The State of Texas: October 14, 2015
Former employee files petition to remove Susan Hawk from the district attorney’s office, and details emerge in former football star’s bizarre murder charge.
Texas by the Numbers
Lost Lotto Losers — Amount of unclaimed Texas lottery prizes in the past five years: $320 million. Average yearly amount of unclaimed prizes between 2011 and 2013: $50 to $60 million. In 2014: $78.2 million. In 2015: $46.2 million. Largest single unclaimed payout: $7.56 million.
Political Capital — Largest Texas donation to a presidential candidate’s Super PAC: $15 million. Candidate: Ted Cruz. Next highest amount, given to Cruz by U.S. representative Randy Neugebauer’s son Toby Neugebauer: $10 million. Number of mega-donors who live in Texas: 20 plus.
Oily Forecast — Amount state revenue estimate for the two-year budget cycle was lowered: $2.6 billion. Projected amount state will have in revenue after this cycle: $4.22 billion. Previous amount of funds the state was expected to be able to “haggle” over in January: $113 billion. New projection: $110.4 billion. Cause of drop: gas and oil prices and production.
Blackened Hawk Down — After months of everyone tiptoeing around Dallas County DA Susan Hawk’s unstable position, a former employee is finally calling for her removal. “Former administrative chief Cindy Stormer, who oversaw the budget until she was fired last month, sued her former boss and asked a Dallas County judge to temporarily remove Hawk pending a jury trial to determine her fitness for office,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “Stormer’s petition, filed on behalf of the state of Texas, alleges that Hawk should be removed from office for incompetency and official misconduct.” Up for debate is Hawk’s ability to perform her duties as a result of her treatment for depression, use of prescription drugs, and “paranoid delusions.” Stormer’s petition highlights what she calls Hawk’s incompetency and official misconduct, and the petition will require a judge to make “a decision about whether Stormer’s complaints are valid and whether to allow Stormer’s attorneys to seek Hawk’s medical records in discovery.” Hawk’s attorney called the petition an “‘outrageous abuse of the system’ and noted that the allegations involve past, not post-treatment, conduct. ‘Their allegations are without merit. . . . Beyond that, we’ll do our talking in the courtroom.'”
Descent into Madness — A terrible and bizarre story is developing in Dallas. Former A&M wide receiver Thomas L. Johnson, 21, was charged in a brutal murder in which “Dallas Police say Johnson chose a victim at random on the White Rock Creek Trail, hacking a jogger to death with a ‘large-edged weapon,'” writes CBS Sports. “One witness says that weapon was a machete, and Johnson delivered ‘six or seven blows,’ to the jogger.” According to an affidavit, Johnson then stopped another bystander to borrow his cellphone and call 911, then allegedly said to an officer (twice), “I just committed capital murder.” “It appears Mr. Johnson picked this victim at random. Absolutely random,” Deputy Chief Rob Sherwin told CBS Sports. “He just attacked him. . . . It’s just very unusual. It’s quite shocking.” It’s also a continuation of Johnson’s already-checkered past. A top recruit in 2012, Johnson disappeared after a solid showing against top-ranked Alabama, failing to appear for practice. “He was found a few days later on a street near his old high school. His disappearance was never publicly explained, but he never returned to A&M or football. Johnson’s mother, Linda Hanks, told the Houston Chronicle that neither she nor her son wanted to discuss his reasons for leaving.”
Insured Against Criticism — The prosecutor who so adamantly fought Rick Perry over transparency and abuse of office is now fighting her own legal battle. “Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg is suing to block the release of records about a controversial agreement that allows a giant insurance company to pay her office more than $400,000 a year to investigate the insurer’s fraud cases,” the Texas Tribune reports, which has been digging deep into the prosecutor’s relationship with insurance companies with the Austin American-Statesman. “In the petition, Lehmberg argues in part that her office and Texas Mutual share a ‘privity of interest’ in the prosecution of the company’s fraud cases.” Even better, Lehmberg “cites transparency exemptions allowing government prosecutors to withhold documents reflecting the ‘legal reasoning’ of state attorneys.” Also at issue is the deadline for the records request by the publications. Lehmberg did hand over some contracts but “withheld the other records, including any emails discussing or negotiating the contracts.”