The Witch Is Dead

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Our fight with the controversial Angelina County District Attorney Janet Cassels is over. She hasn’t melted, or been squashed by a house, but she has surrendered.


Maybe it’s a little mean spirited to make Janet Cassels some kind of witch of the east, but the Wizard of Oz just seems to fit this ongoing East Texas investigation just fine.

No, she didn’t send any flying monkeys to our Houston headquarters.

But she fought us every step of the way, even wasting county resources taking us to court just to try and find out who may have hired us to investigate. Of course she lost.

Angelina County taxpayers should celebrate Cassels’ resignation. It comes ten months before her first term as Angelina County District Attorney was set to expire.

She was accused by multiple employees of bullying. The exodus from the DA’s office was unprecedented.

It may help explain why the backlog of felony cases got so high. Some had been in jail six years without a trial.

We highlighted the plight of Tyler Lopez in January of last year. He had been in jail for a year and half waiting for a trial date, accused of being part of an organized crime burglary ring.

Here is a Dolcefino Consulting flashback.

We don’t know whether he’s guilty or not, but his friend is coming to us for help.

“I’ve tried every avenue just to get somebody to listen, just somebody to actually listen to the case,” said Steve Dubose.

Shortly after that video, Lopez got out of jail.

“So thank you guys for what you’re doing for Angelina county,” Dubose said.

Steve Dubose just posted this video on YouTube. We are glad to know that Tyler is working.

But it was Cassels’ apparent treatment of crime victims that really is the final straw here.

And Cassels leaves office still breaking one of the laws she was elected to enforce, The Texas Public Information Act.

For months, Cassels has ignored our requests to see emails that would have helped expose her mistreatment of victims.

And when we repeatedly complained to the County Attorney Cary Kirby, well we got silence.

We never asked Kirby to follow the yellow brick road, just the major discrepancies of what happened to millions of dollars in asphalt money.

“Cary Kirby is not seeking reelection as well, as of your videos,” Dubose said.

Neither is Commissioner Terry Pitts.

Pitts has never been forced to explain how he used up all that tax money he got for paving roads, but fixed only fifty percent of the roads he said he could with that much asphalt.

So where did all the asphalt go?

The County Judge care to unravel the mystery, and the county auditor, she simply hasn’t done her job.

The new DA is going to be the only guy that was on the ballot in November.

Layne Thompson, from the Nacogdoches County District Attorney’s office. Not exactly a bastion of open government either.

“Are you aware of the Justice Department investigation because of a whistleblower in the jail?” said Wayne Dolcefino.

We had to chase Thompson’s boss John Fleming around because he failed to prosecute apparent jailhouse brutality caught on camera.

“Don’t you think the taxpayers in Nacogdoches County have a right to know?” Dolcefino said.

But hey, we’re more than happy to stand ready to help Thompson restore a real sense of justice and accountability in Angelina County.

And we think one of Thompson’s first moves should be to bring an end to all the prosecutions that were clearly tainted by local politics.

Cassels should never have been allowed to bring criminal cases against the former County Judge and county commissioners because of a clear conflict of interest. They had denied her budget requests.

At the very least, it’s time for an independent prosecutor.

This way Thompson can get back to doling out justice for violent criminals, the hundreds of accused killers and child molesters currently loaded up in the county jail.

“Ms. Cassels, was it worth all the time and money just for this?” Dolcefino said.

Janet Cassels spent a ridiculous amount of resources prosecuting former County Judge Don Lymbery on Class C misdemeanor cases of violating the Open Meetings Act.

It was used to force this military veteran, who had never been charged with a crime in his entire life, out of public office.  

“I did not do what I’m being accused of. I’ve maintained that from the start,” said Don Lymbery.

Kirby improperly fought release of the alleged secret video of that meeting from us for a year even though it had already been shared with the local paper.

There were a lot of big headlines, all while the DA poured dozens of more minor charges on Lymbery.

When Angelina County taxpayers finally did see the tape at Lymbery’s trial, there wasn’t even audio on it. No way to prove Lymbery and two commissioners had illegally talked about any county business. Yet they were indicted. The tape proved nothing.

And we learned Cassels had gotten a grand jury indictment without a single witness who actually heard any improper discussion of county business.

In the end, a visiting judge found Lymbery guilty of just one misdemeanor count after two full days of trial.

And only after this guy, now former commissioner Steve Smith, who admitted he lied a lot, testified there was a brief discussion about the plans to hire a road administrator at the next meeting.

Smith changed his story after the DA promised him his criminal case would go away.

And within days of changing his story, both side streets surrounding Smith’s house in Zavalla got a fresh, expensive new paving job. Kind of rare for this place.

“I’ll be the first to admit it doesn’t look good. I didn’t like it. I thought it was unnecessary and it should have been stopped,” said County Judge Keith Wright.

But Cassels didn’t investigate that. County road officials just said it was just a coincidence. I still don’t buy it.

But it didn’t stop there. Ignoring the unacceptable backlog of murder cases, Cassels wanted next to prosecute former County Commissioner Rodney Paulette for that same meeting.

The Angelina County judges had seen enough. They said no.

But Paulette still faces accusations he misused government equipment because he asked county workers to spread some dirt, that was heading to the landfill anyway, on two private properties instead.

When we investigated, we found Paulette was only helping constituents repair damage done by the county’s negligence, like this, left because of bad county drainage or clogged culverts.

“I didn’t see anything that he had done wrong,” said resident Loyd Finch.

“Do you think it’s politics what’s going on?” Dolcefino asked.

“Is that what you call Washington?” Finch said.

“It’s a lot like Washington, isn’t it?” Dolcefino said.

The DA hasn’t reported a shred of evidence that Paulette got a dime for helping those folks.

“Corruption laws are set up to punish politicians and public officials who take bribes, who sell their office. There is simply not a shred of evidence any of that happened here. So, the DA should explain it,” Dolcefino said.

That’s why Paulette’s case should be taken up quickly.

Appointed the first time, Paulette is now running to get elected for the first time to be the commissioner of Precinct 1 again. The voters are owed a quick resolution long before election day.

Indicted former engineer Chuck Walker and his second in command were indicted too originally for a false time sheet entry on one day of work.

Their cases should be turned over to a special prosecutor.

If those cases are eventually dismissed, perhaps the county can settle a whistleblower lawsuit Walker has filed.

“I’ve been practicing law here for 54 years,” said Bob Flournoy.

It smelled like retaliation to former City Attorney Bob Flournoy from the very beginning.

Walker was the one who found the evidence Pitts had supposedly exaggerated the paving work he did while using enough asphalt to pave so many more roads.

And there has always been a disturbing connection between all these officials who were indicted that simply cannot be overlooked.

“They wanted to get rid of anybody that was defending the unit road system and Chuck Walker as an engineer,” Flournoy said.

“It’s always best to start at the beginning.”

And the beginning for us in Angelina County was investigating the relationship between Lufkin attorney Jimmy Cassels, Janet’s husband, and Judge Clyde Herrington.

Herrington was a judge. Cassels handled family cases in his court.

“I’ll walk with you,” Dolcefino said.

“No, I don’t want you walking with me, Wayne,” said Jimmy Cassels.

“Unfortunately, I’m going to walk with you if you’re going to be mean to me,” Dolcefino said.

Herrington’s law office was in Cassels’ building before he became a judge. Both refused to tell us if the judge had even paid rent. Did he owe Cassels any favors?

“Is there a law that says I can’t walk and ask you questions?” Dolcefino said.

Ryan Hunt was among a number of Angelina County residents who though it tilted the scales of justice.

“You think anyone who goes into court should check out the lawyers and the judge,” Dolcefino said.

“They need to do their research, Highly,” said resident Ryan Hunt.

When Herrington left office, Jimmy Cassels became the judge. DA Janet Cassels apparently fired some employees to make room for her husband’s former employees.

And she hired Herrington, who then helped prosecute former County Judge Lymbery.

Herrington is expected to leave with Cassels, along with the number two in the DA’s office, Stephanie Stroud.

We’ve helped restore justice in Angelina County, but our work on the roads is far from done.

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