Wednesday, December 02, 2009

JUDGE WATCH: Former Dallas Judge and TYC Ombudsman Faces Felony Indictment

In the 1990s, Catherine Evans sat as a state district judge here in Dallas County. Maybe you remember her from her days on the bench.

Maybe you know her as the chosen "ombudsman" for the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) -- a couple of months ago, Gov. Perry named Cathy Evans as the person responsible for insuring that minors confined in the state's juvenile facilities were kept safe. (In between these two stints, Evans served as a commissioner of the Texas Juvenile Probation and on both the Dallas County Juvenile Advisory Board and the TYC Advisory Board.)

And that's where the story starts to get strange. Really, really strange.

Keeping kids safe who are under the lock and key of the Texas Juvenile Justice system is important, and it's scary to think how often these children are NOT safe while in the state's care.

Back in March 2007, there was a national scandal surrounding the Texas Youth Commission -- and the entire TYC Board was forced to resign as a growing number of criminal allegations were being made against Commission staff, and media reports were escalating about the improprieties within the juvenile correctional system. It was a Major. Big. Deal.

Part of the TYC Fix was the Appointment of an Ombudsman

The number of
stories of the 2007 abuses in the care of minors in Texas lockups is simply too numerous to mention here. It was amazing in its horror, and the description that the system was in "shambles" was not an exaggeration.

So, when the Ombudsman position was created, it would seem like the Head of the Cavalry had been identified. In this job, Catherine Evans was to investigate complaints and problems within the juvenile lockups. You can almost see one of those "The Buck Stops Here" placards on her desk, right?

So, What's the Ombudsman Doing Allegedly Smuggling a Knife, a Cellphone, and Drugs into a TYC facility?

According to the felony indictment, Ombudsman Evans was found trying to smuggle a knife, a cellphone, and prescription drugs into the TYC unit in Crockett, Texas. Officially, she is charged with "possession of a prohibited item in a prison facility" and if convicted, she faces 2 to 10 years imprisonment.

Remember now: Cathy Evans was a state district judge for several years before being appointed to this job by Gov. Rick Perry. What the heck is going on here?

Evans has denied any wrongdoing. She agreed to resign and her replacement will be named "as soon as possible," according to the Governor's Office.

And, it's being reported that the knife was a Swiss Army Knife; the cellphone was hers; and the "white powdery" substance found in a vial in her purse that tested positive for amphetamines turned out to be dish washing detergent.

Sounds like she was just lax in checking out her bag before going into the facility, right? Except it's STILL a felony to bring this stuff in, she's not in a position to claim ignorance (if that was an excuse, which it's not), and she's still gonna face felony charges.

Texas judge. Felony. Wonder if the newspapers re-use the same headlines, and just change the name, to save time these days?