Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis’ charge of official oppression could go to trial following a judge’s decision Friday that denied requests from Gattis’ lawyer to dismiss the charge.
Gattis was charged with a Class A misdemeanor count of official oppression in July. Prosecutors accused the judge of telling Williamson County Sheriff Chief Deputy Tim Ryle to tell Sheriff Robert Chody to “quit tweeting or I’m going to zero out his budget,” Fox 7 reported.
Judge Sid Harle of San Antonio presided over the hearing. Williamson County District Judge Stacey Matthews recused herself.
The defense—headed by Gattis’ son, Dan Gattis Jr.—made several arguments to dismiss the case including the vagueness and broadness of the complaint.
After more than an hour of back-and-forth argument Friday between the prosecutor and defense, Harle directed prosecutors to amend the complaint against Gattis by defining key words, said Jason Nassour, general counsel to the Williamson County Attorney’s Office. Nassour said the case will likely go to trial in early 2019.
Gattis and Chody have clashed several times in Williamson County Commissioners Court meetings over the Sheriff’s Office’s request for more money after capping its allotted budget funding for fiscal year 2017-18.
Gattis said during those meetings that he believes it is the court’s responsibility to set budgets and county departments’ responsibilities to work within those budgets.
“We believe that a county judge cannot threaten any elected official and impact their core function,” Nassour said, adding that by threatening the sheriff while the Commissioners Court was in budget discussions made it more problematic since the judge could influence votes that affect the Sheriff’s Office’s funding.
“We’re not trying to jail the county judge or put him on probation. We’re just trying to say you just can’t do what you’re doing,” he added.
On Aug. 17, Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct suspended Gattis from judicial duties but the suspension did not affect his administrative day-to-day job.
Gattis, who has been the Williamson County judge since 2007, will retire when his current term expires at the end of the year.