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District clerk, 3 others on trial
Prosecutors in the trial of Collin County District Clerk and three other defendants on Friday presented photographs and emails as evidence that the defendants had illegally campaigned on county time.
Cpl. A.P. Davidson, a Texas Ranger, testified Friday morning that he took photographs and discovered e-mails that indicated District Clerk Patricia Crigger and three others used county time to work on Crigger's Republican primary campaign in late 2009 and early 2010.
Crigger, Hannah Kunkle (a retired district clerk), and Rebecca Littrell, a district clerk employee, are charged with abuse of official capacity and conspiracy to commit abuse of official capacity. Sherry Bell, also a district clerk employee, is charged with conspiracy to commit abuse of official capacity.
Davidson produced photographs of district clerk employees sitting beside a Crigger campaign sign in front of an elementary school. Davidson said he took the pictures during weekday working hours.
Davidson also read portions of emails he had pulled from computers that had been taken out of the district clerk's office, which he said indicated that the employees had campaigned on county time.
Emails from Kunkle said, "We have been so busy with Patricia's campaign" and "We have been helping Patricia walk the precincts."
Sherry Bell sent an email to at least one employee stating, "You'd better dress for us to work the polls tomorrow."
Defense attorneys say that the defendants are not guilty of any crimes.
Cynthia Jacobson, Collin County director of human resources, spent about an hour on the stand Thursday afternoon and more than an hour Friday morning answering questions from both the prosecution and defense about hours credited to the defendants, and whether they were hours spent campaigning or performing their duties in the district clerk's office.
Jacobson testified that all new employees are given a handbook telling them employee rules. She said the handbook "precludes political involvement in a campaign during working hours."
Defense Attorney Deric Walpole asked Jacobson if she was certain that all employees read the handbook.
She said employees sign a document that they have read and understand the rules outlined in the handbook. She said she had no way of knowing if all employees actually read the entire handbook.
Walpole also asked Jacobson if it would be a normal procedure if an employee broke a rule in the handbook, that the employee might simply be reprimanded or at worst, fired, without felony charges forthcoming.
Jacobson agreed that could be possible.
Prosecutor Rebecca Gregory, responding to Walpole's questions, showed a copy of the Texas Election Code, which stated that criminal charges could be filed in connection with the violations of which the defendants are accused.
The trial of the district clerk and the other defendants began Monday. Attorneys took two days to pick a jury, and witnesses began taking the stand Wednesday.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys are estimating that the trial could last another two weeks.
The trial of the district clerk and the other defendants began shortly after a three-week bribery trial for District Judge Suzanne Wooten had concluded. Wooten was found guilty, given 10 years probation and assessed a $10,000 fine.