Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor says he’s not finished with the corruption case against the county’s top administrator.
“Our criminal investigations continue,” the Victoria County sheriff said Thursday morning in his first public comment about the case.
That statement came after sheriff’s officials returned property seized from the courthouse office of Joyce Dean, Victoria County administrative services director, as ordered by a judge. The return of that property marked the end of special prosecutor Keith Weiser’s role in the case, said Weiser, adding he was appointed solely to represent the sheriff’s office in negotiating the return of Dean’s property.
“I was trying to get the parties in agreement,” Weiser said, adding, “It was that very specific issue that I was appointed to represent the sheriff on.”
After the agreement was reached, a Thursday hearing to discuss the matter was canceled.
“It turned out not to be needed,” he said.
Sheriff’s investigators arrested Dean, 57, on Dec. 19 on a misdemeanor charge of theft by a public servant less than $100 while serving the search warrant at her office. There, they seized a laptop, two portable digital storage devices, desktop computer, smartphone and other evidence.
A week later, Judge Sid Harle, who presides over the 4th Administrative Judicial Region, ordered Dean released and her property returned after determining the evidence against her was insufficient.
Harle ordered the return of Dean’s property within 72 hours of his Dec. 28 order and signed an emergency protective order forbidding investigators from sharing, duplicating and using the evidence.
Weiser declined to reveal why sheriff’s officials waited until weeks later to return the property, citing attorney-client privilege.
Harle declined to answer questions about the case, citing constraints imposed by judicial conduct rules.
Sheriff’s investigators relied on a 2013 Texas Rangers’ report that claimed Dean had abused her position and influence to change her late son’s time cards, order county employees to drive him around town for personal business and repair his apartment. That report was completed after O’Connor requested Texas Rangers investigate Dean.
And Weiser said he agreed with Harle’s determinations in part because the statute of limitations for misdemeanor theft by a public servant is two years – making Dean’s December arrest about eight years too late.
Although it’s unclear how the sheriff’s office continues to investigate Dean and whether they plan to seek a felony charge against her, Assistant District Attorney Tim Poynter, who serves Goliad, DeWitt and Refugio counties, said it’s hardly uncommon to reinvestigate a case.
“We absolutely do that,” he said.