More trouble for Dallas DA Craig Watkins as FBI begins criminal investigation
The potential legal woes for Craig Watkins are piling up. The Dallas District Attorney is now the target of a criminal FBI investigation related to his role in a mortgage fraud case against Al Hill III, an heir to the Hunt Oil fortune.
In a statement, Hill's attorney John Hueston confirmed knowledge of the federal inquiry.
We have provided federal law enforcement with information relating to prosecutorial misconduct issues involving Dallas County D.A. Craig Watkins, and we intend to cooperate with any investigations of these issues. We strongly believe that the evidence we amassed during a nearly two-year defense investigation demonstrates that the indictments against Mr. Hill were obtained to further the interests of Mr. Watkins' political supporters.
Watkins is currently facing a contempt of court charge for his refusal to testify about how and why the indictment against Hill was developed.
The district attorney’s office had argued that Hill misrepresented his ownership of a Highland Park home to obtain a $500,000 loan from Omni American Bank. Hill has since repaid the loan.
The bank never complained about the loan. Information about the alleged fraud came from Hill's father, Al Hill Jr., who has been embroiled in various legal disputes with his son for years.
Judge Lena Levario overruled Watkins' use of work product and attorney client privilege when he took the stand and declined to testify about the case on March 7.
Hill claims that Watkins brought charges against him due to his cozy relationship with attorney Lisa Blue, who once represented Hill against his father but later sued him to recover millions of dollars in legal fees.
Levario said she dismissed the criminal charges against Hill because Watkins and Blue refused to testify and thus jeopardized the fairness of the hearing. Though jail time is highly unlikely, the DA could face a $500 fine for his actions.
More concerning than an actual contempt charge, however, is the federal inquiry into whether Watkins chose to seek an indictment against Hill as a political favor to Blue. Should the FBI choose to purse political corruption charges against Watkins, he could potentially face jail time, heavy fines and a restitution order to the state of Texas and Hill.