You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

State judge files motion to hold Williamson DA Jana Duty in contempt


A state district judge has filed a motion to hold Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty in contempt of court for violating a gag order in a capital murder case.

Duty could face up to a $500 fine and six months in jail if found guilty of contempt.

According to the motion filed Thursday by Judge Rick Kennon, Duty violated an order not to talk to reporters about the Crispin Harmel case and also refused to show up for a required hearing following that violation.

Duty sent an email to Kennon on May 8, the day of the hearing, saying “she felt she was not given enough respect and therefore, she would not give respect to the Court by showing up for the hearing,” the motion said.

If Kennon finds in a hearing that it can be shown that Duty is in contempt, then the presiding judge of the 3rd Administrative Judicial Region will assign another judge to determine whether she is guilty. The date that Kennon plans to hold the hearing wasn’t included in his motion.

Austin lawyer Joe Turner, a former state and federal prosecutor, said Friday that it is “very rare” for a judge to find a district attorney guilty in a contempt case. He said it would also be unusual for someone to get the maximum jail time. “Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it where a person was found guilty and had to do six months in jail,” Turner said.

Kennon said in his motion filed Thursday that he had issued a gag order in the Harmel case April 9 at the request of the district attorney’s office. It said that Duty sent him an email May 6 saying she planned to talk to the American-Statesman about a story about a defense motion in the Harmel case.

Duty said in the email she wasn’t going to talk about the facts in the case but planned to “simply defend myself.”

Kennon said that on May 7 he saw a copy of an online article published by the Statesman that contained quotes from Duty regarding the Harmel case.

Harmel is accused of strangling Jessika Kalaher in 2009 in Cedar Park. Harmel’s first trial was declared a mistrial in May 2014.

Halfway through that trial, prosecutors said they discovered software that would put time stamps on a crucial surveillance video from a Wal-Mart. The time stamps were at odds with the defense’s timeline of events.

Before Harmel’s scheduled retrial could begin March 30, his attorneys filed court documents alleging that the district attorney’s office had withheld time stamp information from the video, which violated Harmel’s right to due process.

Harmel’s attorneys were given the correct video with the time stamps on it at the beginning of the trial, Duty said last week.

In 2001, the State Bar of Texas reprimanded Duty, then the Williamson County attorney, over her release of confidential information from an executive session of the Williamson County Commissioners Court. Duty had said the information she released was included in a lawsuit she filed to try to remove then-County Judge Dan A. Gattis from office. That suit was dismissed.

The State Bar found that Duty “committed professional misconduct,” according to a court document. The grievance was one of 24 complaints commissioners had filed against Duty with the State Bar in the spring, accusing her of violating rules governing professional conduct, confidentiality of information and truthfulness in statements to others.

The bar dismissed 23 of the 24 grievances. Duty had been publicly feuding with the commissioners over various issues relating to her office for more than a year.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

BREAKING: Search crews looking for missing swimmer in McKinney Falls Park now in recovery mode, EMS says
BREAKING: Search crews looking for missing swimmer in McKinney Falls Park now in recovery mode, EMS says

Search crews looking for a male swimmer that was reported missing at McKinney Falls Park on Friday evening have ceased rescue operations and are now in recovery mode, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Emergency responders received a call about 6:30 p.m. from the 5800 block of McKinney Falls Parkway, officials said. One of the swimmer’s...
Dallas officer charged with assault in shooting death of woman
Dallas officer charged with assault in shooting death of woman

A grand jury has recommended an aggravated assault charge against a Dallas police officer who shot and killed a pregnant woman in a January confrontation involving a stolen car. The Dallas County district attorney announced Friday that Christopher Hess was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault. The charge is related to the January shooting death...
Officials ID woman who died trapped under vehicle in Jonestown

JONESTOWN Woman who died trapped under vehicle ID’d The Travis County sheriff’s office has identified the woman who died trapped under a vehicle in Jonestown on Thursday evening as 62-year-old Denise Lynn Coonrod, of Jonestown. Authorities responded at about 7 p.m. to a call from the 10000 block of Deer Canyon Drive, officials said. &ldquo...
Businesses fear more fallout may follow California travel ban to Texas
Businesses fear more fallout may follow California travel ban to Texas

California’s decision to ban its state employees from traveling to Texas on their taxpayers’ dime after Texas lawmakers passed new limits on gay parents adopting and fostering children set off a new round of recriminations Friday between the nation’s two largest states. But with the usual exchange of barbs came a new set of warnings...
GREG KELLEY CASE: Rangers’ report finds ‘previously undetected’ crimes

A Texas Rangers report looking into new allegations in the case involving Greg Kelley, who was convicted in the sexual assault of a 4-year-old boy in 2014, is soon to be finalized and hints at a finding of newly discovered criminal activity, Williamson County court documents show. However, the document will not be immediately released to the public...
More Stories