Facing a six-count indictment that included felony charges, Constable Joe Lee on Monday traded his office and peace officer license for freedom and a chance at a clean record.
The Precinct 1 constable pleaded guilty to a single Class A misdemeanor charge of tampering with a government document.
The charges were tied to county expenditures.
In exchange for the District Attorney’s Office not pursuing felony charges that could have landed him in prison for two years, Lee agreed to resign and to permanently surrender his peace officer license.
The hearing in the 355th District Court Monday morning lasted only minutes. Lee appeared with his attorney, Richard Hattox.
District Judge Ralph Walton signed off on the plea deal, granting Lee deferred adjudication. He ordered Lee to pay a fine of $1,000 and to serve 24 months on probation.
Walton approved Hattox’s request that the fine be paid in monthly installments of $75. With the monthly $60 probation fee, Lee will be paying $135 each month.
Christian told Walton that Lee committed the offenses involving county expenditure records “while acting in an official capacity as a public servant.”
Christian stated that Lee had tendered a letter of resignation to the county judge on Friday. He said that on Monday, just before the hearing, Lee had contacted the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement regarding the permanent surrender of his peace officer license.
Walton noted that Lee had signed a “confession of guilt” as well as a statement abandoning his right to appeal.
On the misdemeanor count to which he pleaded guilty, Lee could have faced a fine of up to $4,000, one year in jail, or both.
Provided Lee successfully completes his probation, the state will dismiss the charge.
The allegations against Lee pertained to expenditure records submitted to the county purchasing department.
The records involved a weapon cleaning kit, uniform accessories and a receipt from Brazos River Outdoor Supply “indicating a purchase of one winter banded jacket and one winter vest.”
Counts 1, 2 and 3 of Lee’s indictment were state jail felonies that involved a deliberate intent to defraud or harm.
Counts 4, 5 and 6 were Class A misdemeanor offenses. They were the same as the felony counts, but did not carry the allegation of intending to harm or defraud, according to Christian.
At the time Lee turned himself in to authorities in late April, Christian told the Hood County News that even if the misuse of county funds was unintentional, the incidents were nevertheless criminal.
County Judge Darrell Cockerham said Monday that on Friday he received a letter from Hattox, but he had not yet opened the letter. He said he assumed it was Lee’s resignation.
Lee, a Republican, took office last year. Constables serve four-year terms.
Cockerham said that appointing a replacement to serve out the remainder of Lee’s term will be on the agenda for the first regular Commissioners Court meeting in July.
A meeting of the Republican Precinct 1 Executive Committee has been called for 7 p.m. Thurday at the Republican Headquarters at 827 W. Pearl St. Republican Party spokesperson Jean Cochran said the purpose of the meeting is to discuss a constable candidate for the Nov. 4 ballot. The Democratic Party will also have the opportunity to name a candidate for the ballot.
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