The headline screamed: "Arrest Made In Local Indigent Defense Fraud Investigation."
The full article and video can be found here
It seems that the McLennan County, Texas Sheriff's Department recently hired a deputy to focus on fraud in the public defender program. McLennan County is the home of Baylor University, located in Waco, Texas. (I got my undergraduate degree there). 238,000 people live in McLennan County, 15% of whom are African-American and 24% of whom are Hispanic. 21% of residents have incomes below the poverty line, compared to 17% for Texas as a whole. Median household income is $41,000, compared to $51,000 statewide. There is less home ownership there than Texas as a whole. There is ironically a lower percentage of college degrees in the home of Baylor University than for Texas. The budget for 2014 for the McLennan County Sheriff's Department is $7.5 million. Residents spend over $20 million per year on their jail. The county does not have a public defender's office. A February 2013 article had as its headline, "Lack of support dooms push to create public defender's office." The proposal was made by Commissioner Gibson, who was quoted as saying, "'The court-appointed attorneys, now I'm not saying they do a good job or a bad job, but they work for the judges...I'm pipe-dreaming. This is a conservative county and they like the way it's been going on, but that (public defender model) would be my preference.'”
Which brings me to the fact that the county hired a dedicated sheriff's deputy just to probe around to see whether someone got a public defender when they should not have. James Tyrone Johnson, 40 years of age, African-American, was Detective Eric Carrizales' first arrest. Johnson was lodged in the $20 million dollar jail for having "misrepresented his worth on an official document." McLennan County Chief Deputy Sheriff Matt Cawthon said that he was "not sure what the budget for the new office is, but said the recovery of funds through investigation of fraud will more than compensate for the cost of the detective."
This apparent rampant fraud was fully supported by a local judge. "McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said he expects more arrests in connection with fraud in indigent defense. 'It's all part of an effort by the county's Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee to be more efficient in that area and reduce fraud,' Felton said. He said McLennan County spends about $3.8 million a year for indigent defense.'I knew it would only be a matter of time before we identified abuse..We're going to really start clamping down...This is an issue we intend to enforce and I anticipate seeing more arrests in the future,' Felton said."
I am just really heartened to see that more "clamping down" is going to be occurring in Waco to ensure that no one charged with a crime gets a public defender after having made a misstatement on a public document. And I am sure the good taxpayers of McLennan County are happy that the county found funds in the Sheriff's $7.5 million budget for a crime fighter to ferret out all the abuse among those requesting a public defender. And that Mr. Johnson is being housed on the taxpayer's dime for having misrepresented his income. And that his dependents now have no one home to help support them. And will he be appointed a public defender on these new charges?