Judge refuses to block release of Caraway tapes

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by DAVID SCHECHTER, DEBBIE DENMON and CRAIG CIVALE

WFAA

Posted on March 22, 2011 at 4:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 23 at 10:59 AM

DALLAS — A judge Tuesday night denied a request by Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway to block the release of police records about a domestic disturbance at his home.

The ruling by State District Judge Teresa Guerra Snelson means a recording and documents can be released Wednesday.

"What is on the tape and what the world will will hear is something that's between two people," Caraway told reporters after the decision was announced. He had argued that if the information about the dispute is made public, it will have a tremendous impact on his marriage.

The decision to release the records followed a day of testimony from Mayor Caraway and others.

Police were called to the residence that  Caraway shares with his wife, State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway, on January 2, before he assumed office as mayor.

At first, Caraway said the disturbance involved two other friends, but later admitted the incident was between him and his wife.

When asked about the discrepancy in his description of what happened that night, Caraway said: "I take the Fifth (Amendment)." But he was adamant that he had done nothing illegal.

"I responded correctly to the Dallas police and I did not falsify information to them, and I owe no one else anything other than that," he said. "I responded and I did not break the law."

On the witness stand for about two hours, Caraway told the court he had locked himself in his TV room after getting into a fight with his wife and called several friends, including Dallas police Chief David Brown. Caraway said he called Brown as a friend, not because he wanted officers to come to his home.

Caraway said he wanted to defuse the domestic argument he and his wife were having.

The mayor said he made embarrassing and private statements to police. He said he did not know his comments were being recorded.

He testified that he wants people to know he is not suing the city as the mayor, but rather as a private citizen to protect his family.

"As an American before being an elected official under the Constitution of the United States of America, I have the right as an American citizen to use the system that will allow me to protect my marriage in the privacy of my home," Caraway said, speaking slowly and deliberately.

One week after he took over for Mayor Tom Leppert, who resigned, Caraway sued the city for a temporary restraining order. He won the right to keep the records sealed for two weeks, but that order is about to expire.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said the records are public and must be released.

With Deputy Chief Craig Miller on the stand, Caraway's attorney tried to paint the situation as more of a police welfare check than an investigation; as such, not subject to being released to the public.

It was made clear that Caraway did not ask for any favors from Miller. "He was very calm, very professional," Chief Miller said.

Miller conceded, however, that it was highly unusual for him and his elite Special Investigations Unit to be at Caraway's home in the first place.

Here's a timeline of events on January 2:

  • 7:30 p.m. incident occurs
  • 8:00 p.m. Caraway calls Dallas police Chief David Brown
  • 8:15 p.m. Special Investigations Unit called to meet with Chief Brown
  • 9:30 p.m. Special Investigations Unit meets with Caraway

Miller testified that before Chief Brown called the unit in, it had never responded to a domestic disturbance.

Attorney Paul Watler represents The Dallas Morning News, which requested the records. He argued there is no valid legal argument to keep the information private, saying they are official documents and an audio recording of the initial meeting between Caraway and police.

Caraway said he did not know he was being taped.

"So it was a perfectly lawful, legal, voluntary recording made in the course of official police business?" Watler asked.

"That's correct," Miller responded.

Watler argued that because Caraway changed his story about what happened that night, release of the information is in the public interest.

"This fight is over. I'm done," Caraway said as he left the courthouse. "Don't put a camera in my face. Don't ask me for no interviews, don't do anything."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com and ddenmon@wfaa.com and ccivale@wfaa.com

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