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Harris County criminal court judge indicted

Oops.

A Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law judge was indicted Thursday on a misdemeanor charge of official oppression, accused of offering to get a DWI defendant in his court help getting her case dismissed in exchange for a sexual relationship.

According to the indictment, Judge Donald W. Jackson, 59, offered to get the young woman “a different attorney to get her case dismissed if she would be interested in the defendant and enter into a relationship with him that was more than a one-night stand.”

If convicted, the 17-year judge could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Although only one incident is alleged, prosecutors said Jackson committed the offense in three possible ways on Feb. 19: unwelcome sexual advances, a request for sexual favors and verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

The subject of the judge’s alleged actions, Ariana M. Venegas, was charged with driving while intoxicated on Feb. 1 and her case ended up in Jackson’s court. The 27-year-old Tomball woman gave a Harris County grand jury a sworn affidavit and is cooperating with prosecutors in the case, her attorneys said.

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The charge was handed down amid rampant courthouse speculation fueled, in part, after Jackson recused himself from Venegas’ case on June 3.

Joe Stinebaker, spokesman for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, said County Court-at-Law Judge Jean Hughes, the administrative judge over the county criminal courts, will appoint a special judge to take over Jackson’s docket.

Stinebaker said the district attorney’s office will notify the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, which will decide if suspension is appropriate, and if so, whether the suspension should be with or without pay.

Bob Wessels, courts manager for the County Criminal Courts at Law, said Jackson was expected to remain on the county payroll drawing a $140,000 salary while the case is pending.

Jackson posted bail of $1,000. The charge, a misdemeanor, will be handled by the 351st state District Court, a felony court, because of Jackson’s position.

There had been rumors about Judge Jackson resigning from the bench for at least two weeks, which is when I first heard about this. Hair Balls made fun of local defense attorney/blogger Paul Kennedy for jumping on what turned out to be a premature report, then having to retract it. Turns out that Kennedy, who posted a copy of the indictment, got to say that he was right all along. I look forward to hearing what Judge Jackson’s defense is.

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3 Comments

  1. Baby Snooks says:

    You really do have to wonder about what we have sitting on our benches. And why they’re still sitting on our benches.

    And then there is the newbie who questioned a rape victim as to how she was raped if she was “on top” which of course happens if the victim is in fear of her life. Never mind the jury had already convicted the rapist. At least he didn’t ask if she enjoyed it.

  2. […] aren’t done investigating Harris County Criminal Court Judge Don Jackson, who was indicted this week on charges of official oppression. Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Harris County District […]

  3. […] may recall the case of Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law Judge Don Jackson, who was indicted in August on a misdemeanor charge of official oppression, after being accused of offering a DWI defendant a […]