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Suspended Smith County constable accused of theft seeks to remove judge from trial for second time

Judge Alfonso Charles will hold a hearing over Zoom Friday afternoon to determine if Skeen should be removed from the case.

TYLER, Texas — Suspended Pct. 1 Smith County Constable Curtis Traylor-Harris accused of stealing and abusing his power is seeking to remove Judge Jack Skeen Jr. as judge for his trial for the second time.

Traylor-Harris filed another request to recuse Skeen as the judge for his case on Nov. 18. His trial on official oppression and property theft charges is currently set for Dec. 5. 

Judge Alfonso Charles, the presiding judge of the Tenth Administrative Judicial Region, will hold a hearing over Zoom Friday afternoon to determine if Skeen should be removed from the case.

In the filing, his lawyer Andrew 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. 

Dammann pointed out in the document that Skeen said Traylor-Harris' case would remain number one on the docket for trial.

Dammann said Skeen did this despite Traylor-Harris being out of jail on bond and there being older cases where the defendants remain jailed. 

"A non-biased administration of the 241st District Court's criminal docket would try cases with incarcerated defendants and any older cases before defendants," Dammann said in the document.

His lawyer also states Traylor-Harris' co-defendants, Pct. 1 Sgt. Derrick Holman and former Pct. 1 Chief Deputy LaQuenda 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, 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.

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.

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