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Gus: Leonard case represents a failure of the criminal justice system

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Carroll: ‘Monitoring [probationers] is critical’

JOEY G. DAUBEN

The Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE – The race to replace 40th District Court Judge Gene Knize has attracted four Republicans seeking to replace the retiring 40-year veteran of county government.

The race has also attracted its fair share of controversy involving James Leonard, a Waxahachie lawyer who was accused of molesting two girls under the age of 14, only to be given 10 years of probation by Knize after prosecutors requested that judgment instead of jail.

Leonard, put on probation a week after Knize won his re-nomination battle four years ago in the GOP primary against Midlothian lawyer Dan Alt-man, fled to El Salvador and has not been heard from since.
Of the four candidates now in the race to succeed Knize, only one Leonard’s lawyer at the time Cindy Ermatinger of Midlothian, did not respond.

Waxahachie Mayor Ron Wilkinson, former Ellis County Court at Law No. 1 Judge Bob Carroll and Red Oak lawyer Dan Gus each responded to a four-question questionnaire from The Ellis County Press.

It was the question about the Leonard case that received the most attention.

"The James Leonard case represents a failure of the criminal justice system," said Gus, a partner with Walker Sewell in Dallas.

"It shows that long experience in the criminal justice system does not always translate into sound judgment and good results. Fortunately, the Leonard case is a rarity in that most probationers do not flee the country in order to evade responsibility for their crimes."

Carroll, who switched from running for county judge to 40th District Court in December, said it was critical to monitor the whereabouts of alleged criminals given probation.

"At any given time, the Adult Probation Department typically has several hundred persons on probation," Carroll said.

"Monitoring the whereabouts of each probationer is critical, especially in higher risk categories. Limitations on the locations of where probationers live and travel restrictions on their movements are reasonable. It is important to note that the granting of probation is the post-adjudication release of a criminal defendant under specific terms and conditions imposed by the district judge.

"The continued freedom of the individual is expressly conditioned upon their compliance with such requirements as: regular reporting to the probation department, committing no further criminal offenses, paying fines, restitution to the crime victim, random drug testing, maintaining employment, and so forth. With respect to travel limitations, the surrender of passport documents could be required."

Wilkinson invoked judicial ethics canons and responded with, "… keeping these matters in mind, as far as [questions about the Leonard case] are concerned, I will enforce the law in every case that comes before me to the best of my ability and provide to every litigant a level playing field consistent with the laws of the State of Texas. Any infraction of the law will, of course, be investigated by the proper law enforcement authorities."

Due to space constraints, the candidates answers could not be put into this article.

For a full recap of the candidates answers to the 40th District Court questions, visit www.ECPElections.com.


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