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Joe Shannon Jr.
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Three Assistant Criminal DAs Named as Texas Super Lawyers for 2005

Three Tarrant County Assistant Criminal District Attorneys have been named to the 2005 list of Texas Super Lawyers. Alan Levy and Joe Shannon were selected in the area of criminal prosecution, while Marvin Collins was named in the area of government law.

Super Lawyers is a listing of Texas Lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Only five percent of Texas lawyers are named Super Lawyers.

Tarrant County is the only district attorney’s office in Texas to have more than one prosecutor recognized in Criminal Prosecution. It is the only office of any kind to have lawyers recognized in both Criminal Prosecution and Government Law.

Alan Levy has served as chief of the Criminal Division since 1986. He is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a frequent speaker across the country on issues related to criminal trials. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, as well as a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation.

Marvin Collins was reinstated as chief of the Civil Division when he returned to the District Attorney’s Office in 1993. He supervises the legal staff that represents the Tarrant County government and its officials and the Tarrant County Hospital District.

After his law school graduation, Mr. Collins worked as an attorney in private practice for five years before joining the District Attorney’s Office in September 1975. He became chief of the Appellate Division in January 1976, and was assigned as chief of the Civil Division in March 1978. He left the District Attorney’s Office in 1981 and served fourteen months as Judge of the Criminal District Court Number One of Tarrant County. When Mr. Collins returned to the District Attorney’s Office in January 1983, he was reinstated as chief of the Civil Division until his appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth). He was then reappointed by President George Bush in 1990 and served until 1993.

Mr. Collins is a frequent author and speaker at various seminars. He is a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and is one of a handful of Texas attorneys to have been board certified in criminal law for 30 years (1975-2005).

Joe Shannon, Jr. returned to the District Attorney’s Office from private practice in 1999 to become chief of the Economic Crimes Division. He originally joined the office on November 27, 1972, when District Attorney Joe Shannon Jr. was sworn into office. He served as chief of the Criminal Division until he left the office in 1978.

Mr. Shannon has been listed as a Texas Super Lawyer in criminal prosecution since 2003. He is a frequent speaker to groups across the United States and to various local bar associations. He is an adjunct professor at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. He is a Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation. He served as president of the Tarrant County Bar Association from 2004-05.

In 1977, Mr. Shannon prosecuted the high-profile Cullen Davis murder case. While in private practice in 1972, he defended Thomas Shannon (no relation), Speaker Pro Tem of the Texas House of Representatives, against charges of conspiracy to accept a bribe in the Sharpstown Stock Fraud Scandal. Mr. Shannon served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1964-71, and as administrative assistant to the House Speaker from 1971-72.

The complete list of Texas Super Lawyers appears in the October 2005 issue of Texas Monthly and Texas Super Lawyers magazines. The list also can be viewed online at superlawyers.com.  [TOP]


Teenager Sentenced to Prison for Intoxication Manslaughter Involving Driving and Drug Use

On December 18, 2004, nineteen-year-old Levi Nathan Auldridge was coming down from a methamphetamine high when he narrowly missed colliding with another car before he crashed head-on into Rene Hinjosa’s car. Twenty-four-year-old Hinojosa, who was in town visiting his family for the holidays, died within minutes from massive head and chest trauma.

After the collision, Auldridge made no attempt to aid Hinojosa or to call for help. Instead, he found a place on the roadside to hide his Crown Royal bag full of methamphetamine, marijuana, dealer baggies, and a scale. He then sat on the curb.

At the scene, Auldridge passed the field sobriety tests given by the police. However, he repeatedly zoned out and fell asleep while the police interviewed him. He admitted that he had been using methamphetamine for a couple of days and claimed not to remember how the accident had happened. Tests on Auldridge’s blood showed 0.17 milligrams per liter of methamphetamine.

This case was unusual for Tarrant County because prosecutors sought a conviction of intoxication manslaughter for driving under the influence of drugs, not alcohol. At trial, prosecutors argued that Auldridge lacked the normal use of his mental faculties when he collided with Hinojosa because he was coming down from a high following his methamphetamine binge. The State’s expert testified that coming down from a methamphetamine high could cause fatigue and uncontrollable sleepiness.

Auldridge’s extensive history of drug use began when he was ten years old. He was on probation in two felony cases when this crime occurred. As part of his probation, Auldridge had received inpatient drug treatment from February to September 2004. After that, he was released to an aftercare halfway house. Only nine days before he killed Hinojosa, Auldridge had refused to give a urine sample and had walked out of the halfway house.

The jury convicted Auldridge of intoxication manslaughter following less than an hour of deliberations. The jury took only twenty minutes to sentence Auldridge to eighteen years in prison. Auldridge’s sentence in this case was stacked with the sixteen-month sentence he received when his probation was revoked in his previous case.

“Our jury gave the Hinojosa family some justice for the senseless death of their son,” said Assistant Criminal District Attorney Mollee Westfall, who prosecuted Auldridge. “They also sent a strong message of zero tolerance for driving under the influence of drugs,” she continued.  [TOP]


Appellate chief selected for Court of Criminal Appeals’ Rules Advisory Committee

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has selected Charles Mallin, chief of the District Attorney’s appellate section, to serve on its Rules Advisory Committee. The six-member committee assists the Court in suggesting additions, deletions, and modifications to the Texas Rules of Evidence and the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure. The committee includes Mr. Mallin, three judges, a defense attorney, and an academician

Mr. Mallin has appeared before the Court of Criminal Appeals on behalf of the State in numerous significant criminal appeals. Prior to joining the District Attorney’s Office in 1991, Mr. Mallin worked for the Court of Criminal Appeals as a research attorney to Judge Rusty Duncan from 1987-91 and as a deputy public defender in Los Angeles, California.

Mr. Mallin is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is a frequent author and speaker on various criminal law topics and is an adjunct professor of law in criminal procedure at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.  [TOP]


Catholic school teacher convicted of sexually abusing student

Dawn Reiser, a Grapevine Catholic school teacher, befriended and sexually abused her thirteen-year-old male student.

During the spring of 2004, Reiser and the victim talked on the telephone, on the computer, and in person without his mother’s knowledge. Reiser told the victim that she loved him, and they discussed getting married when he turned eighteen.

In early June 2004, Reiser met the victim at a Colleyville park. The victim later told police that they “made out” and fondled each other at the park. On June 10, 2004, Reiser drove the victim to her Euless home, where they engaged in sexual activity.

Days later, the victim attended a summer church camp. While there, the victim received letters from Reiser stating that she loved and missed him. She instructed him to open the letters alone and to destroy them.

Wanting to clear his conscience, the victim turned over Reiser’s letters to a camp counselor and revealed that he had been sexually involved with his teacher. Camp officials contacted the police.

When the police searched Reiser’s home, they discovered items described by the victim as being used by Reiser during the sexual assault at her house and stationary matching the letters sent to the victim. Forensic testing found Reiser’s DNA on two of the letters turned over by the victim.

Reiser denied having a relationship with the victim and called him a vindictive liar. She initiated a fundraising and propaganda website and enlisted supporters who vocally disparaged the victim.

The jury convicted Reiser of aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child and assessed sentences of eight years in prison and ten years probation, respectively. Assistant Criminal District Attorney Mitch Poe, who heads the Crimes Against Children Unit and prosecuted Reiser, said that the victim’s family “could once again hold their heads high” following the jury’s verdict.

Reiser will serve four years before becoming eligible for parole. Additionally, she must register as a sex offender, and she will be permanently banned from teaching.

“The jury in this case clearly sent Tarrant County a message that female perpetrators of child crimes will be held as accountable as their male counterparts,” Poe said.  [TOP]
 

JUSTICE FOR GRAPEVINE POLICE OFFICER

    
Four-year police veteran Darren Medlin, 34, was killed by a drunk driver during a routine traffic stop. He was the first Grapevine police officer to be killed in the line of duty in the history of the Grapevine Police Department, which was formed in 1956.

     The night of June 12, 2004, Officer Medlin had stopped a speeding Ford Mustang on Texas 121. As the officer stood beside the car, Roy Alvin Adams was traveling down the highway to his Bedford home after a night of drinking at two Dallas nightclubs. Adams’ Lincoln struck Officer Medlin, who was thrown onto the car’s windshield and flipped high into the air. Officer Medlin died immediately at the scene.

     Adams’ car was disabled by the crash, and he stopped near the scene. His blood-alcohol level was 0.11 an hour later.

    At trial, the jury watched a tape of the offense from Officer Medlin’s in-car video camera. The defense attempted to persuade the jury that Adams had suffered a seizure when he hit Officer Medlin. The jury rejected the defense’s scenario and convicted Adams of intoxication manslaughter.

    At punishment, Adams sought probation, while the State requested a penitentiary sentence. The defense argued that the only reason the State had requested a prison sentence was because the victim was a police officer. Prosecutor Richard Alpert responded that Adams deserved a prison term, not because the victim was a police officer, but because Officer Medlin “was a man who loved his family . . . a man who knew responsibility.”

     The jury sentenced Adams to twelve and a half years in prison. He must serve half of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Following the trial, Officer Medlin’s widow expressed her satisfaction with the punishment verdict. “He’s not coming back, but Darren still had the last word. He got another drunk driver off the streets,” she said.
[TOP]

First Woman Sentenced to Death in County

Chelsea Richardson recently became the first female sentenced to death in Tarrant County. Richardson, her boyfriend Andrew Wamsley, and her best friend Susana Toledano were nineteen years old when they murdered Andrew’s parents in their upscale Mansfield home after months of planning and failed attempts.
     “The crime was planned for two months [and the] motive was pure greed,” said Tarrant County prosecutor Mike Parrish. “They planned this double murder to get the proceeds of a one million dollar insurance policy,” he said.
     Andrew and Chelsea began dating in January 2003. Around October 2003, they decided that Andrew’s parents, Rick and Suzanna Wamsley, and his sister, Sarah, had to die so that Andrew could inherit the family’s estate.
     Chelsea recruited Susana to help. Susana had moved in with Chelsea because of problems with her mother, and Susana had grown very dependent on Chelsea. Chelsea knew that she could convince Susana to do anything for her, including murder Andrew’s parents. In order to convince Susana to participate in the killings, Chelsea held it over Susana’s head that Susana lived rent-free with Chelsea’s family and that Chelsea or Andrew provided Susana’s only means of transportation to work.
     Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana frequented an IHOP restaurant in south Arlington, where they often discussed their plans to kill Andrew’s family. They befriended the restaurant’s manager, twenty-four-year-old Hilario Cardenas, and convinced him with promises of money to join their scheme.
Over time, the foursome discussed various ways to murder the Wamsleys. Their plans included having Hilario cut the brake lines on the family’s vehicle and having him accompany Andrew and Susana to the Wamsleys’ house and stage a robbery after murdering Andrew’s parents.
     At some point, Chelsea convinced Hilario to get a gun for the group. Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana went target shooting at a nearby pond to prepare for the killings.
The afternoon of November 9, 2003, Chelsea waited at home to establish an alibi while Andrew and Susana located his parents and sister in the family’s Jeep Laredo on I-35 in Burleson. As Andrew drove, Susana sat in the back seat and shot at the gas tank of the Wamsleys’ vehicle in hopes that it would explode. A bullet hit the Jeep, but Susana was unable to shoot the gas tank. Andrew’s family was uninjured. Although the police were called, they uncovered no leads.
     After that, the plan changed to killing the Wamsleys at home. Because Susana had failed to kill the Wamsleys by shooting their gas tank, Chelsea convinced her that she had to make things right by acting as the shooter.
Late one night, Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana entered the Wamsleys’ house so that Susana could shoot Andrew’s sleeping parents. However, Susana decided that she could not go through with the plan, and the group snuck out of the house.
On December 9, 2003, Susana received a text message from Chelsea that they had to murder the Wamsleys that night. Susana accompanied Andrew and Chelsea to the Wamsleys’ house in the early morning hours of December 10. After the trio entered the house, Chelsea coached Susana about how to carry out the shootings.
     After Chelsea’s pep talk, Susana shot Andrew’s mother in the head as she slept on the living room sofa. She died instantly.
Next, Susana went to the master bedroom, where Mr. Wamsley had awakened to the sound of the gunshot. He charged toward Susana as she fired into the bedroom. A bullet struck him above the eyebrow. Mr. Wamsley managed to tackle Susana, who hit the floor and lost the gun. Chelsea then picked up the weapon and shot Mr. Wamsley in the back to make him let go of Susana.
When there were no more bullets in the gun, Chelsea retrieved two knives from the kitchen. Meanwhile, Mr. Wamsley and Andrew struggled into the entryway as Mr. Wamsley pleaded with his son and asked why this was happening. Chelsea lied that she was pregnant and threatened to shoot Mr. Wamsley if he did not shut up.
      As the struggle continued, Chelsea ordered Susana to return to the living room and stab Mrs. Wamsley to ensure that she was dead. When Susana returned to the entry way, Mr. Wamsley was face down on the floor, and Susana stabbed him in the back.
When Mr. and Mrs. Wamsley were dead, Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana fled. They threw their outer clothing into a trash bag that Chelsea had brought along. Then, they went to Chelsea’s house and cleaned up. Later in the morning, they cleaned and detailed Andrew’s car. Susana followed her usual routine of going to school and then to work.
       At about 11:40 p.m. that night, an open line 911 call originated from the Wamsleys’ house. When the Mansfield police arrived a few minutes later, no one responded from inside. They noticed that the garage door and the door leading from the garage into the kitchen were open.
       Upon entering the house, the police discovered the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Wamsley. “It was an incredibly brutal and frightening crime scene,” said Tarrant County prosecutor Page Simpson. Mr. Wamsley had been shot in the head and stabbed over thirty times in the chest and back, while Mrs. Wamsley had been shot in the head and stabbed more than thirteen times in the chest. An autopsy revealed several hairs clutched in Mr. Wamsley’s hand, but no other physical evidence was found.
      When Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana were called before the grand jury, they lied about where they had been when the Wamsleys were murdered. Chelsea convinced Jeremy Lavender, a mentally challenged nineteen-year-old, to provide her and her friends with a false alibi. Chelsea had befriended Lavender and made him think that he was her boyfriend. When Jeremy’s story failed to withstand police scrutiny, he admitted providing the false alibi at Chelsea’s request.
      Authorities went months without solid evidence in the case. They finally got a break in March 2004 when tests matched Susana’s DNA to the hair found clasped in Mr. Wamsley’s hand.
As a result of the DNA match, police arrested Susana in Illinois on April 5, 2004. Still under Chelsea’s influence, and following Chelsea’s instructions, Susana immediately implicated only herself and Hilario in the murders. She protected Chelsea and Andrew.
      As a result of Susana’s statements, police arrested Hilario in Arlington the next day. He then implicated Andrew and Chelsea in the murders, and police arrested the couple.
While in jail awaiting trial, Chelsea discussed her involvement in the Wamsleys’ murders with several inmates and attempted to convince them to testify on her behalf. She began calling one inmate “mom” and passed her a note the day after the trial began instructing her to memorize Chelsea’s false alibi and to rewrite it in her own words.
At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury convicted Chelsea of capital murder in less than three hours.
       At the punishment stage, the State sought the death penalty. The evidence included a letter from Chelsea to Andrew written the day after they had shot at the family’s vehicle in Burleson. The letter exposed Chelsea’s manipulation of Andrew to believe that his family did not love or trust him and that she was the only person on whom he could rely. Based on the brutal, premeditated murders of the Wamsleys out of greed, as well as evidence of Chelsea’s manipulation of others and of the danger she posed to society, the jury took just over two hours to sentence Chelsea to death.
        Andrew’s trial for capital murder is currently scheduled to begin in the fall of 2005. Susana, who entered a plea bargain with the State in exchange for her truthful testimony at trial, is currently serving a life sentence for murder. Susana will not be eligible for parole until she serves thirty years in prison. Charges are pending against Hilario for his role in conspiring to murder the Wamsleys.
[TOP]

Teacher’s Assistant Convicted of Sex Assault on Student
    
David Franklin, a substitute teacher’s assistant at the Horizons Alternative School, sexually assaulted a fourteen-year-old girl while her classmates watched. He then turned out the lights and acted as a lookout while two other students had sexual contact with the girl. All of the students present in the classroom during this shocking crime testified against Franklin at his trial.
     “We entrust our schools not only with the education of our children, but also the safety of our children,” said prosecutor Steven Jumes. “Franklin exploited that trust.”
     Franklin was sentenced to two years’ confinement for having sex with the student and five years’ probation for allowing the two students to simulate sex with her. “The jury’s punishment illustrates that no child should be abandoned by the system,” Jumes said. [TOP]

Drive-by Shooting Results in Life Sentence for Gang Member
    
Gang member John Carlos Rios was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison for the drive-by shooting at Rosemont Park that left dead two innocent eighteen-year-old bystanders and their unborn child. Rios had returned to the park with a shotgun to seek revenge against a rival gang member who had beaten him up earlier in the day. He fired into a crowd of people wearing the colors of the rival gang. Neither victim had been involved in the earlier gang dispute.
     Rios must serve forty years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. “The jury’s verdict serves notice on gang members that gang violence will not be tolerated in Tarrant County,” said Camille Sparks, who prosecuted Rios.  [TOP]

Racially-motivated Shooting Spree Results in Life Sentence
    
In November 2002, just weeks after the DC snipers were apprehended, Billy Thomas and his brother Claude went on a two-day copycat shooting spree that left three people dead and one wounded in Fort Worth. “We believe that these crimes were racially-motivated and patterned after or in response to the DC snipers,” said prosecutor Riley Shaw.
     In the early morning hours of November 11, 2002, Debra Harlow, an epileptic who could not drive, was shot in the chest as she walked home from a convenience store after playing bingo. An in-store security video showed Thomas entering the store immediately before Harlow and leaving seconds after her. A short time later and a few miles away, Allen Williby, who had suffered brain trauma at birth and could not drive, was gunned down in front of a church as he walked to work.
     The rampage resumed two days later when a woman escaped being shot while walking across the MLK Freeway. She gave the police a description of her assailants’ distinctive truck. Less than an hour later, a cyclist pushing his bicycle near Cobb Park was shot. The victim survived and described the same distinctive truck. About forty-five minutes later, Eric Baker was shot in the head while walking on Bomar Street.
     Within minutes of Baker’s murder, the police stopped Thomas and his brother for a routine traffic violation. During the stop, Baker’s body was discovered on the street a short distance away and a description of the distinctive suspect truck was broadcast. The officers realized that the description matched the Thomas’ truck, and the brothers were arrested.
     Police found two shotguns and a significant amount of live and spent ammunition in the truck cab. Later forensic testing found Baker’s blood splattered on the side of the truck and matched the bullets recovered from the victims to the guns found in the truck. These items provided the evidence that prosecutors needed to link the shootings to each other and to identify Thomas as the perpetrator.
    Thomas was convicted of capital murder for the multiple homicides. The State waived the death penalty, and Thomas received an automatic life sentence. He must serve forty years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. “We feel that justice has prevailed,” Shaw said. [TOP]

Paramedic Gets 99 Years for Sexual Abuse
    
James Thomas worked as a paramedic for various Tarrant County agencies when he began sexually abusing his 8-year-old stepdaughter. For about two years, Thomas showed his young stepdaughter child and adult pornography and made her copy the acts and poses depicted.
     Thomas worked at a local hospital when he was arrested. Over the years, Thomas had often placed himself in close contact with children. He previously had volunteered at a children’s asthma camp and had worked at a children’s hospital.
      A jury convicted Thomas of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced him to ninety-nine years in prison for abusing his stepdaughter. “Any time we can get a sexual offender who has access to children off the street and out of reach of children is a good day for law enforcement and for the children of our community,” said Dixie Bresano, who prosecuted Thomas. [TOP]

50 Years for Leaving Man to Die Imbedded In Windshield
     It was almost the perfect crime—a partially clothed man’s body was found in a park looking as though he had been brutally beaten. But he wasn’t. He was obviously dead, but he didn’t die at that location. His body had been dumped. The puzzle of Mr. Biggs’ death was not solved until the police received a tip implicating Chante Mallard. A search of Mallard’s garage revealed a car with a broken windshield that still held remnants of Biggs' blood and hair in the roof lining. Police later learned that Mallard had consumed a combination of alcohol, ecstasy and marijuana in the hours before striking Biggs with her car. She told police that while he was lodged in her windshield, Biggs could only moan when she spoke to him. She drove him into her garage and hid him until he finally died.

Despite being a certified nurse’s assistant since 1995, Mallard made no effort to treat Biggs’ injuries. She did not call 911 or her brother who was an emergency medical technician with the Fort Worth Fire Department and on duty the night Biggs died in her garage. She instead chose to call her friends to help her conceal all evidence of the crime. Greg Biggs bled to death hours later. The next day Mallard, with the help of some friends, dumped Biggs’ nearly naked body near some swing sets in Cobb Park. In the months and weeks that followed, Mallard dismantled the interior of her car and burned the seats where Mr. Biggs died.

The trial of the State of Texas versus Chante Mallard began June 18, 2003. The prosecutors presented numerous witnesses to establish a rock solid case of murder. Jurors viewed more than 195 exhibits. Maps of all public phones, fire stations, and police departments were shown to illustrate the ease with which Mallard could have called for help. Mallard was convicted of murder and tampering with evidence.

Although Mallard invoked her right not to testify during the guilt – innocence portion of the trial, she did testify at punishment. She portrayed herself as a marijuana addicted scared young woman who was sincerely sorry for her actions the night Mr. Biggs died. However, thorough preparation and investigation by the prosecutors, the State was able to show the jury that Mallard was not so repentant: jurors saw a videotape showing Mallard one week later out at the same bar, drinking and enjoying herself, that she had been to the night she killed Mr. Biggs. Jurors sentenced Mallard to 50 years in the penitentiary for the murder of Greg Biggs and 10 years in the penitentiary for tampering with evidence. [TOP]