Lawyer: Wendy Davis’ stature made her client’s sentence harsher

Jordan Shapiro

The attorney of a man who broke into the house of Texas gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis said Thursday she thinks her client would have gotten a lighter sentence if the homeowner was not a public figure.

Davis was sleeping at her Fort Worth home in April 2013 when Donnell Dickerson intruded and stole her car. He pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Davis testified during a short sentencing trial in January, three months after launching her campaign.

Fort Worth attorney Mamie Johnson said Dickerson had no idea last spring whose home he was breaking into, but that ultimately the owner’s status affected how much time her client will serve.

“When it was all said and done, he ended up with an extra year or two because it’s a public official,” Johnson said. “Not because it was Wendy Davis, but because it was a public official.”

Dickerson had a past criminal record that jurors were allowed to consider, she said, and although she could not recall his previous arrests she said none were felonies. A Davis spokesman said the Democrat was grateful to police but referred questions about Dickerson’s sentence to prosecutors.

Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon said his office handled the case like any other burglary. He said Johnson offered prosecutors a five-year sentence but refused to negotiate further after they countered with a six-year deal.

“Obviously, the jury believed the defendant’s conduct warranted more time in prison,” Shannon said in a statement. “The defendant received a fair trial and the victim was satisfied with the outcome.”

According to a Fort Worth police report, Davis’ then-boyfriend Will Wynn, a former Austin mayor, told police he was doing yard work when he went inside and was confronted by an intruder. Dickerson allegedly told him, “I must be in the wrong house” before going to the garage, where he got in Davis’ car and drove off.

Johnson said Dickerson ended up circling back around to the house and was stopped by police.

Despite being sentenced to eight years, Dickerson could be eligible for parole much sooner, Johnson said. She described her client as being satisfied with the sentence even though she believes it could have been shorter.

“My goal was to get nobody on that jury was a Wendy Davis lover,” Johnson said. “I felt like it could harm him in the long run.”

Man with gun arrested after seen entering school

ABILENE — Abilene police arrested a man after he was reported carrying a gun and walking into an elementary school.

Police received a 911 call Thursday morning that a man with a gun in his waistband had entered Jane Long Elementary School. The school was placed on lockdown but police were not able to find the intruder.

Police Sgt. Lynn Beard said a man was arrested in the incident and was also involved in a child custody disagreement.

District Superintendent Heath Burns said he is confident there was no immediate threat to students or staff on the campus. School officials said parents were allowed to retrieve their children if they felt it was necessary.

Sex offender accused in plot to kill judge

WACO — A convicted sex offender was indicted on attempted capital murder charges for what prosecutors said was a $30,000 offer to have a Waco judge killed.

William Ray Phillips was indicted Wednesday by a McLennan County grand jury. Prosecutors said the 63-year-old Phillips was plotting the murder-for-hire scheme against State District Judge Matt Johnson. Phillips has been in custody since February and Johnson presided over two of his previous trials.

A 10-month investigation showed Phillips also had McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna and U.S. District Judge Walter Smith on his hit list but was willing to pay only for Johnson to be killed.

Conviction on the attempted capital murder charge could get Phillips a life sentence.

3 relatives ousted from South Texas school board

PROGRESO — Two brothers and the wife of one of them were removed from the school board in a small South Texas town in a fallout over conspiracy and bribery schemes.

Brothers Omar and Orlando Vela and Orlando Vela’s wife, Ana, were all unanimously voted off the Progreso school board. Omar Vela was Progreso’s mayor and the school district head of truancy. He is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to federal conspiracy and bribery charges.

Orlando Vela was school district risk manager and former city mayor pro tem. He is pleaded guilty to stealing money for buying supplies that were not sold.

Ana Vela has not been charged but was the school district’s business manager. Trustee Juan Garcia said she should not have signed off on fraudulent payments.

— Associated Press

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