Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Texas Judge Busted By Feds for Taking KickBacks During Hurricane Ike CleanUp

Phil Fitzgerald used to be a Texas district court judge, and he used to be a free man. Things change.

The Beaumont Grand Jury issued its 25-count indictment last week of former Judge Fitzgerald along with a contractor (Fitzgerald's brother-in-law, Mark Miksch, 52, of La Vernia) and another Liberty County official (former Liberty County Commissioner Lee Groce, 62) charging the Judge with taking over $600,000 in kickbacks for awarding government clean-up contracts that dispensed federal funds to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

According to the federal indictment, Judge Fitzgerald allegedly conspired with Commissioner Groce to award $3,200,000 million in debris removal contracts over to contractor Miksch. He also allegedly scarfed up a generator for his personal use that had been paid for by federal monies (allegedly, he kept the power up at his convenience store with the generator during power outages).

Judge Fitzgerald isn't going down without a fight, however.

Fitzgerald has made his position clear by a letter published in the local press, and now routed through the national media, which states in part:

"Had the government allowed us the opportunity to present our side of the story before seeking an indictment, we are confident there would be no indictment. However, because of their refusal, we will now have to have a trial in this case, at considerable expense to Judge Fitzgerald and the taxpayers, in order for us to tell our side of the story."
Fitzgerald and Groce both lost their reelection bids last Fall, two more Democrats falling to Republican replacements.  Groce had served as Liberty County Commissioner for almost 25 years; Fitzgerald had presided over his district court bench for four years. 

This should be an interesting trial, folks.