Texas Digest: Former U.S. lawmaker says he was abused at boys ranch


PUBLIC SAFETY

Ex-congressman says he was abused at boys ranch

A former congressman says he was abused as a teen when he lived at a ranch that houses at-risk children in the Texas Panhandle.

Former U.S. Rep. Bill Sarpalius, D-Amarillo, told the Amarillo Globe-News that he was sexually abused by older boys at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in the 1960s. The British newspaper The Guardian reported last week that generations of former residents allege that staffers abused them from the 1950s through at least the 1990s.

Sarpalius said he believes the abuse happened because judges sent violent teens to be housed alongside low-income boys who had no family.

A statement from the organization said it was aware of the claims regarding “harmful encounters” and apologized. The ranch is a privately funded, faith-based residential program for children ages 5 to 18.

COURTS

Second woman sues over rape kit testing delay

A woman who waited five years for charges to be filed against a man accused of raping her is suing the city of Houston, saying authorities showed deliberate indifference by allowing a backlog of untested rape kits.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the woman joined a lawsuit filed this year by another woman alleging that city officials failed to properly investigate attacks on them in 2011.

A growing number of lawsuits are being brought by victims nationwide regarding untested rape kits.

The assailant in one of the Houston cases pleaded guilty last year. A suspect in the other was charged this year.

Both women allege that DNA for their assailants could have been matched in the criminal database earlier. One says her assault might not have happened if evidence from previous victims had been tested.

COURTS

Man sentenced to 5 years for threatening judge

A man has been sentenced to five years in prison after a jury found him guilty of sending threatening Facebook messages to a judge.

The Sulphur Springs News-Telegram reported that Robert Alan Hawkins was found guilty and sentenced by a visiting judge last week. Hawkins was charged after sending several threatening Facebook messages to District Judge Eddie Northcutt in December 2016 and January 2017 including a picture of Islamic State soldiers about to execute hostages and a comment that this was the “next step.”

Hawkins had previously sent letters to Northcutt saying the judge and Hopkins County, about 75 miles northeast of Dallas, were corrupt.

Hawkins said he sent the messages to force the county to arrest him so he could expose the corruption during his trial.

COURTS

Prosecutors seek property to repay stolen funds

Prosecutors are seeking to seize nearly $1 million in property from an East Texas minister and his family, who were convicted in August of fraud charges for using hurricane relief funds to pay personal expenses and fund their Jasper church.

Walter Diggles, the former executive director of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments, was convicted on 17 counts of wire fraud and other charges. His wife, Rosie Diggles, was convicted on 12 counts of fraud and money laundering. Their adult daughter, Anita Diggles, was convicted of one conspiracy charge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Gibson is asking a judge to order the forfeiture of more than $970,000 in property purchased with the funds intended to help with recovery from hurricanes Rita, Katrina, Ike and Dolly.

VICTORIA

Dozens of transit vehicles burned in fire

A fire that broke out early Saturday burned more than 30 city transit vehicles in Victoria, where residents were already struggling for transportation after losing cars in the flooding from Hurricane Harvey in August.

The Victoria Advocate reported that firefighters responded about 4:20 a.m. Saturday to an area where dozens of buses were stored. Three or four buses were already engulfed in flames at that time.

Transit authority representatives said 32 buses and transit vehicles were burned, but the extent of the damage was unclear. About 21 buses were not burned.

Transit authority officials said they will survey the damage and determine what limited routes they can offer.



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