Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins has been acquitted on a contempt of court charge from March. State district judge Lena Levario held Watkins in contempt for his refusal to testify in a mortgage fraud case against Hunt oil heir Albert Hill III.
Levario said Watkins' refusal to testify about his dealing with political benefactor Lisa Blue contributed to her decision to dismiss the case against Hill. Levario also alleged a conspiracy between Watkins and Blue. The DA's office has said it plans to appeal Levario's ruling and may re-file indictments against Hill.
The contentious contempt case has been winding its way through the court system for nearly six months. Watkins tried unsuccessfully to have Levario recused from the case with allegations of bias. Ultimately, the contempt charge went before three judges: Levario filed it; John Ovard allowed it to continue, and finally Bob Brotherton threw it out.
Although jail time was a possible punishment, Watkins was facing only a $500 fine.
Matthew Berger, a spokesperson for Hill, released the following statement after Brotherton's ruling.
Mr. Hill was not involved in today’s hearing, which related solely to the criminal contempt charge against Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins.
Judge Lena Levario reviewed hundreds of pages of evidence and heard testimony from several witnesses before deciding in March to dismiss the case against Mr. Hill due to constitutional violations by the District Attorney's Office. Today’s hearing has no effect on that ruling.