Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Erath prosecutor moves to dismiss campaign signs theft case

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Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash, scheduled to serve as a visiting judge Friday in a case involving the alleged theft of three Granbury ISD School Board candidates’ campaign signs, has filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The motion was filed Thursday with the office of Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Roger “Cotton” Howell. That office is where the case was filed.

Last November, former Republican precinct chair Van Vernon was issued three Class C misdemeanor citations after a witness reported seeing him remove the signs from property near Lakeside Baptist Church and complaints were filed with the Sheriff’s Office by Barbara Townsend, Billy Wimberly, and Paula McDonald. According to Sheriff Roger Deeds, campaign signs belonging to each were recovered by a deputy from Vernon’s home.

Vernon entered a plea of not guilty and retained a lawyer.

Class C misdemeanors do not carry jail time. Punishment is a fine of up to $500 per count.

Because of the political nature of the case, Howell and County Attorney Matt Mills enlisted assistance from outside the county. Nash was to serve in Mills’ place as the prosecutor in Friday’s scheduled 10 a.m. proceeding and Scott May, Precinct 2 JP for Somervell County, was to preside.

The motion to dismiss stated: “Having reviewed and considered the reliable and pertinent evidence compiled in these matters, the undersigned District Attorney is of the opinion that probable cause justified and supports the citations issued by law enforcement in these matters. Nonetheless, there are conflicts as to apparent and actual authority for permission granted to both the victim sign owners and the defendant for placement of political signs on the relevant properties. As such, the State is not in a position to prove the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Mills told the Hood County News that he intends to issue a statement about the matter. This article will be updated once the statement has been issued.

The HCN also phoned Howell’s office but a staffer said he was not in and had presumably not yet signed the motion to dismiss.