GILMER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) — Saying that former Upshur County Commissioner Lloyd Crabtree reportedly had a "personal relationship that goes beyond friendship" with an unnamed county employee, the prosecutor in five felony cases against him asked Monday that a judge "supervise and direct the summonsing of prospective jurors" in Crabtree's trial on three of the charges.
In a four-page motion filed Monday, Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd argues that "motivation likely exists to potentially tamper with the jury panel" due to the purported relationship. No ruling has been made on the motion because 115th District Judge Lauren Parish excused herself Monday from hearing the cases, and a new judge had yet to be assigned.
The 52-year-old Crabtree, who is married, and his 29-year-old son, Todd Allen Crabtree, face multiple felony charges stemming from an allegation that they held a state game warden at gunpoint in a confrontation in October 2012.
The cases involved in Byrd's motion are in a three-count indictment for "aggravated assault (by) threaten(ing) with deadly weapon against public servant." The elder Crabtree is accused of threatening Game Warden Shane Bailey, Big Sandy Police Officer Gary Pettis and Upshur County Sheriff's Deputy Anthony Brasher during the confrontation on private property.
Judge Parish disqualified herself from hearing any of the five cases against Lloyd Crabtree, saying her court coordinator, former Chief Deputy District Clerk Teena Henson, might be called as a witness in pretrial matters. An administrative judge in Dallas will assign a new judge to the cases, and no trial date has been set, Byrd said Monday. No clue was given to the county employee's identity, but Byrd said Tuesday that it is not Miss Henson.
Longview attorney Clifton (Scrappy) Holmes, who represents Lloyd Crabtree, said Tuesday it "really doesn't make me any difference how" prospective jurors are summoned, but declined comment on the prosecution motion's statement about Crabtree's purported relationship with the employee. An attempt to reach Lloyd Crabtree was unsuccessful Wednesday.
Upshur County District Clerk Carolyn Parrott also declined comment on that statement.
In the motion, Byrd says Crabtree's cell phone was seized after his Oct. 6 arrest, and that Judge Parish signed a search warrant allowing an unidentified "expert" to analyze it.
"The findings by the expert included, but were not limited to, phone calls and text messages. In preparing for trial, the State found text messages to a phone number that was recognized," Byrd's motion stated.
Upon further investigation, Byrd's motion said it was discovered that the phone number belonged to the unidentified county employee.