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Bond for Smith County constable accused of theft, abuse of power lowered; request to remove judge denied

Judge Alfonso Charles approved lowering the bonds to a total of $40,000, or $20,000 for each of his charges.

TYLER, Texas — A visiting judge lowered suspended Smith County Constable Curtis Traylor-Harris' bond Friday following a recent appeals court ruling calling the amount "excessive." 

Traylor-Harris, who is accused of stealing and abusing his power while serving an eviction notice, has been in the Gregg County Jail on a $1 million bond since May 13 due to multiple bond violations.

Judge Alfonso Charles, the presiding judge of the Tenth Administrative Judicial Region, approved lowering the bonds to a total of $40,000, or $20,000 for each of his charges.

He also denied Traylor-Harris' request to remove Judge Jack Skeen Jr. as a trial judge.

In July, Traylor-Harris was temporarily suspended as Pct. 1 constable in July after a citizen filed a lawsuit to remove him from office.

Charles, who presided over the hearing in the 241st District Court, found that Traylor-Harris violated his bond conditions three times, including leaving Smith County twice without permission and having a firearm.

He noted that Traylor-Harris has never missed court dates. He ordered that Traylor-Harris' turn over any and all firearms.

In May, Judge Jack Skeen Jr. of the 241st District Court initially 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. 

In an Aug. 30 ruling, the 12th Court of Appeals said after reviewing evidence, the bond for Traylor-Harris is "excessive."  The court of appeals said in the ruling the trial court abused its discretion when denying Traylor-Harris' requests to reduce his bond.

During arguments, the state said there's evidence to show Traylor-Harris will not follow bond conditions due to incidents of breaking the rules of his bond. 

The defense noted Traylor-Harris has attended all his court dates, has not been violent and 12th Court of Appeals ruled the $1 million bond as "excessive."

Traylor-Harris' attorney asked that a personal recognizance bond be granted or bonds no less than $15,000 for each charge. 

Traylor-Harris' pre-trial bond officer Cesar Berrum testified about Traylor-Harris' violations, including leaving Smith County to attend a graduation and possessing a firearm. 

Traylor-Harris' mother Patricia Crockett  and his older sister Tiffany Crockett both testified that family members have tried to save money for Traylor-Harris' bond. 

Both said they're on fixed incomes. His mother said that Traylor-Harris has attended all his court dates and has family in the Smith County area. 

Tiffany Crockett said she's never known Traylor-Harris to be violent. If he were to be released, she said he would stay at her house, where there are no firearms. 

Also during the hearing, Charles denied the defense’s request that Skeen be recused as judge from the case. 

Traylor-Harris' defense lawyer said that Skeen has shown bias against Traylor-Harris during the court proceedings, such as those regarding his bond violations. He noted Skeen saying he wasn't going to cut Traylor-Harris any slack.

He also brought up how Skeen recused himself from the lawsuit hearings related to the 2020 Smith County Pct. 1 constable election, in which Traylor-Harris was a candidate. 

The defense lawyer said Skeen on Aug. 4 set a trial date of Sept. 19 before the 12th Court of Appeals had made its ruling on the bond. The appeals court ultimately gave its ruling Aug. 30.  

The prosecution argued that Skeen saying he wouldn't cut any slack does not show bias and the previous case involving the election does not connect to Traylor-Harris' criminal case. The state said Traylor-Harris is not entitled to any special treatment.

CHARGES

Traylor-Harris, Pct. 1 Sgt. Derrick Holman and former Pct. 1 Chief Deputy LaQuenda Banks were arrested in November last year and are charged with official oppression and property theft.

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

The stolen items included watches, ammunition, cash, Oakley sunglasses, Ray-Ban sunglasses, makeup and a safe containing antique coins, quarter collection, military medals, a diploma, a birth certificate and a social security card, the affidavit read.

Last December, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement suspended all three of their peace officer licenses. Because of the suspension, Banks and Holman cannot work or have authority as peace officers.

RELATED: Jailed Smith County Pct. 1 constable temporarily suspended from office following lawsuit

RELATED: Appeals court deems $1 million bond for jailed suspended Smith County constable as 'excessive'

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