Official accused of abusing power
March 18, 2017 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated March 18, 2017 at 11:40 p.m.
A Victoria attorney is alleging the county's director of administrative services used her office to influence the district attorney to make an unconstitutional arrest.
"While ... Victoria County might convey various perks as a benefit of employment, the gross perversion of justice that resulted in the arrest of the defendant, the mother of Joyce Dean's granddaughter, is not a fringe benefit," said a motion written by family law attorney Ashley Pall.
Victoria mother Adriyanna Olguin, 24, was arrested Sept. 10 on a felony warrant for interfering with child custody after the child's grandmother sought help from the Victoria County District Attorney's Office about a month earlier, according to court documents.
District Attorney Stephen Tyler's office strongly denied Pall's allegations.
"Insinuation and speculation might be considered evidence on some conspiracy theory website, but they are not evidence in a court of law," said the district attorney's office in a written answer to Pall's complaint.
Dean could not be reached for comment.
Unusual criminal case
In a 21-page motion to dismiss prosecutors' case against her client, Pall argued the rarity of such arrests and charges in Victoria County demonstrate prosecutors went out of their way to appease Dean and target Olguin. Pall described Olguin's arrest as a form of discrimination known as "selective prosecution."
"Director (Joyce) Dean marched one block from the courthouse where her office is located into the office of District Attorney Tyler to execute an affidavit ... to save a buck or two at the expense of the defendant's liberty," Pall said.
In the past three decades, almost all Victoria parents and guardians involved in custody disputes have relied on hiring civil attorneys to regain the custody of children, Pall said, but Dean instead used her political power to coerce the District Attorney's Office at the cost of taxpayers.
"District Attorney Tyler was 'under the influence' of Director Dean, whose regular job duties include the review of county budgets. ... There is simply no other explanation," she said.
According to an affidavit by Victoria County District Clerk Cathy Stuart, such a criminal charge has been filed only once before in the county - since 1990.
The alleged selective prosecution of Olguin, Pall said, is a violation of her client's constitutional rights, including those under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments as well as the Texas Constitution.
Last week, Judge Skipper Koetter denied Pall's motion to dismiss the case and found the attorney violated ethical rules by making allegations against prosecutors without sufficient evidence. However, he did not impose any sanctions against her.
The district attorney said Pall could face punishment from the Texas State Bar.
"It's usually an admonishment and a warning," he said.
A jury trial for Olguin is set for 9 a.m. April 19.
In March 2015, Olguin signed over custody of her 7-year-old daughter to Dean. That agreement allowed Dean to designate where and with whom her granddaughter could live. Dean's son, Robert Alan Dean, who died in November, is the father of that child.
According to an affidavit, Olguin's daughter began living at Dean's home in August 2015 after the mother's addiction to pills prompted her roommates to kick her out. Olguin joined her daughter in Dean's home after completing about two and a half months at a drug treatment program in Mathis. After about eight months, Olguin moved out with her daughter in June 2016 under an agreement that she would remain in regular contact with Dean to allow her to monitor the girl's living conditions.
But, by August 2016, the grandmother had lost contact with her granddaughter and learned from the mother's boyfriend that Olguin was using illegal drugs again.
"On Aug. 9, 2016, I sent her a message and told her she was in violation of the court order, and I would enforce the order," said an affidavit by Dean. "Adriyanna's response was, 'Go ahead.'"
In search of her granddaughter, Dean visited Olguin's place of employment and home. When Dean messaged her on Facebook, Olguin blocked her account. When Dean requested information about her granddaughter from Victoria ISD, she learned the girl was not enrolled.
The usual process
In her motion, Pall pointed out that she had not received any evidence from prosecutors that Dean had taken normal steps to find the girl, such as contacting the Victoria Police Department, Department of Family and Protective Services or Victoria County Sheriff's Office.
Instead, the district attorney's office relied on its own investigator to find Olguin and determine whether Dean's granddaughter was in danger.
Although Tyler said Friday that he could not reveal exactly what the investigator found, his office's written response to Pall's motion said Olguin was using illegal drugs and "may have been engaged" in prostitution.
Tyler said Friday that his office was compelled to action after learning from the investigator that Olguin's daughter was in imminent danger.
The response said Pall's allegations against the district attorney were offensive.
"He believes 'duty, then, is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things,'" the district attorney's written response said.
Although prosecutors so far have successfully argued their case, Pall said she will have the opportunity to persuade a jury in April as well as appeal.
"I am convinced that my client's constitutional rights have been violated, and I am going to continue to assert that to the appellate court if necessary," Pall said.