Limestone County Judge Daniel Burkeen responds to allegations

Three of the four Limestone County commissioners filed a petition three weeks ago seeking to remove Limestone County Judge Daniel Burkeen after his April DWI Arrest.  In that petition was also multiple accounts of allegations against Burkeen.Burkeen, issued the following statement to media outlets Friday in response to that petition and allegations.

“Since the lawsuit filed by the commissioners has not proceeded, but has been well-publicized, which, of course, was their goal, I thought it best to go ahead and respond so the public would know the truth.

It is ironic that those behind the lawsuit complain about the publicity from the DWI stop.  The publicity had pretty much died down, until revived again by filing the lawsuit.  The timely negative publicity was obviously the goal.  Keeping the publicity alive was the goal.  The DWI stop was very much publicized, I was very open about the fact that I had made a mistake.  Anyone can believe or not believe how it happened, either way it’s not an excuse, it’s just what happened.  It is interesting that the commissioners complain that I should have been at work at that time, when they each make $39-40,000 per year from the taxpayers while working full time at other jobs.

The other allegations are nothing more than sleazy politics at their worst–false statements, half-truths and innuendos designed to create a completely false impression.

The first allegation is that I engaged in “inappropriate conduct with a female high school age girl.”  One of the plaintiffs has already publicly conceded that the attached video shows no misconduct.  What kind of person makes that type of allegation and then admits it is not true?  The fact is that the young lady is a family friend, and has been for years.  She had gone with me to a dinner at McLane stadium as a treat for her birthday.  It was attended by many county judges and commissioners.  Nothing secret, nothing sinister, nothing hidden.  We stopped by the courthouse to get my briefcase on the way to meet her parents.  Her parents knew where we were.  My family knew where we were.  It was frankly none of the commissioners’ business.  The one who admitted that the video showed no misconduct said that I shouldn’t have been there.  They never complained when I was at the courthouse late working on the budget, or other county business, while they worked on their own businesses

 

Next they allege that I was observed going into a holding cell and hugging a female inmate.  I was “observed” because there was nothing to hide.  I had been counseling and ministering to the young lady at the request of her father, because he was ill and was concerned about her lifestyle.  When she had cases filed in my court I recused myself from the cases.  They forgot to mention that.  The petitioners claim that no one is allowed to visit in the holding cell.  That is not true.  Normally when I go to see an inmate for any reason the jail staff has them waiting in the holding cell and I visit with them there.  And, yes, I held hands with the young lady and prayed.  I did the same thing when I prayed with her in the hospital with my wife and daughters present.

I did on one occasion allow the young lady to talk to her boyfriend who was in custody.  I was told by the jail staff that this was not allowed, and apologized, as I always try to respect jail policy.

I was seen giving the young lady money in my office and volunteered that it came from my church.  My church wanted to buy Christmas gifts for needy children, and I told them about this young lady’s two little girls.  They agreed to adopt them for Christmas and some of the ladies from the church went shopping and bought Christmas gives for the two girls.  Our pastor’s wife told me she also had a gift card of $25 that I could give her which I did.  I didn’t try to hide it because there was nothing to hide.

They allege that my behavior with one defendant forced my recusal from her case.  An outright lie.  This young lady is literally like a daughter to me. She has no parents, and so my wife and I have always been there for her.  We attended her high school graduation.  She babysat our kids, etc.  And when she got arrested for driving with a suspended license she called me, and I went to see her in Robertson County, not Hill County.  And when she ended up with a hot check case in Limestone County and a case was filed, I immediately filed a motion to recuse, on my own motion (sua sponte) and Judge Linda Grant heard the case.  This is the same thing I would have done if it had been one of my own children.  It was the proper procedure.  There was no bad “behavior” and I was not “forced” to recuse myself.  This is all public record in the county clerk’s office.  I did later sign a dismissal of the case at the request of the county attorney after the case was resolved, this being merely a ministerial act at this point to allow the clerk to close the file.

Another defendant did contact me about her case.  It is not uncommon for a defendant or a member of the defendant’s family to attempt to contact me about a case.  They are told to go through their attorney.  If they indicate that cannot contact the attorney this is passed along to the attorney.  Especially if the attorney is court-appointed.  We are bound by requirements in the Fair Defense Act and the county’s indigent defense plan, which include mandates concerning the attorneys timely contacting the defendants.  These are intended to protect the defendant’s rights, not the attorney’s feelings.

And we routinely give PR bonds to those in jail on charges where no case has been filed.  This is provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure.  This is my job.  We don’t try to keep people in jail on cases that have not been filed.  This is done in coordination with the prosecutor, normally in open court.  The alternative is to keep people in jail who can’t make bond even though no formal charges have been brought, which becomes very expensive for the taxpayers.

They complain that I gave a PR bond to a young lady who later came by to show me her baby.  They forgot to mention that I also put the young lady in jail.  This young lady was on probation, was pregnant and constantly tested positive for drugs.  We (myself, the prosecutor, the probation officer) were concerned and warned her of the dangers of using drugs while pregnant, and the possible consequences of the baby being born with drugs in its system.  When all else failed she was locked up to get her attention, with no intention of keeping her in jail, as she was very much pregnant.  We were successful, and the baby was born drug free.  She was understandably happy and brought the baby by the courthouse to show to those who had helped her, including myself, and I happened to be in commissioners court when she came by.  I was, and am, very proud of the success we had in cases like this.  I never dreamed that someone would sink so low as to try to make something sleazy from such a situation for their own gain.

To read more of this story, pick up a copy of Thursday's edition of The Groesbeck Journal! You can also subscribe online or call 254-729-5103.

 

Groesbeck Journal

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