Timothy Roundtree and Mesquite Judge Steve Crane.
In the video, Officer Shire says:
[He] basically signed the warrant “judge.” Just “judge.” Sent it back. “There you go!” I was like, no.
Officer Odom then provides his own anecdote about the judge in question. He says:
Roundtree had Crane sign a blank one, one time. No narrative. Just signed it. “Put whatever you need in there.”
To which Officer Shire responds, “Well, that sounds about right. Crane? Yeah.”
In 2016, the above-referenced clip was played in a Dallas County courtroom during a hearing on DWI charges against a blood-drawn defendant. Attorney Shea Eric Baggett said the video was shown to discredit Officer Odom’s testimony. Immediately after the clip was shown, Dallas Assistant District Attorney Justin Lord dismissed the charges, according to defense attorney Deandra Grant. Court records note that the case was dismissed “in the interest of justice.”
Grant was not the attorney on that case. Rather, she currently represents a different defendant on similar charges–her client had his blood seized by Officer Odom based on a warrant signed by Judge Crane.
In comments to the Dallas Morning News, Grant said, “The attitude of the two cops on the video leads me to believe this behavior is par-for-the-course for Crane.” Judge Crane disputed that accusation. Also speaking with the Morning News, the judge said, “There is no blank warrant.”
Mesquite Police Chief Charles Cato took Judge Crane’s side in the dispute. He said, “The fact that others are now passing judgment on our integrity is unacceptable.” Cato also said that a February investigation by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office found no wrongdoing on anyone’s part.
In comments to Law&Crime, Grant took issue with those findings. She said, “They didn’t investigate squat. Crane said this week no one has ever spoken to him about it. Some investigation.”
The Morning News backs up Grant’s assertion. Their report notes that “[Crane] said he had never heard the allegation until he was approached this week.”
And, according to local ABC affiliate WFAA 8, “[Officer] Odom was never questioned under oath and…Judge Crane was never even contacted or interviewed.”
Law&Crime reached out to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office for more information.
Public Information Officer Kimberlee Leach was unable to provide specifics about the case in question. She said, “I don’t know why that one particular [case] was dismissed.”
Unprompted, however, Leach went out of her way to note, that “there was no truth to the judge writing blank warrants.”
“[The officer] later recanted, said he was only relaying a rumor–something he heard second or third-hand,” Leach said, “There is no mass writing of blank warrants.”
In additional comments to Law&Crime, Leach said:
In [February] of 2018 the Public Integrity Unit was made aware of a rumor that Judge Crane was signing blank warrants…Our office was told the person complaining of/implicating Judge Crane was Mesquite Police Officer Odom…Odom explained that he had spread a rumor that he had heard from another that Crane had signed a warrant without an attached narrative but that he had subsequently learned that that information was incorrect and that there was no truth to the rumor he had improperly spread.
Officer Odom’s disavowal of his previous statement was apparently good enough for Dallas County authorities to shutter their investigation into the matter.
“He unambiguously stated that Judge Crane does not sign blank warrants. He unambiguously states that the rumor was false,” Leach noted via email. “Based on this explanation from the source of the information and there being nothing else to pursue we closed our inquiry.”
While Odom was never questioned under oath by authorities, he was questioned under oath by Baggett during the 2016 case. Grant also provided a snippet of Odom’s sworn testimony from that exchange. In his testimony, Officer Odom confirms that Officer Roundtree said the blank warrant was from Crane.
“I didn’t find out about it till it was long after the fact,” Odom said. “And I don’t know how they resolved that issue.”
In her Facebook post, Grant notes:
The DA’s Office claimed yesterday that they didn’t know about these allegations until Feb 2018. (At my house we call that bullshit) MPD claims this was all a “joke”. Both claim they conducted an “investigation” yet Judge Crane stated yesterday this is the first he’s ever heard of it. You folks can make up your own minds.
[image via screengrab/Mesquite Police Department]
Editor’s note: this article has been amended post-publication to include a additional direct quote from Leach.