New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - July 21, 1985, New Braunfels, Texas
10A New Braunfels Herald-Zerfun^ Sunday, July 21,1985Alleged lies settled Ruiz prison reform suit
AUSTIN (AP) - State officials were forced to reach a settlement in the Ruiz prison reform lawsuit because Texas Department of Corrections administrators had lied on the witness stand, a former prison board member said Saturday.
“In terms of human suffering and waste of tax dollars, this has been one of the worst crimes in Texas history, and no one is being prosecuted,” said Harry Whittington, an Austin lawyer who was not reappointed to the board this year by Gov. Mark White.
Whittington spoke to a prison reform group that also saw the new TDC director near tears as he talked about how bad the prisons were when he came to Texas and his plans for improvements. Lane McCotter said he and former Director Ray
Procunier, under whom he served as assistant for a year, often looked at each other and said, “What did we get into?”
“But as I look back after contemplating where we’ve been this year I also stand before* you this morning with a great sense of personal pride over the things that we have managed to accomplish,” he said, taking two long pauses to choke back tears.
Whittington was honored Saturday as the Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants’ “leader of the year.” He cautioned the group not to become complacent as a result of “apparent progress” in state prisons.
He also told them that the state might have continued to fight the Ruiz reform lawsuit if not for perjury
New Orleans man takes deadly leap
HOUSTON (AP) — A prominent New Orleans businessman who fell to his death from the 14th floor of a local luxury hotel pleaded guilty three years ago to charges of evading taxes on more than $7 million in income, police said.
Norman Johnson, 56, died Thursday of a fractured skull, crushed chest and abdomen and a broken back, said Betty Paul of the Harris County Medical Examiner’s offic, which ruled the death a suicide.
Johnson left a handwritten note propped iii his open briefcase, Ms. Paul said, but police refused to release its contents.
Witnesses told police they saw Johnson sitting with his legs hanging over the balcony railing at the Lincoln Park Hotel shortly before he dropped 14 floors Thursday afternoon.
One witness said Johnson “reached over and fell” while another said “he leaned over and let go," according to a police report.
He landed partly in a flower bed in front of a hotel office, hotel general manager Adair Chew told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
A hotel maid was picking up papers about five feet from the spot where Johnson hit the
ground, Chew said. Johnson checked in to the 455-room luxury hotel near the Galleria shopping complex on Monday.
Homicide Lt. M.D. Brown said investigators were uncertain whether Johnson carne to Houston for business reasons.
According to hotel employees who took the reservation, Chew said, Johnson said he wanted a room on one of the top floors. He was scheduled to check out Wednesday but extended his stay another day, he said.
Johnson, who became a multimillionaire in the oilfield pipe supply business, pleaded guilty in October 1982 to charges of evading taxes on more than $7 million in personal income, die Times-Picayune said.
He was sentenced in 1983 to 14 months in a minimum security prison and was released after serving less than that.
After his conviction, his third wife, Gayfryd, divorced him and got custody of the couple’s son Rayne, the Times-Picayune said He also has five other children from Ins two previous marriages.
The Internal Revenue Service seized Johnson’s New Orleans mansion and sold it at an auction last year for $2.2 million.
Storefront sting nets 71 suspects
McKinney (AP) - Authorities credit a six-month sting operation involving a storefront “junk shop" with hidden cameras that videotaped drug transactions with producing 134 indictments against 71 suspects.
Collin County Sheriff Terry Box said the crackdown serves notice that McKinney is not “an open paradise to drug dealers."
More than 40 people were arrested and drugs and 175,000 worth of stolen property was recovered in the first stage of the Collin County crackdown Friday and authorities say they expect more arrests.
“We felt like we had a drug problem. We obviously had a burglary problem," said McKinney Police Chief Ken Walker. “I just felt like this town was primed for something like this to work."
Police said they confiscated everything from cocaine, USD, amphetamines and marijuana to microwaves, televisions, and videocassette records
After four months of undercover
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during the year-long trial.
“Now that the Ruiz case has been settled it can be told without sacrifice to the lawsuit that the prison administrators committed perjury in
work, state and local officials opened a storefront junk shop in McKinney where officers secretly videotaped transactions allegedly involving drugs and stolen property.
Authorities said about $75,000 worth of stolen goods were sold to undercover officers at the junk shop.
On Thursday, a Collin County grand jury returned 134 indictments against 71 people after healing evidence gathered in the sting operation.
At 5 a m. Friday, 60 state and local law enforcement officers begari rounding up suspects in McKinney, Dallas, Plano and Melissa
Collin County District Attorney H Ownby said that “none of those involved in the roundup were kingpins" or involved in major drug trafficking. But he said the arrests cut down on the number of drug sources for “a substantial number of users.
Officers also seized a dozen cars allegedly used in narcotics sales during the crackdown Friday.
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the federal courts, resulting in millions of dollars of unnecessary expense and years and years of delay in making the reforms which we have now agreed were needed all along."
Asked later which officials had lied, he said, “I can’t tell you which ones. The record is so voluminous that I can’t."
“Our defense in the lawsuit was we didn’t have any defense to it because we perjured ourselves. That’s what our lawyers were telling us," he said
Whittington said state lawyers told the prison board in private that a settlement seemed the only way out.
“All I’ve heard for several years is we had a weak case and we better settle it because if we go buck to trial it’s going to prove we perjured ourselves in the earlier trial," he said.
Rick Gray of Austin, TDC’s lawyer in the Ruiz case, said later Saturday that Whittington was “absolutely accurate that significant
misstatements” were made by state witnesses at the 1978-79 trial.
But Gray said prison overcrowding — not perjury — was the prime reason the lawyers pushed for a settlement.
In response to previous similar Whittington comments, the governor has said Whittington should take any evidence of wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities.
Among the lies offered at the trial
was prison officials’ denial that inmates were being used as guards, according to Whittington. That practice has been banned as a result of the Ruiz case.
Gray said it was “clear for years" that inmate-guards were being used while prison officials denied the practice.
Ailing man kills ill wife, then shoots himself
HOUSTON (AP) — An 82-year-old man with a bad heart fatally shot his ailing wife, then killed himself because he was afraid of dying first and leaving her without anyone to care for her, a neighbor said.
Robert Durkee fired two .22-caliber bullets into the face of Dora Durkee, his wife of 50 years, as she slept early Friday, said homicide Detective Dale Atchetee.
"I think he was afraid he would die before she did, and that nobody would be able to take care of her like he had,” said Margaret Womack, who lived next door the couple for more than 20 years Police said Durkee called a grandson right after
he shot his wife.
“I just shot your grandmother, now I’m going to shoot myself," he said and hung up, according to Atchetee.
The couple was found dead by police about 3 30 a.m. Friday in tile master bedroom of their
fashionable home in southwest Houston, the detective said. Durkee had shot himself once in the mouth with a 20-gauge shotgun. Atchetee said
The deaths were ruled a murder-suicide by the Harris County medical examiner’s office.
“They were so close and I think this is the way they would want it." Mrs. Womack said ’ I know they had to say murder-suicide, but actually they
just went away together ."
Investigators said there was no note left and they were unsure whether Mrs Durkee had
planned the shootings with her husband.
Durkee, a retired geologist for a Houston oil company , learned several years ago that he had a failing heart, neighbors said. He had suffered three heart attacks, they said
Mrs Durkee had suffet od for years w ith cancer, arthritis and phlebitis, neighbors said
His health was not good and hers had gone ti om bad to worse She was in pain so much of the time." said Mrs Womack
Lightning bolt kills 15-year-old boy in DeSoto
DeSOTO (AP) — A 15-year-old boy was killed by lightning in the parking lot of a public swimming pool when he went to roll up his car windows during a brief, sudden thunderstorm The accident happened Friday. only minutes after lifeguards had cleared about 50 swimmers from the
Moseley Community Swimming Pool and told them lo seek cover. p« lice said
Roderick Williams of Richardson was pronounced dead at a lot a1 hospital about an hour after he was struck by a lightning bolt police said ‘ It lust kind of shot out of the sky."
a witness said
two girls, ages 12 and 13, were injured slightly by the lightning, authority- said
The girls were a little lucky." said Vie kie Cook, a spokeswoman tot Methodist Hospital of Dallas, where the girls were treated They
received the residual amount of shock from Die lightning Williams received the brunt of the biggest
DeSoto park officials said a lifeguard arid paramedics tried rn vain to revive Williams with cardiopulmonary resuscitation
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