DALLAS –– A state district judge has set a date for Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins' contempt of court hearing: 9 a.m. Monday, July 15 in the Crowley Courts Building.
Judge Bob Brotherton, of the 30th District Court of Wichita County, announced the date in an email Tuesday afternoon. He did not specify which courtroom will be used. First, the judge will consider a motion filed by Watkins asking for the contempt charge to be dismissed.
"If that motion is granted, the matter will be concluded at the trial level, subject to an appeal by the Attorney Pro Tem," Brotherton wrote in an email. "If the motion to dismiss is denied, we will proceed to hear the de novo trial of the contempt matter."
Watkins was held in contempt of court on March 7 by Judge Lena Levario, who subpoenaed the district attorney to testify in a misconduct hearing against him. Watkins refused, citing 'privilege.'
The district attorney faced allegations of prosecutorial misconduct stemming from whether his office indicted prominent oil heir Al Hill III for mortgage fraud as a favor to friend and campaign contributor Lisa Blue. Judge Levario later dismissed that case after Watkins refused to testify.
He has strongly denied the misconduct accusations against him.
"We are of a position that everything else you've been reporting on is smoke and mirrors, it has no merit," Watkins said to reporters on March 29. "That will be played out in court at some point. But as a district attorney, I have a job to do, and I can't stop doing that job because of a defense attorney saying something was done nefariously with our office."
On March 21, Judge Brotherton assigned a special prosecutor to investigate the contempt of court violation. Cooke County prosecutor Ron Poole will handle the proceedings. Brotherton was assigned at the behest of Watkins' office, which asked to have an outside judge preside over it.
Should the contempt ruling be upheld, Watkins could be sent to jail for up to six months or be ordered to pay a fine of up to $500. The judge could also choose not to issue any punishment for Dallas County's top law enforcement official.