Former BISD electrician loses (another) appeal

Calvin Walker (left) and Dick DeGuerin

Former Beaumont Independent School District contract electrician Calvin Walker has spent the last two years trying to convince a myriad of courts that he shouldn’t face a jury of his peers in state court on allegations that he defrauded the school district and the city of Port Arthur out of millions of dollars. 

Since he was able to arrange a plea deal to alleviate similar federal charges in 2012 in exchange for admission that he failed to timely pay his taxes, Walker and attorney Dick DeGuerin argue, he should not be held liable for those same crimes at the state level. To date, no court has sided with the defense’s assertion, and on Wednesday, June 15, the Court of Criminal Appeals – the highest criminal appeals court in the state – also ruled that it would not hear arguments concerning Walker’s latest attempt to avoid state prosecution.

Barring unprecedented further legal maneuvering or divine intervention, Walker will now be placed on the docket for trial in Judge John Stevens’ Jefferson County Criminal District Court.

“I don’t want to say that this was a stall tactic,” Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Wayln Thompson, who handles the county’s criminal appeals, said. “But, it has definitely delayed the process.”

Walker’s appeal was a writ of habeas corpus, a type of filing rarely made prior to trial convictions. Writs of habeas argue that a prisoner is being held against their constitutional rights. Specifically, according to pleadings made in his writ for relief, Walker and DeGuerin pose the theory that the state’s prosecution is nothing more than double jeopardy – or a “sham and a cover” for failed federal proceedings where prosecutors from the federal and state offices are colluding together to deprive Walker of his right to freedom.

“A fair jury in federal court did not convict (Walker),” DeGuerin told The Examiner as to why he believes his client is currently being unfairly prosecuted. “They agreed in federal court not to prosecute him anymore after that.”

But that was just in federal court, state prosecutors assert.

“There is no double jeopardy with state and federal prosecution except in very, very limited circumstances,” Thompson said. “They were trying to stop us from being able to take him to trial. The judge denied it – and then they appealed it.” The claim was first denied in Stevens’ court in 2014. The 9th Court of Appeals heard the case next; it also denied Walker’s claim. The Court of Criminal Appeals refused to even contemplate the argument.

“It’s over,” Thompson surmised. “At this point, we can take him to trial.”

And although Thompson is convinced the state’s case will ultimately be heard before a jury, he is open to the fact that Walker and DeGuerin may have another Hail Mary up their sleeves.

“DeGuerin is creative,” Thompson said. “I don’t know what they’ll do next. But whatever they do, we’ll deal with it accordingly.”

Walker, when slated for trial in Jefferson County, is facing four felony charges of securing execution of a document by deception and two felony charges of money laundering.

Walker was arrested pursuant to the charges in July 2014, on the heels of a six-count indictment that alleges that, from Dec. 23, 2008, through Sept. 10, 2009, Walker submitted fraudulent invoices to both BISD and the city of Port Arthur resulting in the contractor being “compensated for labor, materials, and other expenses which were never incurred concerning his work as a contractor on various projects, including temporary campuses at BISD’s South Park and Regina Howell schools, a softball field at Ozen, and Port Arthur parks.”

Walker has faced – and been sentenced on – similar state charges before stemming from a bogus insurance claim that resulted in criminal prosecution in 2003, not long before Walker went into business with BISD and the city of Port Arthur. In that case, Walker altered documents to claim injuries and secure insurance proceeds he was not entitled to.

Walker was arrested on the state jail felony insurance fraud charge in January 2003, but was released on the surety of attorney Audwin Samuel. In the end, Walker pleaded no contest to the charge, and was ordered to serve four years of probation, perform 400 hours of community service, and pay a $1,000 fine and restitution. He petitioned the state – and was granted – early release from probation after serving just half his sentence.

 

Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

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