Texas DA killing investigation reopens window on 2012 trial
KAUFMAN COUNTY, Texas (CNN) — It was, in the words of local newspaper reporter Denise Bell, a “megatrial for a little community.”
A justice of the peace, accused of ripping off taxpayers, labeled “dishonorable” by a top prosecutor after his conviction last year and stripped of his job and his law license.
Now, amid an even larger investigation into the deaths of two Kaufman County prosecutors this year, that former official, Eric Williams, is jailed on $3 million bond — charged with two counts of insufficient bond and one count of making a “terroristic threat.”
Authorities haven’t explained the charges and they have not said if Williams’ arrest over the weekend is related to the investigation into the deaths of District Attorney Mike McLelland, McLelland’s wife, Cynthia, and Mark Hasse — the prosecutor who last year accused Williams of “using Kaufman County as his own piggy bank.”
Hasse, Kaufman County’s chief felony prosecutor, died in a brazen daytime shooting outside the courthouse January 31. Someone shot McLelland, the county’s district attorney, and his wife, Cynthia, late last month at their Forney, Texas, home.
Authorities have not named a suspect or a motive for the killings.
Federal, state and local authorities looking into the killings searched Williams’ home on Friday, according to an FBI spokeswoman. A day later, Texas Rangers and FBI agents combed through a storage facility in Seagoville, Texas, on a search warrant also tied to the prosecutors’ deaths, the spokeswoman said.
CNN affiliates KTVT and WFAA, citing anonymous sources, said authorities found 20 weapons and a white Ford Crown Victoria in the storage unit. The car, KTXA reported, matches the description of one seen near the McLellands’ home around the time of their deaths.
Authorities have not named Williams as a suspect in the deaths. Nor have they said the storage locker search had anything to do with the former justice of the peace, who has denied any involvement in the deaths through his attorneys and in interviews with local media.
On Friday, Williams’ attorney, David Sergi, released a statement saying his client “has cooperated with law enforcement and vigorously denies any and all allegations. He wishes simply to get on with his life and hopes that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Sergi did not respond to repeated e-mail and telephone messages over the weekend and Monday seeking comment on developments in the case.
In March 2012 — almost a year before McLelland’s death — Hasse and McLelland played prominent roles in prosecuting Williams on one count of burglary and one count of theft by a public official. Accused of stealing computer equipment from a county building, he was convicted and sentenced to two years of probation.
After the trial, McLelland rejoiced that the conviction showed the county’s “good ol’ boy network is gone,” according to media reports. Hasse called Williams “dishonorable” and a liar, according to the reports.
But in a statement filed with the court after his conviction, Williams denied the thefts and called the loss of his law license “a life long sentence.”
“I will have to seek another career, with a felony I will not be able to earn what I am used to,” he said, adding that it would be his wife, who he said was on disability, and his aging parents who would suffer the most.
In a recent interview with North Texas TV station KXAS, Williams said he bore no ill will toward Hasse or McLelland, saying he felt the officials were just “doing their jobs.”
But Bell, a reporter for The Forney Post, said McLelland told her before his death that he thought Williams was responsible for Hasse’s death.
He divulged his suspicion, she says, while cautioning her to be careful.
“Because I sat in the front row and covered this trial for 10 days,” she told CNN.AlertMe