The stated mission of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office makes no mention of back-door deals or the opportunity for personal favors if your family is wealthy and well-connected. According to TCDA’s website, the county prosecutors strive to conduct their work in an “ethical, honest, and just manner.”

Is strong-arming career peace officers considered ethical? Is intervening in a family custody case to appease a well-connected family considered a “just manner” of conducting business? For most people, the answer would be no. Public corruption is a serious offense that undermines the credibility of our political or criminal justice system. 

Our system of government is built upon social contracts. We, as private citizens, voluntarily give our government certain limited powers in the interest of public welfare and safety. This system, of course, assumes that everyone under that system will be treated fairly. It’s a big assumption. 

Public corruption is an omnipresent threat in a country as wealthy as ours. It is human nature for the wealthy and powerful to try and use their power for self-serving ends. That is why we place certain limits on political contributions and codify workers’ rights.

Last year, I was a finalist for the regional First Amendment Award in Journalism. My investigative piece delved into the influence that a local law firm had over school board trustees. According to several people I spoke with, the national law firm used its influence to dictate the actions of elected officials. 

Trying to influence government officials does not constitute public corruption. When elected or government officials take unethical steps at the request of powerful private individuals or corporations, that is when public corruption occurs. 

According to two Fort Worth peace officers and the TCDA’s State Disclosure, members of our DA’s office did a favor for an influential family. This favor was done to disrupt a family custody suit and it required the DA’s office to “strong-arm” the detective and sergeant overseeing my case. That is called obstruction of justice, and because it was committed by members of the district attorney’s office, it is also known as public corruption.

Those documented actions undermine the credibility of our district attorney’s office. My case is certainly not unique. Questions should be raised about the legitimacy of our district attorney’s office under its current leadership. How many people in Tarrant County are facing criminal charges because a wealthy family asked our DA for a favor and the DA did that favor irrespective of local law enforcement’s understanding of the situation?

Americans are quick to decry public corruption in countries like Russia or Venezuela and for good reason. Power does corrupt, and Tarrant County needs to take its own incidents of public corruption seriously.

Edward Brown writes about music, arts, and news for a variety of publications. He’s an award-winning writer for the Fort Worth Weekly and volunteers for numerous Fort Worth nonprofits. He regularly contributes to Visit Fort Worth and Madeworthy Magazine. 

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