When Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn sought to shut down a Facebook page critical of his campaign, documents uncovered by Texas Scorecard reveal he sought and received an illegal warrant from an Arlington Municipal Court.
An affidavit by Craig Driskell attached to the warrant complained that Waybourn was the “victim” of “online impersonation” but cited online content that was clearly satirical in nature such as the following posts:
Howdy y’all, I am Thief Bill Waybourn. I used to be the police chief for Dalworthington Gardens. But, after a few little hiccups, I had to retire. You probably already know about how I shot myself in the hand teaching a CHL class, then covered it up, then lied about it happening in the line of duty so I could get the tax payers to foot the bill for my medical expenses.
The bottom line is I stole hundreds of thousands of dollars of resources from DWG tax payers in an unauthorized scheme to provide security for Taya in hopes that ingratiating myself with her would lead to her helping me seek higher office. Because of this scheme, I am proud to announce, I am Thief Bill Waybourn.
Even when I was doing it, I knew it was wrong. I am Thief Bill Waybourn.
Driskell has been a close confidant of Waybourn since his days as Chief of Police for Dalworthington Gardens and now serves as Waybourn’s Executive Chief for personnel and judicial matters with Tarrant County.
The warrant authorized officers of the Tarrant County Constables Office Pct. 2, which sources say employed both Waybourn and Driskell as deputy constables at the time the warrant was issued, to search the headquarters of Facebook, Inc. in Menlo Park, California.
Municipal courts typically handle Class C misdemeanors like speeding or running a red light. Nonetheless, Waybourn and Driskell sought and received a search warrant for a facility in California from the court. Arlington Municipal Court associate judge Erin L. Jackson signed-off on the warrant.
However, state guidelines for municipal courts make clear the Arlington Municipal Court had no authority to issue a search warrant for a facility in California.
The Bench Book published by the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center as a guide for municipal judges begins its discussion of search warrants by stating municipal judges are not allowed to issue warrants for places outside their authority.
A municipal judge, signing a search warrant in his or her capacity as a magistrate, must have geographical authority over the area to be searched (i.e., the county or counties in which the city is located). Thus, an Austin municipal judge lacks the authority to issue a search warrant for property located in the City of El Paso.
In fact, the scheme by Waybourn and Driskell to use the Arlington Municipal Court to issue the warrant appears to have been an illegal effort to circumvent Article 18.20 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
That law, which governs how law enforcement may access “electronic customer data,” specifically requires peace officers to obtain a search warrant from a state district court judge.
District court judges are elected by the people and handle all types of civil and felony criminal cases. Municipal court judges are appointed by city councils and typically handle traffic tickets.
As more information becomes available about this case, it is becoming more and more clear that Waybourn and his associates, including Driskell, may have violated several provisions of the Penal Code by abusing Tarrant County resources to target a political opponent.
Abuse of the criminal justice system to accomplish political objectives is a scourge on the State of Texas. Tarrant County needs to investigate and prosecute Waybourn for his actions in this case.