AUSTIN, Texas — The Travis County District Attorney’s Office has hired additional lawyers to expand its civil rights unit, which investigates reports of officer misconduct, while its most populous city — Austin — experiences police defunding and spikes in crime.
The attorneys joining the team at the DA’s office include Jim Wheat, the former chief of special crimes for the Bexar County’s DA’s office, and Millie Thompson, a civil rights attorney who recently stepped down from her position as a Hays County court-at-law judge after four months on the bench that were fraught with controversy, Austin America-Statesmen reported.
Travis County’s Assistant District Attorney Coulter Goodman also moved into the unit, as well as Assistant County Attorney JD Castro, giving it firepower that would traditionally target organized crime and major criminal activity.
This is happening in an office that last month had to dismiss criminal charges against an officer and publicly apologize for pursuing the prosecution, Law Officer reported.
Travis County District Attorney José Garza announced in July that charges against Officer Gregory Gentry of the Austin Police Department were dismissed “in the best interest of justice.”
The press release from Garza blames the previous administration, saying an Assistant District Attorney obtained an expert opinion that had evidence, which was exculpatory to the defense. The evidence that would have benefited the accused officer wasn’t discussed with the prosecution or disclosed to the defense counsel as the case was presented to the Grand Jury in January.
The Council on Criminal Justice’s (CCJ) pandemic crime report recently said that 2021 has seen a 16 percent increase so far in 2021 and a 42 percent increase from 2019.