Trial Begins in Case of Alleged Revenge Killing

Categories: Courts

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Screen shot from the "Free David Barajas" Facebook page
Jury selection began today in the murder trial of David Barajas, who is accused of killing a drunk driver who fatally struck Barajas' two children in Alvin in 2012.

Barajas has denied shooting Jose Banda, who allegedly ran into Barajas' 11- and 12-year-old sons "as they pushed the family's broken-down truck down a dark, narrow road just 50 miles from their home," according to Fox News.

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Baltimore Judge Scolds Houston Property Owner Scott Wizig for "Unsafe, Uninhabitable" Homes

Categories: Courts

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Wizig has 90 days to clean up 49 properties.
A Baltimore judge has ordered a Houston property owner to correct code violations on 49 vacant, blighted homes he owns in that city within 90 days.

The homes are owned by Scott Wizig, who, as we detailed in a 2004 story, has built a lucrative business of buying dilapidated homes on the cheap and enticing unsophisticated first-time home buyers with "option to buy" agreements that seem to set occupants up for failure. We like to call it "Wiziging."

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UPDATED Officials: Spindletop Owner Tortured, Drowned Injured Dog

Categories: Courts

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This is sick stuff.
See the end of this post for more from the chief animal control investigator's affidavit.

Former Spindletop dog refuge owner Leah Purcell poured water down a pit bull's nose while its mouth was held shut, "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly" torturing it to death in December 2011, according to a complaint filed by Montgomery County prosecutors.

The dog's alleged week-long primitive, homespun medical care is detailed in an affidavit recently made available online, and which is part of the long-awaited felony animal cruelty charge prosecutors filed in July. Purcell has also been charged with four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

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Kountze Cheerleaders Take Bible Banner Case to Texas Supreme Court

Categories: Courts

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Wikimedia Commons
Kountze is a quiet little town in east Texas, situated in the Big Thicket just north of Beaumont. Recently, it began to make national headlines when the school district banned the use of Bible verses on banners made by the cheerleaders for football games. Apparently, the cheerleading squad of the local high school had taken to dropping some God quotes on the banners football players would run through onto the field, and the district said that violated church and state restrictions.

Naturally, the cheerleaders fought the ban in court, and eventually the district relented, allowing them to continue using the Bible verses, but that hasn't stopped them from pursuing the court case.

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UPDATED Inside the Theresa Roemer Defamation Lawsuit

Categories: Courts

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Twitter screenshot
We hope there's a happy ending.
Updated: Court records show Theresa and Maximilian have worked things out. Roemer's lawyer, William Ferebee has filed a motion to dismiss, stating that the two have "resolved their differences and request that this matter be dismissed without prejudice." It doesn't appear that the judge has signed the motion to dismiss yet, but this should settle things. Good for them.

As the world sits transfixed by the story of how Houston socialite Theresa Roemer's 3,000-square-foot, three-story "closet" full of designer bags and jewelry was burglarized, we thought we'd take a closer look into the weird, sad family saga unfolding in Harris County District Court.

Theresa, 52, sued her stepson, 32-year-old Maximillian Roemer, for defamation of character in July, accusing him of posting nasty comments on a Neiman Marcus blog devoted to what has become the most famous closet in all the land.

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Fireman's Widow Sues Over Training Course Death

Categories: Courts

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Courtesy Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C.
Capt. Smith died after serving both his country and community.
The widow of a volunteer Atascocita firefighter who died of overheating during "smoke diving" training in Beaumont in 2012 has sued two firefighters' groups and a safety council, accusing them of gross negligence leading to his death.

Captain Neal Wade Smith, 46, a U.S. Navy veteran and father of two, died of hyperthermia after enduring "grueling drills in 120-degree temperatures while wearing sweat-soaked, 75-pound gear for two ten-hour days," according to the suit, filed Thursday in Jefferson County District Court.

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UPDATED: Big Landfill Fight Expected in Waller County Court Today

Categories: Courts

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Who's trashin' who?
Update: Waller County Judge Terry Flenniken denied the change of venue motion. The trial is set to begin December 1.

An intense, three-year fight over a proposed landfill in Waller County is expected to get even more heated at a court hearing today to decide whether to grant a change of venue motion for the upcoming trial.

At issue is whether a "15-story dump project" along Highway 6 was legally approved by Waller County officials, the Chron reports.

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Man Gets 11 Years in Online Drug Ring Deaths Case

Categories: Courts

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Somewhere, a guy called "Scootdog" is laughing his ass off.
A Houston man has been sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for his role in a synthetic-drug ring that prosecutors say led to the deaths of two men in North Dakota and Minnesota in 2012.

John Robert Polinski, 26, was sentenced for his role as a "computer specialist" for an online drug importer and distributor called Motion Resources, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Fargo. Motion's owner, Charles William Carlton, 29, of Katy, pleaded guilty in March for his role, and will be sentenced August 28.

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Federal Judge Vindicates Superior Steel and Its Manager

Categories: Courts

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Michael Vackar is probably wishing for an asteroid right about now...
Two years ago, we reported on a federal lawsuit filed by former sales rep Michael Vackar against Superior Supply & Steel in which the ex-employee accused his boss of firing him because he didn't take prospective clients to strip clubs for, uh, special favors.

The Houston Press has now learned that in late 2013, U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal granted partial summary judgment against the ex-employee, Michael Vackar, ruling that there was no evidence to support Vackar's claims, but plenty to support Superior's claim that the guy was fired for being a lousy salesman and for filing false expense reports.


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UPDATED: Leah Purcell Charged in Spindletop Dog Refuge Case

Categories: Courts

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Charges finally filed.
Update: First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant tells us that one felony count of animal cruelty has been filed in addition to the four misdemeanor charges. A felony count is punishable by a maximum of two years in state jail and/or a $10,000 fine.

Former Spindletop Dog Refuge owner Leah Purcell has been charged with four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

Filed July 15, the charges stem from the shuttered dog refuge where, in 2012, local authorities and Humane Society of the United States personnel seized nearly 300 dogs who they say were kept in filthy, appalling conditions. Thirty-eight other dogs allegedly suffocated to death in a building on a property a few months before the raid.

The charges were filed two days before the expiration of the statute of limitations.

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