Dallas DA again rejects corruption probe help

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by BRETT SHIPP / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on March 31, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 1 at 4:57 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

News 8 has learned that the Texas Attorney General's office has offered to help investigate alleged corruption in Dallas County on two occasions, and -- for the second time -- the AG's help has been rejected by Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins.

Dallas County Commissioners say they knew about last summer's offer by the Attorney General to help investigate alleged corruption by Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes. But some are livid to learn that five weeks ago, the AG again offered his assistance, and again, Watkins said "no."

At issue: Allegations of kickbacks and abuse of office Jaime Cortes, brought to light last month by an external investigative report.

The allegations surfaced last year, and despite the report including 23 sworn affidavits, Watkins remains quiet about potential prosecution.

County Commissioner Ken Mayfield says Watkins is not going to prosecute a fellow Democrat.  "But he is protecting them, and that is against the oath that he took as District Attorney of Dallas County," Mayfield said.

Mayfield is really upset about a letter dated February 23 from the Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice, Eric J. R. Nichols, to Craig Watkins.

"We initially made an offer to your office in August 2009, and we were told at that time your office would not accept our offer," Nichols wrote.  "If your your office's position has changed, we stand ready to assist... either as assistant prosecuting attorneys...or as DA pro tem."

"There's a very strong message there," said Dallas County Commissioner Maurine Dickey.  "Nicely put, but the message is that we need to investigate this. It must be investigated."

Watkins declined to discuss the letter from Austin or the case against Cortes. He is urging Commissioners to not jump to conclusions, even though he is declining the AG's new offer to become involved.

"Now the citizens of Dallas County should be outraged, should demand that he resign his office," Mayfield said, referring to Watkins.   "He has thwarted this investigation; he is protecting public officials who happen to be Democrats."

Commissioner Mayfield and County Judge Jim Foster Wednesday traveled to Austin to meet with the Attorney General. The are turning over what they say is new evidence of more corruption -- voter fraud they say Watkins, again, refuses to investigate.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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