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FBI Investigates Dallas County District Attorney

BJ Austin

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins is being investigated by the FBI.  The the scrutiny comes after allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in a mortgage fraud case.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Texas will handle the investigation at the request of their counterparts in the Dallas Northern District office.  Matt Orwig, former US Attorney in the Eastern District, says that’s not unusual in a high profile inquiry. 

“Certainly, there’s been enough publicly reported that indicates that there is cause for an investigation, at least," Orwig said. "There is, of course, the presumption of innocence, and no indication of wrongdoing. But it prompts further inquiry.”

The investigation comes out of the mortgage fraud charges Craig Watkins brought against Hunt oil heir Al Hill III.  The case was thrown out last week after Watkins refused to answer questions about alleged prosecutorial misconduct.  Hill’s attorneys claim Watkins brought the charges as a favor to campaign contributor Lisa Blue. At the time, she was locked in a court battle with Hill over millions in legal fees.

Richard Roper, former US Attorney in Dallas, warns against jumping to conclusions.  He says the FBI asking questions does not automatically lead to indictments.  He also says white collar and public corruption cases are difficult because prosecutors must prove intent.

“Did someone have criminal intent?  And that’s difficult to prove," Roper said.  "Nine times out of 10 the government has to show that through circumstantial evidence and that can be difficult. So that’s why many of these kinds of cases take years.”

Matt Orwig says this investigation is just beginning and he doesn’t expect to hear anything more for months.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.