MESQUITE, Texas — The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office says that a municipal judge in Mesquite is responsible for no wrongdoing, after investigating claims that he signed a blank warrant provided to him by an officer.
But a local DWI attorney says that judge and the warrants he’s signed should now be reviewed.
The claim surfaced during a DWI stop in 2016 that was recorded via body camera. In it, two officers can be seen assisting two other officers who are performing a field sobriety test on a suspect.
The officer wearing the camera, Chris Odom, can be heard talking with another officer about securing a warrant for the suspect who was stopped.
But then, he jokingly says something that’s no laughing matter. According to court documents, he says he knows an officer named Timothy Roundtree who got Judge Steve Crane to sign a blank warrant for him one time.
Whether an officer is requesting a judge to search property, make an arrest, or do a blood draw for a DWI case—a narrative for probable cause must be provided.
In the video, you hear him say, “Roundtree had Crane sign a blank one—one time. No narrative. Signed it. Put whatever you need in there!” Odom exclaims.
The other officer responds, “That’s not surprising. Crane? Yeah.”
The attorney for the suspect in the 2016 case, used the video to question the credibility of the judge and the officers during the stop in open court.
The case was ultimately dismissed.
According to the Public Integrity Unit within the district attorney’s office, the comments made in the video came to their attention in February of this year.
Jason Hermus, the Chief Prosecutor of the Public Integrity Unit, told WFAA that it contacted Odom on February 19 to discuss what he said in the video.
Hermus told WFAA that Odom said that he admitted to spreading an inaccurate rumor and that he was repeating it because he had heard it from someone else.
Ultimately, Hermus told WFAA that there was no evidence to substantiate what Odom had said and that the investigation ended.
Hermus also said that Mesquite Police conducted their own investigation and found nothing. He even added that they had no prior complaints about Crane and have received none since February.
But a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office went on to say that Odom was never questioned under oath and that Judge Crane was never even contacted or interviewed.
DWI Attorney Deandra Grant has a big problem with that. “I would like to see the documentation that these things happened,” Grant said. “I’m more of a prove it to me than just tell me on the phone that you did something.”
Grant says she now representing a suspect who was arrested by Odom, and that Judge Crane signed a warrant to test that suspect’s blood alcohol level.
The trial for Grant’s client is next month, and she says that the video puts Crane’s and Odom’s credibility in question. “Once I listened to it, I was very shocked at the cavalier attitude of the officers, discussing a judge signing a blank warrant,” Grant said. “Their attitude is that this is something he does all the time.”
Grant said she filed court documents Thursday to question Crane and Odom in court next month.
Crane was not able to be reached Thursday. Messages left with his office in Mesquite weren't returned.
However, Crane did tell the Dallas Morning News that he denied ever signing a blank warrant.
Mesquite Chief of Police Charles Cato sent WFAA a statement about the video.
It says, “The claims of our court system issuing blank search warrants is untrue. These accusations were investigated in February of 2018 by the Dallas County District Attorney and the case was closed with no finding of wrongdoing.”
The statement continues saying, “Today, I personally spoke with Judge Faith Johnson, Dallas County District Attorney and she verified that there is no active investigation, and also confirmed there was no validity to these claims. The fact that others are now passing judgment on our integrity is unacceptable. Earning and maintaining the public’s trust is of paramount importance and we will continue in our efforts to do just that.”
Chief Cato also added in the release that, “There are several checks and balances that go into the issuance of a search or arrest warrant. There are multiple signatures and layers of oversight in place to prevent any misuse of the court system.”