Family Injustice: Fishing For FairnessShare this story:
Our investigations of FAMILY INJUSTICE have exposed the unfairness of family courts all over the country, but this is a first. There are accusations a Liberty County Judge is playing favorites with his supposed fishing buddy.
It was a horrible wreck.
The collision in March between a motorcycle and a car on Highway 31. Right in the heart of the east Texas town of Athens.
Paramedics tried CPR to try and save motorcyclist Dustin Esmond.
The 26-year-old was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late – he was already dead.
Mom Debra Robinson remembers arriving at the emergency room.
“I just froze I just stopped. I don’t know what I was thinking, if I don’t go in there it’s not true,” recalls Debra Robinson.
“And when she opened the door she pushed the curtains back… he was just lying there,” continued Robison.
It’s horrible enough for a mom or a dad to bury their only child, but the aftermath of this tragedy brings us another case of family injustice.
Debra and Dwight Esmond have been divorced for 25 years, since Dustin was just one year old.
The anger still runs deep and what happened that March day in Athens has only made it worse.
Debra says her ex tried to stop her from even seeing her dead son at the hospital.
“For one thing he called up to the hospital, he told the hospital charge nurse that I had left them 23 years ago and that I did not have contact with my son,” said Robinson.
Dustin didn’t leave much behind, but a fight broke out nonetheless. Even over where he would be buried.
Debra wanted to buy new burial plots at the Magnolia Cemetery here in Dayton, just two miles from where her ex lived. She lives forty-five minutes away in Spring. Seemed reasonable.
“So, I thought Dayton, that makes perfect sense to me. You know Dustin grew up there from school and that is where his dad lives, and his grandparents were over there all the time. So, you know we can go by and visit and make sure it’s taken care of,” said Robinson.
But her ex-husband insisted Dustin be buried much
farther away from his mom, almost two hours away in his family plot in Beaumont.
That’s when Debra went to court asking for help from probate judge Jason Cox.
“We ended up in Harris County and the Harris County judge asked me, will you get a fair trial if I put this back in Liberty County,” said Robinson.
“I said there’s no way that I’ll get a fair hearing out of this in any form or fashion,” continued Robinson.
That’s because her ex was the long-time Game Warden in Liberty County. Big city folks may not appreciate how connected a job that is in a rural county.
But that didn’t stop Judge Cox from punting the legal fight to liberty county the court at law Judge Tommy Chambers presided.
“My first thought is there’s no way and my attorney agreed,” recalls Robinson.
And Debra says that’s when she knew she was in real trouble.
“Well they have known each other for 30 years. Whenever I was married to Dwight they fished together,” states Robinson.
It’s not shocking that a judge in small towns sometimes knows folks involved in a legal fight, but the relationships should be fully disclosed.
To get Chambers off the case, Debra’s attorney asked that a statutory probate judge be appointed instead. But the motion was denied, and Chambers heard the case – and Debra says giving Dwight Esmond got pretty much everything he asked for.
“Dwight got the right to be the executor of my son’s estate, so he got to pick where my son was buried, he got to pick what my son was buried in, what the casket was. He got every right that you can imagine, I had no say so in anything,” states Robinson.
“And you believe this was because of the relationship between your ex-husband and the judge?” asked Dolcefino Consulting reporter Brian Collister. Debra Robinson replied, “oh absolutely, I do. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
“Just the fellowship that they had developed over the years with him being a Game Warden. I know of the fishing trips, hunting trips,” continued Robinson.
Records we got from parks and wildlife show Dwight Esmond was fired from his job as Liberty County Game Warden back in 2004. He was caught allegedly using sick time to work other jobs.
We can’t tell you if Dwight and judge Tommy Chambers have remained fishing buddies, neither man will talk to us. But to Debra, some of the damage has already been done and can’t be repaired.
Her son is now buried so far from her.
“I mean I didn’t even get a fair shake,” expressed Robinson.
Dwight’s lawyer responded by email, claiming Dustin “had no relationship with his mother due to her conduct months prior to his passing.”
We have a picture of Debra and Dustin taken a year before his death and another one taken last November. There are smiles.
It was just four months before that tragic wreck in Athens.
“I want him to be sanctioned,” expressed Robinson.
Debra has to go to court again this week to argue about who is getting insurance money, but she’s already filed this complaint against Judge Chambers with the state commission on judicial conduct claiming he should step down in the case “due to a biased and prejudiced relationship between Judge Chambers and Esmond, Judge Chambers should have stepped down.” Esmond
“Everything that he did was abuse of power,” said Robinson.
Will Judge Chambers step aside? Stay tuned.
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