COURT

BELTON — A judge will decide today on a court petition that seeks to remove Bell County Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown from her elected office.

Judge Stephen Ables of the 216th District Court in Kerr County will hear arguments at 1 p.m. in the Bell County 169th District Court on whether or not Brown should be issued a citation and stand trial for controversial and allegedly unconstitutional bonds she set after taking office — including a record-setting $4 billion bond for a Killeen murder suspect that was later reduced.

The petition, submitted Feb. 15 by Killeen lawyer Brett Pritchard, accuses Brown of being “grossly incompetent” and said she “engaged in official misconduct.”

Brown denied any wrongdoing in a public post on her Facebook page Wednesday.

“I achieved a goal by making an intended grave and bold error,” Brown wrote. “None of the other cases cited against me in Pritchard’s law suit are accurate. I am not able to talk about the cases, but I can assure you that I used excellent and sound judgment as I set bail in all of the cases he stated in his suit against me.”

Brown said in her post that the $4 billion bond was intended to get the attention of people who were opposing her attempts to do what she was taught. Otherwise, she said, she has worked within the “philosophy of the leaders of our great Bell County, state of Texas and these United States of America.”

Brown previously told an FME News Service reporter that she knew the $4 billion bond she set for murder suspect Antonio Willis was unconstitutional and she used it to make a point about the brokenness of the legal system.

“I set it as high as I could to illustrate the fact that it’s ridiculous how we are railroading people without them even having their constitutional rights to a fair trial to determine if they are guilty or innocent,” Brown told the reporter. “Everything in the system is broken.”

She believes bonds are set too high for offenders, making it impossible for them to be released from jail until they are proven innocent or guilty, Brown said.

To protest the high bonds, Brown then began setting many bonds below the recommended levels for some reportedly violent offenders.

Brown set a $1,000 bond for Chance Haden Pearson, 24, of Fort Hood, a man who is accused of committing a sexual assault. Pearson’s bond was challenged after Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza took exception with the extremely low bond. Garza made a motion to reset it, and Bell County Judge John Gauntt agreed and reset the bond at $125,000.

Garza challenged the bond Brown set for a fourth case Wednesday. Cetara Barnes, 30, of Killeen, was charged with assaulting a family/household member with previous convictions, a third-degree felony. Brown set her bond at $3,000. The bond was raised Wednesday to $40,000 after the hearing.

In her post, Brown said, “Therefore, I will do all within my power to fight for my position because I know that I am needed to help make the changes good people in Bell County, the state of Texas and these United States of America are also committed to doing to reform the broken areas of our judicial system.”

Brown hopes that everyone will eventually “get it,” she said. She contends that she is committed to making a positive difference as a justice of the peace.

“I have never met Brett Pritchard, but I can assure you that he is wrong for filing this law suit against me,” Brown wrote.

“If I am to be removed because of a constitutional violation, so must everyone who has someone in jail right now for violating their constitutional right. If I am to be removed for incompetence, consider that I have more education than anyone who has ever held this position,” Brown said in another post Wednesday.

Brown declined to comment about the hearing during a Wednesday call to her Killeen office.

(2) comments

Pharon Enochs

This posting is indeed the opinion of Pharon Enochs It appears to me most of the citizens have got it. Brown is doing her job as a JP for Bell County. Her personal beliefs should be just that, personal. They should not be used to miss color of criminal justice system. If she desires change do it the right way but do not use a trusted public office to do. She make the comment she has more education then anyone that has held the JP position. That may be true but she is not showing that she has any knowledge of what is takes to be a JP. She can brag about her education but education alone is not the only factor in making decisions and that is good old fashion common sense. This factor in my opinion is something she is sorely lacking. I think Brown will be facing a true and just secession in court soon. The lady with blind fold on and the scales in her hands will be able to show Brown the true meaning of the criminal justice soon. If I was in Brown's position I do not think I would depend on my education to help me in court I would seek an attorney who knows the legal system. She is probably going to get an up close and personal view of what it means in my opinion to dishonor an office which requires truth, honesty fairness for everyone and not used to support individuals political agendas.

timebandid

Judge Brown has committed an injustice against every law abiding citizen in this area by setting bonds too high and too low. When setting them too low, she is advocating a disregard for public safety and also presenting an easy opportunity for suspected criminals to skip town, rather than face their day in court. For bonds set extremely high, she shows a disregard for the rights of the accused. The court room is not a forum for judges with a particular political agenda to wield their power. Her contempt of the system, which she has sworn to uphold, disqualifies her from this office. It hope that this tribunal will remove her from the bench before she has the opportunity to further injure and erode public confidence citizens place in our judicial system.

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