Attorney General Threatens Lawsuit Against DA for Open Records Violation
Waco, TX–After the McLennan County District Attorney refused to provide public information relating to former Constable Stanley Hickey’s Official Oppression prosecution, the Office of the Attorney General determined that the DA’s office “violated the Public Information Act.”
In a determination dated 4/27/22, Assistant Attorney General Charles Falck advised McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson he had four days to release public information or the Attorney General would file a lawsuit to compel release of the information.
The Determination Letter was in response to a complaint filed by R.S. Gates over the failure of the District Attorney to release information related to the Indictment of retired Constable Pct. 4 Stan Hickey.
Falck Wrote: “The McLennan County District Attorney’s Office violated the Public Information Act by failing to release responsive information..”
Gates is employed as an investigator for Vyper Investigation and Legal Support LLC. Gates has followed the case since shortly after the offense date of 6/29/18. Then Constable Stan Hickey, whose precinct includes Gates, was indicted almost a year after the offense for Official Oppression. Gates noted Hickey was very involved in local politics and endorsed the current Constable Pct. 4 Charlie Gurrero in the March Primary.
Gates said “What you have is a McLennan County Elected Official (Hickey) engaged in criminal conduct and another McLennan County Elected Official (Barry Johnson) engaged in criminal conduct to cover up the original offense.”
Gates points to Texas Government Code Sec. 552.353:
Sec. 552.353. FAILURE OR REFUSAL OF OFFICER FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION TO PROVIDE ACCESS TO OR COPYING OF PUBLIC INFORMATION. (a) An officer for public information, or the officer’s agent, commits an offense if, with criminal negligence, the officer or the officer’s agent fails or refuses to give access to, or to permit or provide copying of, public information to a requestor as provided by this chapter.
Gates, who has been a licensed Texas police officer for more than 30 years, has extensive experience with the Texas Public Information Act and secured a similar ruling from the Attorney General when former District Attorney Abel Reyna withheld public information in violation of the Act.
Gates points to Texas Failure to Identify statute. He notes charges are not dropped because the police later determine the identity of the person.
Sec. 38.02. FAILURE TO IDENTIFY. (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.
Gates says he found it very interesting Hickey was given an almost $8K raise while under indictment.
It is further confounding considering the recent disposition of the same charges against a jailer. The Jailer was fired after being indicted. She was given 12 months probation while Hickey received 6 months in his pre-trial agreement and continued his employment until he chose his successor.
A review of the information withheld, in violation of the law, by the DA establishes motive for the DA not to release the information. The first notable thing is the victim was not contacted and appears to have had no input on the disposition of the case. It is additionally notable in his statement, not only does Hickey not take responsibility for the offense, he blames the victim. Pre-trial intervention represents it is an alternative to the judicial system where the interests of justice are met. Those interests include the suspect taking responsibility and the rights of the victim. Both were clearly ignored in this disposition and it is compounded by the DA breaking the law to cover it up.
If you are curious why this was not “news” the prevailing theory is that the public is not smart enough to understand the issue and if they can’t understand, it is not news.