In a 4-page motion, Upshur County Dist. Atty. Billy Byrd argued the purported relationship means that "motivation likely exists to potentially tamper with the jury panel." No ruling has been made on his request because 115th District Judge Lauren Parish recused herself Monday from hearing the cases, and a new judge has not yet been assigned to them.
The 52-year-old Crabtree, who is married, and his 29-year-old son, Todd Allen Crabtree, face multiple felony charges stemming from an allegation that they held a state game warden at gunpoint in a confrontation last Oct. 6.
The cases involved in Byrd's motion are in a 3-count indictment for "aggravated assault (by) threaten(ing) with deadly weapon against public servant." The elder Crabtree is accused of threatening Game Warden Shane Bailey, Big Sandy Police Officer Gary Pettis and Upshur County Sheriff's Deputy Anthony Brasher while armed with a .22 rifle during the confrontation on private property.
Judge Parish disqualified herself from hearing any of the five cases against Lloyd Crabtree, saying her court coordinator, former Chief Deputy District Clerk Teena Henson, may be called as a witness in pretrial matters. An administrative judge in Dallas will assign a new judge to the cases, and no trial date has been scheduled, Byrd said Monday.
Longview attorney Clifton (Scrappy) Holmes, who represents Lloyd Crabtree, told The Mirror Tuesday it "really doesn't make me any difference how" prospective jurors are summoned, but declined comment on Byrd's statement about Crabtree's purported relationship with a deputy clerk. District Clerk Carolyn Parrott also declined comment on that Tuesday.
A call by The Mirror to Crabtree's listed home phone number Thursday reached a recording saying the number had been disconnected or was no longer in service.
In the motion, Byrd says Crabtree's cell phone was seized after his Oct. 6 arrest, and that Judge Parish signed a search warrant allowing an unidentified "expert" to analyze it.
"The findings by the expert included, but were not limited to, phone calls and text messages. In preparing for trial, the State found text messages to a phone number that was recognized. Upon further investigation, one particular phone number belongs to a Deputy District Clerk," Byrd's motion stated.
"Based on the language and words used in the text messages that occurred prior to his arrest, the defendant has allegedly been in a personal relationship that goes beyond friendship. Due to the dialogue that includes both what the defendant says and also contains the returning texts from the Deputy District Clerk, the State immediately notified counsel for the defendant and directed counsel where to look for this information within the Discovery." (Discovery is the process by which the defense can compel the prosecution to disclose information.)
Noting that the District Clerk is responsible for summonsing prospective jurors to state district court, Byrd said the state asked Miss Henson about the mechanics of doing that. Miss Henson, who had recently left her job in the clerk's office, discussed and demonstrated how a jury is summoned, Byrd said.
"Therefore, it is the State's belief that potential jury members can be tampered with and removed from the prospective juror lists and never be seated in the (jury) panel," he wrote.
"The extent of the relationship, while not bearing on guilt or innocence, would more likely become admissable during the punishment phase of trial. Therefore, motivation likely exists to potentiallly tamper with the jury panel so that the punishment phase is less likely to occur. Further, the State has evidence to offer that will prove that communication has continued even after the seizure of the defendant's phone. . .," Byrd's motion added.
No clue is given to the deputy clerk's identity in the motion, but Byrd said Tuesday it is not Miss Henson.
"While the state does not wish to bring ill will on any employee of the District Clerk's Office, every avenue to resolve this matter prior to this motion being filed has been exhausted," Byrd wrote. "The State represents to this Court that without direct supervision of the panel being drawn and summoned, the State would be in a position where it could not receive a fair trial for the potential tampering that could occur."