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Probation contracts drafted at PD

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JUDGE AND JURY?
At least two (above) private 'contract agreements' were drafted out of the Ferris Police Department last year. The agreements, according to Ferris Police Chief Jeff Cottongame, were an attempt to help the parties involved.

One was written for resident Dana Witherspoon and required she be on curfew, take prescribed medication, not use her own vehicle (except for family-oriented business), seek professional help, have no use of illegal drugs and don't go to pawn shops, unless authorized by Cottongame.

The probation-type contract warned she would face arrest and prosecution for possession of narcotics and tampering with evidence if she violated the stipulations. The contract was signed by Witherspoon, Cottongame, Lieutenant Sherman Swafford and Danny Satterwhite (owner of Danny's Auto in Ferris).

A similar agreement was drawn up several months later in 2002 for Gary Witherspoon, Dana's husband. It limits his activities in regard to Satterwhite, requiring Witherspoon not to: talk about, call or watch Satterwhite, or go by his shop. In exchange, Satterwhite agreed to drop deadly conduct charges against Witherspoon.

This agreement was signed by Gary Witherspoon, Satterwhite and Swafford. The Texas Penal Code states a person commits an offense if the person gives someone a document that simulates a court process and would cause another to submit to the authority of the document. Ellis County District Attorney Joe Grubbs said this type of agreement is a 'gray area.'

He said police officials have to be given certain discretion. 'I don't want officers to feel they have to file every single violation they see,' said Grubbs. He said an agreement drafted by an officer is not necessarily illegal, but when it comes to an agreement about drugs, which is at least a Class B misdemeanor - 'We are uncomfortable with that,' Grubbs said


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