Sheriff Lyde errs some, offers assurances about staff on paid leave

Employees on furlough ‘must not be fired’

Following an injunction against his evaporation, Clay County Sheriff Jeffrey Lyde attempted to “clarify some things here” and offer reassurances about his furloughed employees for being embroiled in the sheriff’s legal troubles.

But Lyde got some information wrong in his attempt to clear it up during a Facebook Live video. This may not come as a surprise, given the numerous, often overlapping, legal pitfalls that ensnare him in civil and criminal courts.

A regional judge did not oust 97th Circuit Judge Jack McGaughey from presiding over a lawsuit to oust Lyde from the elected office, contrary to what the sheriff said Monday during his weekly update of “Henrietta, America.” said.

“He was retired from one case by the regional chief justice, and then he voluntarily retired from the criminal cases,” Lyde said from his office about 20 miles from Wichita Falls.

In fact, McGaughey voluntarily refrained from pursuing a lawsuit to oust Lyde from office and filing any criminal charges against the sheriff.

Originally, McGaughey chose not to voluntarily retire from two of the criminal cases after Fort Worth defense attorney Randall D. Moore questioned his impartiality, according to a Jan. 5 letter McGaughey sent to the regional judge’s office .

Those cases include two charges of official suppression over allegations that the sheriff held a man and woman in jail in July 2021 without a probable cause being identified.

It should be noted that the embattled sheriff’s legal troubles include two lawsuits to remove him from office — so-called removal petitions — in the 97th Circuit Court.

In addition, official charges of suppression against the sheriff in state district court stem from the July 2021 allegations, as well as recent allegations of assault and sexual harassment. Lyde also faces a lawsuit in federal court, filed by a former county worker.

A spate of court cases has surrounded the second motion to remove Lyde since it was filed Jan. 3 by Frank Douthitt, an attorney and former district judge, 97th District Attorney Casey Hall and Clay County Attorney Seth Slagle.

A hearing is tentatively scheduled for February 14 to consider defense motions to disqualify Hall and Slagle as petitioners.

In any case, Lyde was crystal clear on his latest folksy update.

“I’m still the sheriff of Clay County,” he said.

Lyde said some staff on paid administrative leave had no business.

Three women on his staff accused the sheriff of sexual harassment and one of them also accused him of assault, claiming that he slapped her on the buttocks.

Lyde placed two more women on his staff, Sgt. William Norris and Sgt. Trent Sharpe, on furlough on January 19th. The two men and one of the women on leave are sworn peace officers.

He placed her on leave so the sheriff could perform his official duties under the terms of his prison terms and the now-defunct restraining order, the sheriff’s office said in a letter.

“You haven’t lost your badge or your weapon. They haven’t lost their ability to do off-duty jobs,” Lyde said Monday. “They were not damaged in any way and they are certainly not in danger of being fired.”

The sheriff said the four employees are still receiving pay and benefits and are accumulating vacation and sick leave. But they don’t come to work because it would violate his prison conditions, he said.

While the abolished restraining order barred Lyde from taking any action against any of his employees, the prison conditions for the new charges prevent him from contacting or being at their place of work the three women who are accusing him.

McGaughey granted the injunction to the applicants of the second removal request. It was in effect from January 3rd until it was jettisoned this week.

In a win for Lyde, Senior Justice Lee Gabriel ruled it dissolved Monday, saying it failed to meet the rules of civil procedure. She criticized the way it was written.

Gabriel, who served on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, recently presided over the second removal motion and Lyde’s criminal charges.

She took over McGaughey’s cases at the behest of Chief District Judge David Evans, who presides over the Eighth Circuit Court Region.

Gabriel’s name may be familiar. She was the third judge to voluntarily withdraw from the James Irven Staley III murder trial. He is accused of killing 2-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel on October 11, 2018 at Staley’s home in Wichita Falls.

Gabriel also ordered a judge withdrawn from former police officer Aaron Dean’s trial for the murder of Atatiana Jefferson, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. Dean shot the 28-year-old woman through the window of a Fort Worth home on October 12, 2018.

The defense successfully challenged Judge David Hagerman’s impartiality in June. Dean was sentenced to nearly 12 years in prison for manslaughter in December.

Lyde maintains his innocence in the official July 2021 suppression allegations. His lawyer claims the last four charges are politically motivated. Official repression is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine.

How does Lyde feel about McGaughey retiring from his cases?

“It’s nothing against Judge McGaughey. The law requires him to retire, and he did,” the sheriff said on Facebook.

A slew of court documents, as well as a timeline from Moore, helped dispel the confusion that McGaughey had left Lyde’s cases:

  • December 31, 2022: Defense attorneys filed motions to seek McGaughey’s denial in the two official suppression cases of July 2021.
  • January 5, 2023: McGaughey declined to withdraw and referred Moore’s motions to the regional judge.
  • January 17: At 10:30 a.m., a hearing was held on Moore’s motions to dismiss in the two criminal cases. There was no judgement. The defense and prosecution were given time to come up with answers, which they later did. Around noon, Moore filed a motion to withdraw McGaughey from the second removal case. As a result, the scheduled 1:30 p.m. hearings for the removal case in the Civil Court were postponed.
  • January 20: McGaughey voluntarily withdraws from the relocation process. Moore’s requests to have him removed from the official July 2021 suppression cases were pending.
  • January 26: McGaughey withdraws from all criminal proceedings against Lyde. He withdrew before Moore could finish preparing motions calling for McGaughey’s exit from the new criminal cases on which the removal lawsuit is based.

According to Moore, the only Lyde case McGaughey didn’t exclude himself from Tuesday was the sheriff’s first impeachment petition.

“I am preparing a motion for a denial in this case based on the same reasons that warrant denial in the three new criminal cases,” Moore said in an emailed statement.

Clay County residents Donna Fields and Paula Swenson, wife of former Justice of the Peace John Swenson, filed the first relocation request on October 12, 2022. They filed a lengthy lawsuit, citing a list of allegations against the sheriff.

Controversy during Lyde’s tenure includes alleged sheriff misdeeds, which John Swenson believes contributed to his losing a Republican runoff race to new JP Lanny Evans in May 2022.

Trish Choate, Enterprise Watchdog Reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news and more. Contact her with message tips at [email protected]. Your Twitter handle is @Trishadia.

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