By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report
*OKLAHOMA CITY – The days of corrupt, Southern justice may seem like something long past, almost a Hollywood cliché.
But as a reporter who has covered government in urban and rural areas of Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, I can tell you the corruption in some of these communities is often very real and affecting real people. In my capacity as a reporter, I have seen how the wheels of justice sometimes creak along or seize up all together. And along the way, plenty of poor people and honest people are caught up in this system, victims, oftentimes, of severe injustice.
Yes, it still happens today. We see it with death-row inmates later found to be innocent of the charges brought against them. Some are executed and most are not. It should not happen at all. “Extreme justice” is still at work, a vengeful “justice,” as embraced by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
And that misapplied “justice” appears to be hitting one man pretty hard this week. It’s a case involving courts and law expert (Pro Se litigator, specifically) Randy Kelton, based in Austin, Texas. Kelton’s unflappable investigatory skills got him in trouble with the local, Dixie-fied cops and judges, their claim of him “operating a private investigation company without a license.” Seems like a stretch, at the very least.
And since Sept. 29, 2011, Kelton has been jailed in the Cherokee County Jail in Rusk, Texas, allegedly a victim of that county’s legal system.
Kelton is co-host of “Rule of Law Radio” with Deborah Stevens and Eddie Craig. It can be found at RuleOfLawRadio.com, a radio network that this reporter once broadcast with under the name Radio Free Oklahoma. If you ever heard Kelton on the radio, it’s clear he knows his stuff and backs up his information with facts.
Pro se legal representation, in common parlance, is the advocacy on one’s own behalf before a court, rather than being represented by a lawyer, according to the online definition. Kelton has had much success over many years of exposing judicial corruption in the Lone Star State and helping people navigate through the legal system. And now that same system is doing their best by throwing him in jail – railroaded – on trumped-up charges.
Red Dirt Report just recently found out about Kelton’s predicament. While investigating corruption in Cherokee County, Texas, law enforcement in that East Texas jurisdiction decided Kelton was digging too deep and asking too many questions, which is his right as a citizen and citizen journalist.
And according to accounts posted at RuleOfLawRadio.com and LoneStarWatchdog.blogspot.com, the “corrupt court system in Cherokee County, Texas” tried and convicted Kelton of “practicing being a private investigator without a license for compensation.” As Lone Star Watchdog notes, “(U)sing the Texas occupational code and manipulating the jury not using facts but vague terms not used in the actual law to convict him.”
Kelton’s colleague Eddie Craig spoke to Red Dirt Report on Thursday about Kelton being “railroaded” – sentenced to one year jail along with a $4,000 fine.
“They went after Randy for what he was looking into,” Craig said, clearly exasperated by the situation.
“We can conclusively conclude he was railroaded,” Craig said. “The only other thing missing were railroad tracks and a boxcar.”
The issue that Kelton was investigating – and we are still waiting on documents from Craig outlining more of the details – was looking into “warrantless, illegal SWAT raids” involving a controversial figure in Cherokee County named Robert Fox. According to a Cherokee County blogger, sourcing local media reports, Fox fought back against attacks on him and his “House of Israel” and ended up in jail for 9 months. Kelton caught wind of this situation and began his own investigation on the Fox case and related activities and was himself thrown in jail. It would appear the local authorities do not want to be questioned or investigated about potentially illegal activities that may be taking place in Cherokee County.
“Robert does what we do,” Craig told Red Dirt Report. “He shows what the law is and what public officials are doing. When they started pulling these raids he fought back.” Note this blog post about Fox and a recent mistrial involving a “tampering with government” case brought against him.
And Kelton comes along, Craig explained, filed all sorts of paperwork and the system did not like it.
As Lone Star Watchdog wrote on Thursday: “The Judge and the Prosecutor involved in the case were being brought before the grand jury for corruption. Randy Kelton was involved in bringing criminal charges before a grand jury concerning this Judge (Craig Fletcher) and Prosecutor (Craig Caldwell). These two very people (who) were involved in the case are the Judge and Prosecutor (who) tried Randy’s case.”
The blogger says Fletcher and Caldwell should have recused themselves “because Randy was bringing criminal charges against these two public officials.”
Dave Matthews, editor of the Jacksonville Daily Progress, the paper based in Cherokee County’s largest community, has only been on the job for two months and already he is frustrated with the attitude of local police departments when it comes to releasing information.
Referring to officials in the county seat of Rusk, Matthews said that when they call for information on a vehicular accident, for instance, they insist he or his reporter send them an FOI request about it.
Matthews said they will consider sending the Daily Progress information “as soon as (they) review the police report.”
Matthews said that he has been in the news business for many years and he is struck by the attitudes of law enforcement in that area.
“They are following the letter of the law down there,” Matthews said of the county officials. He added: “They are dying for us to take it to the Attorney General’s office.”
Asked if he was familiar with Randy Kelton’s case or the fact that liberty blogs and websites are demanding Kelton’s release, Matthews said he heard a police officer reference it in passing, saying “they didn’t consider (Kelton) a journalist.”
Matthews indicated he would ask questions about Kelton’s case and try and do a story on the situation.
Craig, meanwhile, is still considering going up to Cherokee County to see if he can help out. Craig also said Ken Magnuson, another Texan well-versed on both civil and criminal procedures as applied to Texas and Federal courts,is looking into Kelton’s situation. Magnuson, like Kelton, has no problem filing complaints against attorneys and judges that violate a citizen’s rights of due process.
“We can conclusively conclude he was railroaded,” Craig repeated.
Go to www.ruleoflawradio.com to learn what you can do to help Randy Kelton.