DALLAS - A state district judge cleared Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins of a contempt of court charge Friday morning.
Judge Bob Brotherton, a Republican from Wichita Falls, called the hearing improper and acquitted Watkins.
"I appreciate the verdict by the judge," Watkins said. "He followed the law."
It took Judge Brotherton only a few minutes to clear Watkins.
"The court enters the judgment of acquittal of the contempt matter,” he said.
The contempt charge stems from a case in which Watkins was accused of prosecutorial misconduct and refused to testify.
Watkins was accused of bringing fraud charges against Al Hill III as a favor to the district attorney's political benefactor Lisa Blue. In March, State District Judge Lena Levario dismissed the misconduct charges against Watkins but held the district attorney in contempt when he cited "privilege" as his reason for not testifying during the trial.
Watkins' attorneys argued the hearing was improper and a fishing expedition for information.
The judge agreed.
Brotherton served as the judge presiding over the hearing whether to upheld the contempt charge. Had the charge been upheld, Watkins faced a $500 fine. Levario asked for the maximum amount in a rewritten contempt order after Brotherton asked the judge to file paperwork with a specific punishment.
"Judge Lena Levario reviewed hundreds of pages of evidence and heard testimony from several witnesses before deciding in March to dismiss the case against Mr. Hill due to constitutional violations by the D.A' office," said Hill’s attorney Mathew Berger. "Today’s hearing has no effect on the ruling."
Thursday, new allegations related to the Hill case arose. According to Hill's attorneys, officers searched the wealthy heir's Highland Park home under the direction of Watkins and without a search warrant.
But in an exclusive interview on WFAA's Inside Texas Politics, Watkins did not rule out reopening the criminal case against Hill.
"I will not either confirm or deny any investigation that may be going on with the Hills. I think that's improper. However, I will say this," Watkins said. "At some point, I think this case will come to a close and Mr. Hill will have this day in court."
The Dallas district attorney also responded to questions over whether the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating him for misusing his political influence.
“I would be amused and amazed I would be under FBI investigation for prosecuting cases where a person committed a crime," Watkins said. "A grand jury indicted Mr. hill in that case, not me."
Neither side is conceding that this is over.
The entire interview will air on Inside Texas Politics on Sunday morning at 9:05 a.m. on Channel 8.