A secret video recording appears to contradict the claims of a Texas judge who is under investigation by the FBI for corruption.
Jefferson County Judge Layne Walker has been accused of misappropriating public funds, destruction of evidence, witness tampering, falsifying governmental records, perjury, official oppression and more.
Sworn affidavits state Walker pulled a gun on a licensed, federal process server who was at his residence for a routine records subpoena, which Walker ignored.
The process server, Stephen Hartman, then tried to serve Walker May 28 in his courtroom in Beaumont, but the judge had Hartman arrested, claiming he was loud and disruptive. Several of Walker's court officers backed his claim in sworn statements.
But the video recording made by a digital pen shows Hartman speaking quietly to an officer in the courtroom. Hartman was almost immediately seized and arrested by another officer, the video shows.
As WND reported, Walker is under investigation by the FBI, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct and the U.S. Attorney's office in Beaumont, Texas.
The video obtained by WND indicates Hartman was forcibly arrested after waiting behind the public seating area to serve Walker. There appears to be no indication that he was anything but law-abiding and respectful.
The video shows Hartman quietly waving over a sheriff's deputy to his location behind the bar. Hartman then whispered that he was a process server and he was supposed to serve Walker with federal civil rights suit papers.
The deputy then walked to Deputy Sergeant Broussard, who aggressively charged Hartman, pushed him and then arrested him.
The video appears to demonstrate that Hartman never tried to approach Walker, which contradicts sworn affidavits that Walker, District Attorney Tom Maness and sheriff's officers presented as evidence against Hartman.
Also, Broussard took Hartman's recording pen with the crucial evidence after Hartman's arrest. Jefferson County Sheriff Mitch Woods has discussed publicly his agency's handling of evidence.
Later, Woods suspended Broussard with full pay for tampering with the evidence.
In the video, Walker can also be heard echoing the attending deputies, saying, "You can take him to jail," to which Broussard stated, "That's where he's going."
As he was escorted out, Hartman continued to speak, admonishing the deputies: "You realize this is illegal. I am a process server. You cannot arrest me."
Broussard admits on the video that Walker told him to arrest Hartman, even though Hartman had done nothing illegal.
A timeline of the video:
In the video, Hartman asks, "What is my charge?"
The deputies replied: "They have to do what the judge says. We'll let you know as soon as the judge gets done."
Six weeks later, Hartman was charged for "disturbing" the court proceedings "with excessive noise."
After Hartman reiterated that he was a "process server" and it is "illegal to arrest a process server," the deputies asked, "Why were you trying to do that?"
Hartman has filed a lawsuit against Walker for violating his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, as WND previously reported.
WND also obtained nine affidavits filed by a number of attorneys who supported Walker's allegation of a disturbance by Hartman.
In one affidavit filed by Assistant District Attorney Lindsey Scott, it was claimed that Hartman had been "loud and disruptive."
Scott further contended that Hartman was "yelling."
Part of Scott's affidavit:
According to Scott, Walker asked, "Who was that guy?" later in the proceedings, even though Hartman had met the judge at the judge's home earlier.
Assistant District Attorney E. Perry Thomas also submitted an affidavit. In his written remarks, Thomas claims that Hartman was told to "sit down or leave the courtroom." But at no time in the video obtained by WND did Broussard make such a statement before proceeding to arrest Hartman.
In the video, Hartman identified himself quietly to one of the deputies before the same deputy spoke with Walker and then walked back to threaten arrest. The words "sit down or leave" do not arise in the video.
Attorney Rife Kimler also submitted an affidavit in which he claims that Hartman crossed the bar partition and begin to approach the bench. At no time in the video can Hartman be seen crossing the partition. The partition can be seen plainly separating Hartman, as can one of the bailiffs standing on the other side of the partition in front of Hartman.
Kimler's affidavit is excerpted here:
Another affidavit, filed by Joel Vazquez, practicing attorney in Beaumont, claims that Hartman "left the audience and was walking toward the bench when he was intercepted by Sergeant Broussard.
"He attempted to push by Sergeant Broussard and walk to the back or the court or the bench where Judge Walker was conducting court," Vazquez says.
But the video appears to not support that scenario.
Other prominent criminal defense attorneys who provided very similar affidavits are James Makin and Tom Burbank.
Beaumont Attorney John Morgan, who is representing Hartman and initially subpoenaed the video, made the following statement to WND:
The audio and video of Stephen Hartman's arrest has finally been secured and released to the public. The Jefferson County District Attorney Tom Maness and the sheriff's office have ignored multiple requests under the Texas Open Record Act to obtain this evidence, in violation of Texas law. The videotape demonstrates very clearly that Judge Layne Walker, the sheriff's department and the district attorney's office lied. The videotape proves conclusively that all the sworn affidavits taken from the attorneys, court personnel, and deputies are intentionally false. This is perjury, which is the crime of providing deliberately false sworn testimony. The people who provided these perjured affidavits did not know that the events were being recorded via a recording pen. Judge Walker, D.A. Tom Maness and Sheriff Mitch Woods spent two months trying to hide this evidence and prevent its release. Several prominent criminal defense attorneys perjured themselves in order to obtain criminal appointments from Judge Walker, including James Makin. Two assistant district attorneys assigned to Judge Walker's court perjured themselves, and one must wonder if Tom Maness ordered them to commit perjury. Now, Judge Walker, Sheriff Mitch Woods, District [Attorney] Tom Maness, and the Provost Umphrey law firm are trying to block the recovery and release of the audiotape of the proceedings when Judge Walker ordered Mr. Hartman's arrest. The audiotape would prove that Stephen Hartman did not disturb the court proceedings by excessive noise, which is the criminal charge against him. That is why these perpetrators are trying to prevent the disclosure of this evidence. To makes matters worse, Judge Walker, Maness and Sheriff Mitch Woods refuse to produce the evidence that they stole from Mr. Hartman's cell phone, downloaded and erased. These perpetrators have demonstrated a pattern of illegally taking cell phones, downloading their contents and erasing the contents they do not like. The Provost Umphrey law firm has actively participated in this. This pattern has occurred several times. As a licensed attorney, it is my opinion there is very clear evidence of a pattern of racketeering activity involving Judge Layne Walker, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, District Attorney Tom Maness and the Provost Umphrey law firm.
Morgan has formally requested that the charges be dropped in light of the video evidence and the pending FBI investigation of Walker for alleged corruption.
WND reported earlier when state and court records revealed the investigation into Walker, including allegations he interfered in a child custody dispute involving an attorney he did not like.
There also are allegations that Walker may have misused a defense fund for the poor.
The dispute with the process server is at the tail end of the story. It began more than a year ago when a private investigator named Philip Klein discovered that Walker might have been misusing money from the Texas Indigent Defense Fund. The investigator provided this information to the Texas Judicial Commission and the Texas Attorney General's Office.
As a result of the subsequent questions, Walker allegedly retaliated by terminating the parental rights of a father and attorney, John Morgan, who was representing Klein at the time and who had custody proceedings pending.
Part of the affidavit concerning the use of funds:
Court documents suggest Walker retaliated against Morgan and took his three children from him due to Morgan's association with Klein.