New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 19, 1984, New Braunfels, Texas
FBI agent says drifters wanted to leave ranch
KERRVILLE (AP) — Workers at a Hill Country ranch north of here told an FBI agent they wanted to leave the spread when officers came to investigate allegations of forced servitude, the agent testified.
FBI agent Fritz Bohne of San Antonio said in a preliminary hearing Tuesday that one of the workers told him a fellow employee had died at the ranch, owned by Walter Ellebracht Sr. and his son and daughter-in-law.
Ellebracht, Walter Ellebracht Jr. and the latter’s wife, Joyce, are charged with organized crime in connection with the March 3 torture slaying of drifter Anthony
Prosecutors say Bates, like other drifters, was lured to the ranch with the promise of work, then forced to stay.
Statements from witnesses have indicated Bates was tortured to death with an electric cattle prod, then his body doused with gasoline and burned.
The Ellebrachts are charged with six other drifters under an organized crime indictment in connection with Bates’ death.
Attorneys for the Ellebrachts are seeking to suppress evidence, including charred bone fragments, handcuffs, chains, a cattle prod, cassette tapes of alleged torture sessions,
and various weapons. The lawyers claim the evidence was illegally obtained.
Bohne said officers first visited the ranch April 5 and told the elder Ellebracht allegations had been made that people were being held there against their will.
Ellebracht agreed to let Bohne and other officers interview six workers.
“All except one returned to Kerrville with us,” Bohne said. “They asked to leave with us.”
The agent also said one of the workers told him a fellow employee had died at the ranch.
Bohne also told the court he seized two pairs of handcuffs from a pickup truck at the
ranch that day, even though he did not have a search warrant.
The agent said he spotted the handcuffs in the truck while the younger Ellebracht was in it. He said he noticed Ellebracht Jr. covering the handcuffs with a piece of plastic.
The younger Ellebracht told Bohne he was heading to “the store” at the time, but the agent asked him to get out of the truck. Ellebracht complied.
Bohne said he took the handcuffs because “we were investigating an allegation of involuntary servitude and torture and that handcuffs and chains were used and Mr.
Ellebracht Sr had denied their existence. Then I see two pair of handcuffs in a truck about to disappear off the ranch.”
Bohne said he based his decision to seize the handcuffs on a 1925 court case that ruled officers could search autos for contraband because the vehicles can be moved.
The agent also testified one of the workers at the ranch, Paul Harvey Hicks, told him he had been directed by two attorneys to remove certain evidence from a vehicle at the scene.
The attorneys, Richard Mosty and Tom Pollard, were representing the Ellebrachts when the investigation began.
Judge orders store to obey blue law
HOUSTON (AP) — A state district judge has ordered a clothing store to obey Texas' Blue I<aw, but another store went to federal court to avoid the order.
Acting at the request of the Houston Retail Merchants Association. State District Judge Michael L. O’Brien on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order against Sock-It-To Me, located in a .shopping mall.
The injunction was granted without arguments from the attorney for the firm.
Karen Mahoney, the lawyer for Sock-It-To-Me. said her client instructed her not to continue arguments because the cost for continuing litigation against the Sunday closing law was too great.
Officials with Sock-It-To-Me did not return telephone calls Tuesday.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Textile Outlets of Houston, Inc., joined at least two other stores that have moved their cases to federal court.
Herbert I>ackshm, an attorney for Textile Outlets, said his client requested the change to avoid being closed while competitors remained open.
My client felt that if he was going to tx* closed then other retailers should come under the same umbrella.” Ixickshin said The Blue I .aw. more than a century old, prevents retailers from selling 42 selected categories of items on consecutive Saturdays anil Sunday s.
Ari attorney for the Merchants Association, Tom Conner, said merchants were requesting the move to federal court because “they're seeing the handwriting on the wall ”
It s the legal equivalent of time out.” Conner said outside the courtroom Tuesday “We’re anticipating filing some more suits pretty quickly.”
Textile Outlets requested the move to federal court so that all the Blue Law cases could be tried together, Ixickshin said
Crosby wins druy-weapons case on appeal
DA LI .AS (AP) Musician David Crosby. w ho last w eek w as ordered to a drug rehabilitation center, has won an appeal of his 1983 convictions for possession of cocaine and carry ing a pistol, his attorneys said.
The Dallas County Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday said police had engaged in an illegal search of Crosby’s dressing room in a Dallas nightclub and issued instructions to a trial court that he be acquitted, the lawy ers said.
Crosby was sentenced in August 1983 to five years in state prison after being convicted of possessing cocaine and carrying a .45-caliber automatic pistol into a Northwest Dallas nightclub where he was performing.
Crosby, 43, of Crosby, Stills & Nash, lias been free on an $8,000 appeal bond in that case.
tin Thursday, State District Judge Patrick McDowell ordered Crosby to pay another $7,000 on that bond because of a recent arrest in California on similar charges. The judge also ordered the singer into a drug rehabilitation program.
Tom Glenn, an attorney for Crosby, called Tuesday’s decision a “victory” for the musician.
He said the ruling was made on the grounds that Dallas police acted illegally when they entered Crosby’s dressing room at the nightclub rn 1981.
“The court believed their actions in entering David’s private dressing room were beyond the scope of the law and constituted an illegal search and seizure,” Glenn said.
Glenn said Dallas police were operating under provisions of the Texas alcoholic beverage code that allows them to enter a liquor establishment to look for law violations.
The appeals ruling narrows the scope of authority under the statute, he said, and “reverses a trend that has been going on for years in this state.”
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