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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Judge Wannabe Arrested for Records Tampering, Nasty Politics Alleged

Judge applicant arrested as she files for 418th
Houston Community News by James Ridgway  -  March 10, 2012

Minutes after filing her application to run against incumbent Tracy Gilbert for 418th state District Court judge, Jessica Siegel found herself in the custody of the Texas Rangers – arrested for allegedly tampering with governmental records.  The arrest took place around 4:30 p.m. at the Montgomery County Republican Headquarters in downtown Conroe as the deadline for candidacy filing drew to its official close. While Siegel’s application was submitted on time, officials with the MCRP later chose to reject it, leaving Gilbert’s 418th position uncontested.  The charge against Siegel was brought forth by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Division, according to First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant. He said he could not provide further comment on Siegel’s pending case.  Jennie Morton, a friend and supporter of Siegel, was with Siegel and Siegel’s 7-year-old son when the arrest took place. “I was mortified,” Morton said. “They said she was arrested for falsifying her residency on a notarized document (the filing application).”  Stranger, she added, was that this was the second arrest she had witnessed that day of someone involved with Gilbert through legal proceedings or politics.  At 11 a.m. Friday, while accompanying a woman named Trisha Shafer to the 418th District Court, who was there to meet a court employee in reference to personal case research, Shafer, Morton said, was suddenly arrested.  Jail records confirmed Shafer’s arrest related to a warrant for a misdemeanor DWI charge from January 2012.  Still, Morton maintained that Siegel’s charge is verifiably false.  Both Morton and Shafer were involved in child custody cases in Gilbert’s court.  Gilbert Garcia, one of the candidates running against Brett Ligon for district attorney, witnessed Siegel’s arrest and thought the highly public nature of it, in front of so many of the other candidates, could have been handled more appropriately.  “Whenever an officer is in the presence of what they perceive as a violation of law, an arrest is appropriate no matter the location,” Grant said in response.  Dr. Walter Wilkerson, chairman of the MCRP, said Siegel’s application appeared to meet all the necessary requirements for her to run against Gilbert; and even after her arrest, he said she would still be in the running.  However, later Friday evening, at the candidate ballot order draw at the Commissioners Court building, Wilkerson announced the 418th position as uncontested.  “Her candidacy has been pulled,” Wilkerson said.  Steve Simonsen, legal counsel for the MCRP, said the arrest had nothing to do with their decision to reject Siegel’s application; it was due to conflicting information on a previous application, Simonsen said.  Siegel submitted an application at the first deadline in December to run in the 418th election. But that was denied because the information she filled in on the application failed to meet the length of residency requirement to run for office in the county election.  But Siegel contested at the time that she had been living in Montgomery County since October 2010 and inadvertently left the additional two months off the residence section of her application, which would have given her the required length of residency.  Wilkerson provided The Courier a copy of Friday’s application, which listed Siegel’s “length of continuous residence” in the county as a year and five months.  Simonsen said, despite Siegel already having admitted to making an error on the first application, Siegel had sworn under a notarized oath to the length of time she has resided in the county via her application submitted last December.  “Maybe the first (application), she made a mistake, maybe not. I have no idea,” Simonsen said.  The Courier contacted Judge Tracy Gilbert Friday night, but he had no comment regarding Siegel’s arrest and application rejection.  “My only comment is – no comment.”  Siegel could not be reached for comment Friday night.

*****Related Story:

DA won’t recuse from judge candidate’s case
Houston Community News by Nancy Flake  -  April 2, 2012

The attorney representing a political candidate accused of lying on her filing application has asked the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office to recuse itself from prosecuting the case.
However, First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant said there is no legal basis for the motion, which was filed Friday during Jessica Siegel’s first court appearance.  Siegel was arrested March 9 for allegedly tampering with a government document after she filed March 9 to run for 418th state District Court judge against incumbent Judge Tracy Gilbert in the May 29 Republican primary. It is the county’s only court dedicated to family law.  Her attorney, Jarrod Walker, filed the motion to disqualify the DA’s Office from the case “based on the fact that you can’t be a lawyer and a witness at the same time,” Walker said, “due to their presence at the Montgomery County Republican headquarters that night.”  When Siegel entered county GOP headquarters in the late afternoon of March 9 (her second attempt to file), Assistant District Attorney Tyler Dunman was there, but soon left, county GOP Chairman Dr. Walter Wilkerson previously said.  As Wilkerson was checking Siegel’s application, he saw Dunman, Texas Ranger Wende Wakeman and another assistant district attorney speaking with Siegel, who was then arrested, Wilkerson previously said.  But Walker’s motion is “frivolous and without basis,” Grant said. “We will not be getting a special prosecutor.”  Grant would not say whether Dunman was a witness, but “I do not believe the law will support Tyler Dunman testifying in the case,” he said.  When Siegel was arrested, “... at least one assistant district attorney as well as District Attorney investigators were present” as Siegel was filing her application, Walker’s motion states. “By their conduct, members of the District Attorney’s Office have interjected themselves as material fact witnesses in this cause.”  Walker’s motion states that continued representation by the DA’s Office would constitute a violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct that prohibit an attorney from acting as an advocate and a witness in the same proceeding.  It also would violate Siegel’s fundamental right to due process under the U.S. and Texas constitutions, the motion states.  Siegel, a family law attorney, faces two state jail felony charges of tampering with a government document, based on her initial attempt to file in December and on her March 9 application.  In both instances, the DA’s Office alleges, Siegel lied about her length of residency in Montgomery County to qualify for the ballot.  But Siegel contested at the time of her December filing that she had been living in Montgomery County since October 2010 and inadvertently left the additional two months off the residence section of her application, which would have given her the required length of residency.  County GOP officials rejected that application.  On her second application, Siegel listed her length of residence as a year and five months. A candidate on the primary ballot must have lived in the the county or district for two years prior to the November general election.  The arrest warrant affidavit states Wakeman determined Siegel rented her current Conroe apartment in February 2011. She lived in a Houston apartment until that time, the affidavit states.  Walker also said that, during Friday’s hearing, Grant noted that the prosecution is gathering documents related to Siegel’s case through grand jury subpoenas, which will take 60-90 days.  That would mean Siegel’s case would continue past the primary election.  “Our prosecution of Ms. Siegel has nothing to do with the primary,” Grant said. “We’re going to pursue what we need for the criminal case without regard to the day of the primary.”

*****Related Story:

Siegel turns self in; Michalk recuses from case
Houston Community News by Nancy Flake  -  March 22, 2012

An attorney facing two felony charges for allegedly lying on candidate filing applications turned herself in Wednesday on the warrant for the second charge. And while Jessica Siegel’s case has been assigned to the 221st state District Court, Judge Lisa Michalk recused herself from the case. A retired Liberty County district court judge will oversee the court proceedings, Siegel’s attorney said.  Siegel, 47, a family law attorney, originally attempted to file her ballot application in December to run against incumbent 418th state District Court Judge Tracy Gilbert in the primary. That application was turned down by local Republican Party officials because Siegel lacked the needed length of residency to qualify.  And when Siegel filed her application again March 9, she was arrested moments later by a Texas Ranger at Montgomery County Republican Party headquarters in downtown Conroe. She has been charged with two counts of tampering with a government document, a state jail felony.  If she is convicted, she faces 180 days to two years in jail and a fine up to $10,000 for each charge.  Siegel, who was booked into the Montgomery County Jail that day on one charge, turned herself in around midday Wednesday, said her attorney, Jarrod Walker. She was released shortly after on a $3,000 bond.  She will be arraigned March 29, Walker said.  Siegel did not return calls seeking comment.  “It’s full-steam ahead on the campaign,” Walker said. Dr. Walter Wilkerson, chair of the MCRP, announced Monday that Siegel can remain on the primary ballot. When Texas Ranger Wende Wakeman, who arrested Siegel March 9 at MCRP headquarters began her investigation soon after Siegel’s first failed application, the evidence Wakeman found showed Siegel moved from Harris County to a Conroe apartment in late February 2011.  A candidate on the primary ballot for the judge seat must have been a resident of the county or appropriate district for two years prior to the November general election.  Siegel previously said she has evidence showing she lived in the county before February 2011 but would not give specifics. Walker also would not say what evidence his client may have. “We’re going to put on a vigorous defense,” he said.  Walker also predicted the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office would request a special prosecutor to handle the case. He thinks putting the case on a fast track for a speedy resolution before the primary might be best for Siegel, he said.  But no determination has been made yet on either a special prosecutor or a speedy resolution to Siegel’s case, First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant said.  Michalk recused herself from the case because it involves Gilbert, another judge, said her court coordinator, Sidney Scott.  “It’s common practice in cases like this,” she said. “It removes all appearances of impropriety. We want to make sure she gets a fair trial.”  Michalk requested that Judge Olen Underwood, presiding judge of the Second Administrative Judicial Region of Texas, assign another judge to the case, Scott said. He selected retired Judge C.T. Hight, who formerly presided over the 75th state District Court in Liberty County.

*****See Related Wannabe Story, "Wannabe Judge Attorney Writes About Ethical Dilemmas SHE Failed to Report"


Anonymous said...

It's always a fight for power. The desire to administer justice is forgotten by the lawyers who want the power to control the money.

Searching For Rule Of Law In America said...

this stinks to high heaven... all the way up...

Michael A. Hense - Searching For Rule OF Law In America

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Texass is more corrupt than New York - New York objects, we can't have that, - after all, that's not fair!

Anonymous said...

Michael A. Hense please call home, Rich would like to hear from you - trust all is well.

Anonymous said...

What is just when a gang of thieves want to equitably divide the loot? Honest judges are rarer than hen's teeth. This is in Texas. In NY, the New York Times and other NY media wouldn't report it

Anonymous said...

New York lacks a legal system. What it has is a mob. Organized crime ring that is disguises itself as a legal system.

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