DA candidate signed dismissal in case linked to bribe

Heath Harris, an announced candidate for Dallas County District Attorney, signed off on a dismissal of a criminal case that is now the subject of a bribery investigation. He is not accused of any crimes.

DALLAS -- Heath Harris, an announced candidate for Dallas County District Attorney, signed off on a dismissal of a criminal case that is now the subject of a bribery investigation.

Harris was the No. 2 prosecutor under DA Craig Watkins in 2013 when he signed a dismissal order recommending a felony charge be dropped against Wayne Joseph Sweeney.

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At the time, Sweeney was facing a charge of failure to register as a sex offender. Sweeney was convicted of sexual assault in 1981 in Wisconsin and had been required to register as a sex offender for life.

Anthony L. Robinson, former chief investigator with the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking $50,000 from Sweeney – who had been running a lucrative drug operation – in exchange for persuading an unnamed assistant district attorney to dismiss the sex offender registration case.

Harris has not been accused of having any knowledge of Robinson’s bribery scheme, and is not mentioned anywhere in Robinson’s criminal case filings in federal court.

Harris did not respond to calls for comment from WFAA-TV Wednesday.

Last year, Harris publicly announced he would challenge Susan Hawk in the 2018 Dallas County DA election. Hawk replaced Craig Watkins, Harris’s former boss, last year. Harris is now in private practice doing criminal defense work.

Former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins

Robinson is free, awaiting his Oct. 12 sentencing in federal court. He faces five years in prison.

Neither Robinson nor his attorney could be reached to answer questions about the bribery case, specifically whether anyone else at the DA’s office knew that Robinson had taken a payoff to lobby for Sweeney’s case to be dismissed.

Sweeney is currently in federal prison in Fort Worth, serving a nine-year sentence for trafficking in synthetic marijuana, known as K2.

The bribery scheme surfaced Tuesday when Robinson pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of bribery.

Robinson’s plea paperwork, unsealed Tuesday, does not identify the assistant district attorney who ultimately dismissed Sweeney’s failure to register as a sex offender case. Sweeney is also not mentioned, except for his initials, “W.S.”

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But on Wednesday, WFAA-TV confirmed Sweeney was the defendant Robinson took money from in exchange for helping get a dismissal.

On Wednesday, WFAA-TV also obtained the dismissal order in question (See below). It appears to have been stamp signed by DA Craig Watkins and co-signed by Heath Harris. Another assistant district attorney signed it, but the signature is not legible.

Watkins, who is now in private practice in Dallas, did not return phone calls. His office said he is on vacation and is not available to answer questions.

According to court documents in Robinson’s bribery case, Robinson, 53, of Mesquite, and Sweeney, 56, struck up the bribery arrangement when Robinson traveled to Las Vegas in 2012 to arrest Sweeney on a charge filed by Dallas police for failure to register as a sex offender.

On the return trip, according to Robinson’s plea papers, Robinson told Sweeney that he wanted to enter the cattle business. Sweeney told Robinson that he was wealthy and would be willing to entering into business if he could get his case dropped. Robinson agreed.

On Feb. 28, 2013, Robinson drafted a business proposal saying Sweeney would provide an initial investment in the partnership. On March 26, 2013, Sweeney deposited $200,000 into a bank account, and Robinson was added as a co-signer the next day. Robinson wrote a $5,000 check to his wife, and ultimately took about $50,000, court documents show.

On May 24, 2013, Robinson “used his position as chief investigator … to persuade an assistant district attorney to dismiss the criminal charge…,” according to his plea paperwork.

Wayne Joseph Sweeney

In October 2013, after that Dallas County case was dismissed, Sweeney was charged in federal court in Dallas with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue, i.e., K2.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration learned of Sweeney’s lucrative K2 operation through an investigation of his Phoenix supplier in 2012.

Sweeney, who lived in Cancun, Mexico, and Dallas, operated a store called “Hostile Pipes” on LBJ Freeway in Dallas where he sold the illegal K2. He wired $500,000 to his supplier over 10 months, ending in July 2012, the DEA said.

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Sweeney pleaded guilty to the K2 charge in February 2014, records show.

At his federal sentencing hearing in December 2014 in Dallas, Sweeney asked for leniency, noting that he had surrendered $7 million in money and assets to the government. The government also noted that Sweeney had cooperated with the government in unspecified investigations, prompting the judge to sentence him to nine years. He could have received 30.

Email jptrahan@wfaa.com and teiserer@wfaa.com

NOTE: Below is the dismissal in question:

Dallas County DA dismissal of Wayne Sweeney felony criminal case_5.24.13 by JasonTrahan