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January 20th, 2018:

County court judges ordered to testify in bail bond lawsuit

This seems like a big deal.

Lawyers behind the civil rights case that upended the bail system for low-level offenses in Harris County have asked a federal judge to consider sanctioning sitting county judges, citing grave concerns that the county withheld evidence.

The controversy will likely come to head on Tuesday in an unusual federal court hearing in which all the judges in the bail lawsuit have been ordered to attend to sort out the dispute.

The attorneys in a class-action lawsuit brought by indigent defendants wrote the judge Wednesday to highlight “deeply troubling revelations” unearthed after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued rare sanctions issued to three county magistrates. On Jan. 10, the state admonished the trio for failing to follow the law and use discretion in granting personal bonds.

The conflict erupted after magistrates Joseph Licata III, Jill Wallace and Eric Hagstette told the commission they were acting under direction of the county judges, following rules that restricted them from granting cash-free bonds. They said they felt pressured to comply with these rules the judges provided.

This testimony appears to contradict what judges said under oath during a March hearing in federal court, according to attorneys for indigent defendants in the landmark bail case letter.

Throughout the injunction hearing, judges repeatedly said they never provided instructions to hearing officers about bail matters and magistrates had full reign to issue personal bonds.

There’s more, so go read the rest. I can’t wait to see what happens at Tuesday’s hearing. If the evidence here is credible, then among other things the 15 Republican judges on the misdemeanor court benches (*) don’t just deserve to be voted out, they deserve to be sanctioned like the magistrates were. Hold onto your hats. Mark Bennett has more.

(*) -The one Democratic judge on the misdemeanor courts, Darrell Jordan, has testified for the plaintiffs and as far as I can tell is not subject to this motion.

The Karolyi Ranch

Good riddance.

Once viewed as a beacon of “dreams, desire and dedication” for a generation of young women, now symbolic of years of abuse and betrayal, the Karolyi Ranch north of Houston will no longer serve as the national training center for the USA Gymnastics women’s team.

The federation said Thursday it has canceled its lease to use the gym and housing complex, owned by famed coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi in the Sam Houston National Forest, as the site of monthly training camps for the nation’s elite gymnasts who have won the last two Olympic team gold medals and the last four Olympic all-around championships.

The announcement by Kerry Perry, USA Gymnastics’ new president and CEO, came as a judge in Michigan prepares Friday to sentence former team doctor Larry Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to seven state counts of criminal sexual conduct and is expected to be sentenced to life imprisonment.

“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December,” Perry said. “Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.”

The Karolyis were – allegedly, at least; they deny it – among the many enablers of Larry Nassar. USA Gymnastics is deeply complicit in Nassar’s crimes. Kerry Perry should tear it all down and start from scratch, with a genuine commitment to put the athletes first and to put a much better system of oversight in place. The whole thing is sickening – Nassar had more known victims than Jerry Sandusky, in case you’re wondering – and I strongly suspect there are more sins to uncover. Get it all out into the open and make sure all those who were part of the problem get their comeuppance.