After Dallas DA donates $30,000 to Kaufman prosecutor reward, GOP leader asks why

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 8:31 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 1 at 10:08 PM

DALLAS -- The reward for a tip leading to the arrest and indictment of suspects in the murder of Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse is now more than $71,000.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, a Democrat, is donating $30,000 of that reward money, and that's firing up Republicans.

With no quick arrest in the ambush of Hasse, who was a Dallas prosecutor from 1982-1988, Watkins said on News 8 Daybreak Friday he'll add to the reward.

"What we will do going forward, there's been a $20,000 reward from Kaufman County -- we will match that," Watkins said.

Later, when told the reward increased to $30,000, he said he'd equal that figure.

The reward comes from money seized from criminals, like drug dealers, that is held in a federal forfeiture account Watkins controls. He also oversees a $600,000 state forfeiture account, but it cannot be used as a reward in the Kaufman case. The county budget office said about $200,000 is in the federal fund, and confirmed Watkins can use it for law enforcement purposes as he wants.

Dallas County Republican Chairman Wade Emmert said he understands the desire to help, but questions Watkins spending 15 percent of the fund elsewhere.

"I think the money should be spent on operations in Dallas County, not only to protect his own prosecutors, but also to administer justice in Dallas County," Emmert said.

In response, Watkins spokeswoman at the DA's office, Debbie Denmon, wrote in a statement, "Tell Emmert to tell [Hasse's] family that the Dallas DA’s office shouldn’t help in this capacity. I would love to hear what they have to say."

Since Thursday's shooting, Watkins said his prosecutors need more security and he's criticized Dallas County commissioners for not spending more for protection for his 250 prosecutors.

"Not only just for me, but for our prosecutors who come to work everyday," said Watkins, who was first elected in 2006. "We park in the same parking spaces as those individuals that we have to prosecute. We have to get on the elevator with those individuals who are coming to court and their families."

"If he was concerned about the safety of his own prosecutors," Emmert responded, "perhaps he should use that money to bolster security in the Dallas County Courthouse."

Emmert criticized Watkins for getting involved in the Kaufman case by announcing an arrest on Thursday, to only later admit his information was wrong. Friday, Watkins apologized.

“I received what I thought was credible information, and regret that the source was wrong," Watkins said. "In hindsight, it was inappropriate to comment, and I am sorry for any confusion this caused.”

The reward money put up by Watkins may lead to arrests, and also into next year's reelection campaign as an issue for Watkins.

Former Dallas County State District Judge John Creuzot, who retired recently, has told the Dallas Morning News he's considering challenging Watkins in the Democratic primary in March 2014.

Anticipating at the moment that Watkins will be the Democratic nominee again, Emmert said Republicans believe they have recruited a very strong candidate to field against Watkins.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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