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Corrupt Officials, Scandals, Indictments and Convictions Rock Rural Texas Counties

Four high ranking officials from Waller County resigned their offices after a federal investigation revealed that they were soliciting and accepting kickbacks and bribes in return for awarding construction contracts.

In February 2009, Larry W. Wilson Sr. and Paris Kincaid Jr. pleaded guilty to soliciting kickbacks. Wilson was mayor pro-tem of Hempstead, Texas and Kincaid was a Hempstead alderman.

That same month Keith Woods and Henry Cheney also pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks and conspiring to solicit kickbacks. Woods was mayor of Brookshire, Texas and Cheney was a public works director. Both Hempstead and Brookshire are located in Waller County northwest of Houston.

Four years ago the FBI launched its investigation by using a demolition contractor working undercover for the agency. Cash “packages” were offered to various officials at different locations including convenience stores, a Katy shopping mall and even a casino in Lake Charles, La.

Woods and Cheney are already serving time in federal prison. Wilson and Kincaid were scheduled for sentencing later this summer.

The indictments indicate that the scandal runs much deeper than just the four men arrested. References to “unnamed associates,” “unindicted co-conspirators” and even a “judge” suggest that the kingpin behind the entire operation is actually one of those unnamed, unindicted associates.

Over in Montague County, Texas, on February 27, 2009, 17 county employees were named in a 106-count indictment for their involvement in the nationally publicized jail scandal and corruption that took place under former sheriff Bill Keating.

In early May it was announced that the number was reduced to 43 indictments issued against 11 jail employees for activities including sexual relationships between jailers and prisoners, sexual relations between the sheriff and prisoners as well as drugs, cigarettes, cell phones being supplied to the prisoners by jail employees.

One of the guards indicted, Shawna Herr, pleaded guilty, in April 2009, to four counts of improper sexual activity with a prisoner and one count of bringing a prohibited substance into the jail. Herr was sentenced to concurrent 5-year and 2-year probation terms.

Darlene Walker is also under indictment for having illegal sex with a prisoner. Ironically, it was her affair with prisoner Luke Bolton that brought down Sheriff Keating and the jailers. Walker and Bolton became lovers while he was being held in the Montague County jail. The two became so close that she eventually hired a lawyer to get Bolton out and the two moved in together. When the relationship started to fall apart, Walker had Bolton rearrested on charges of rape and battery.

Bitter about being locked up again Bolton decided to assist in the ongoing FBI investigation. Walker now faces her own charges of bringing drugs and a cellphone into the jail as well as her illegal sexual relationship with Bolton.

Keating served his first and only term as Montague County Sheriff from 2004 through 2008 before being defeated in the Republican primary by Paul Cunningham. Keating was eventually indicted on a federal civil rights violation for punching a woman in the face and threatening to put her in jail if she refused to have sex with him. [See PLN, May 2008, Cover Story] His convictions could have netted him up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Because of his extensive public service record the court allowed him to remain free on bond pending sentencing on May 1st.

While he was awaiting his fate in federal court Keating was hit with six state indictments. Charges included official oppression and having sex with prisoners. He never had to face those charges. On April 30, 2009, Keating collapsed and died of a heart attack in his Montague County home.

“He ruined his life and reputation and hurt everybody who carries a badge,” said his 40-year friend J.R. Shaw.

Keating also hurt a lot of other people who only wanted to do their jail time and go home. Lashana Dykes turned down Keating’s offer of sex for amnesty. Dykes had been serving time in the Montague jail for probation violation on an arson charge for burning a car. Keating offered to get her out and give her a job.

“[B]ut in order to have that job, I would have to be at his beck and call [for sex] pretty much,” said Dykes. When she told Keating she didn’t need his job he said “I would have plenty of time to think about it.”

Keating made good on his threat. Dykes is currently serving time at the state prison in Gatesville, Texas.

Meanwhile, Montague County officials anticipate that this scandal will almost certainly be followed by a number of civil rights lawsuits.

Sources: Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, New York Times

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