Burnet County judge apologizes for ‘time for a tree and a rope’ comment

The top elected official in Burnet County commented on Facebook that it is “time for a tree and a rope” in a post about the African-American man accused of killing San Antonio police Det. Benjamin Marconi this weekend. County Judge James Oakley apologized for the comment Wednesday.

Oakley appears to have posted the comment Monday, after Otis Tyrone McKane was arrested and charged with killing Marconi. James Walker, a former reporter for the Burnet Bulletin who now works for the Weatherford Democrat newspaper outside Fort Worth, said he saw Oakley’s comment, took a screenshot of it and shared it Tuesday morning. The post no longer appears on Facebook.

Oakley said his comment was “off the cuff” and “indeed curt and harsh.”

“It is for that reason that I deleted it soon after posting and apologize for not being more thoughtful and comprehensive in my expression,” Oakley told the American-Statesman in an email. “What I should have posted, if anything, is a comment that more clearly reflects my opinion on the cowardly crime of the senseless murder of a law enforcement officer.”

His view of McKane “is the same regardless of ethnicity,” Oakley said.

“To be clear, I advocate due process,” Oakley said. “I also support the death penalty in cases where the ultimate crime has been committed and there is clear and complete evidence and where all steps of the judicial process have been respected. I would also point out that I am an administrative judge and do not preside over criminal court.”

In addition to presiding over a five-member commissioner’s court in Burnet County, Oakley is also on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s executive committee and on the boards of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and the Pedernales Electric Cooperative.

The PEC issued a statement Wednesday about Oakley’s comment, saying that the utility “does not condone any type of offensive language. Comments such as these are not a reflection of our cooperative values. We proudly welcome and serve all members.”

The blog PEC Truthwatch, run by Larry Landaker, who previously served on the Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s board, blogged about Oakley’s “tree and a rope” comment.

“What Mr. Oakley suggested was racist,” the blog post read. “A sitting County Judge in Texas has suggested that a black man accused of a crime … should be lynched. … There is no place on the PEC board of directors for an open racist. This is not political correctness. It is racism in its rawest form.”

Landaker has been an opponent of Oakley’s. In June, he argued in his blog that Oakley should not be re-elected to the PEC board.

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