Breaking News
More () »

Request to remove judge in trial of suspended Smith County constable denied

His trial on official oppression and property theft charges is set for this coming Monday, Dec. 5.

TYLER, Texas — A judge has denied suspended Pct. 1 Smith County Constable Curtis Traylor-Harris' second attempt to remove Jack Skeen Jr. as judge for his trial. 

On Friday, Judge Alfonso Charles, the presiding judge of the Tenth Administrative Judicial Region, declined Traylor-Harris' motion to recuse Skeen that was filed on November after a previous failed attempt in September.

His trial on official oppression and property theft charges is set for this coming Monday, Dec. 5.

Charles said the motion to recuse was made based solely on Skeen's rulings and that is not a basis to remove a judge from a trial case. 

Charles also denied Traylor-Harris' lawyer Andrew Dammann's request to subpoena Skeen as a witness in the hearing. Charles said Dammann did not make the ask in a timely manner as the trial is set for Monday. 

Dammann said he only had two days' notice to issue the subpoena. Charles said the hearing was set as quickly as possible and apologized for the short notice.

During the hearing, Dammann said Traylor-Harris' trial is ahead of older cases where the defendants remain jailed on significant offenses. Skeen has previously said Traylor-Harris' case would remain number one on the docket for trial.

Dammann said he doubts Skeen's impartiality and setting Traylor-Harris' case first shows bias. He claimed Skeen's insistence on trying this case is an example of impartiality.

In the November filing, Dammann noted that Skeen said "I'm not going to cut you any slack" following a hearing in which Skeen increased Traylor-Harris' bond from a total of $20,000 to $500,000 due to his first violation. A week later, Skeen increased the bond to a total of $1 million.

The 12th Court of Appeals later ruled the $1 million bond as "excessive." During the first attempt to recuse in September, Dammann claimed Skeen showed bias with the slack comment and when Skeen raised Traylor-Harris' bond.

Charles then denied the defense's request at the time, but lowered Traylor-Harris' bonds to total $40,000. The suspended constable was then able to bond out of the Gregg County Jail.

Smith County Assistant District Attorney Emil Mikkelsen called the new attempt to recuse Skeen a way of delaying the trial further. He said this motion is based on rulings in the case, which is not grounds for recusal.

His lawyer also states Traylor-Harris' co-defendants, Holman and Banks, who are charged with official oppression and property theft as well, have not had their cases specially set. 

Banks and Holman are among those set to be witnesses for the prosecution.

An arrest affidavit details body camera footage of Traylor-Harris, Pct. 1 Sgt. Derrick Holman and former Pct. 1 Chief Deputy LaQuenda Banks stealing several items from a Tyler residence in late January last year while the resident, who was receiving an eviction notice, was away.

Traylor-Harris was temporarily suspended in July as Pct. 1 constable after a citizen filed a lawsuit to remove him from office. If convicted, that suspension will become permanent.

In December 2021, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement suspended all three of Traylor-Harris, Banks and Holman's peace officer licenses. Because of the suspension, Banks and Holman cannot work or have authority as peace officers.

Before You Leave, Check This Out