Haynes convicted, back at work

Jessie Haynes

After deliberating little more than 30 minutes, a six-man jury found Jessie Haynes guilty Thursday, May 22, of blocking a public passageway Aug. 1, 2013.

The verdict comes after more than an hour of closing arguments Thursday.

Prosecutor Wayln Thompson opened the closing arguments, saying a guilty verdict would send a resounding message to the Southeast Texas community.

Thompson said the fact that BISD attorney Melody Chappell was the only defense witness is a testament to Haynes’ guilt.

“She does what Melody Chappell does best. She protects the interests of the Beaumont school board i.e. the Beaumont School District at whatever cost,” Thompson said. “That is what she’s going to do. She gets paid big bucks to do it. Her firm is paid big bucks to do it.”

After rejecting a plea deal for one year deferred probation and $1,000 fine, Haynes’ trial was underway Monday morning, May 19.

Haynes, BISD communications director, was charged in September 2013 for obstructing a public passageway, a class B misdemeanor with a punishment not to exceed 180 days in jail, a $2,000 fine or both.

First on the stand was Trustee Mike Neil, who said tensions were high within BISD’s administration after a weeks-long battle over new voting maps culminated in a restraining order against BISD.

“It was boiling and boiling more and more,” Neil said. “In fact, I think we had been bringing more police officers.”

Testimony reached its apex on Tuesday, May 20, when BISD Police Officer Juan San Miguel testified he was pressured by BISD Police Chief Clydell Duncan to alter his police report of the incident at least three times, prompting gasps from some in the courtroom. San Miguel said Duncan folded to pressure from Haynes, who was upset that photo evidence from the reporter she was blocking was used in the report.

Prosecutor Ashley Chase commended Officer San Miguel for his testimony on the stand. 

“I know this wasn’t easy for you,” she said to San Miguel after his testimony.

Haynes’ attorney said he will appeal the sentence of two years probation, a $2,000 fine and 100 hours of community service handed down by interim Judge Langston Adams’ County Court at Law No. 3. Haynes must also take an anger management course, a behavioral modification program and an impulse control program.

In a late development, BISD spokeswoman Nakisha Miles confirmed Haynes was back at work Wednesday, May 28, after having been on paid assault leave since her altercation with Neil and a reporter in August 2013.

In a statement, Jefferson County’s Interim District Attorney Cory Crenshaw said although Haynes’ trial may have been for just a misdemeanor crime, the testimony garnered from the trial clearly exposed corruption at all levels within the district.

“While I understand that blocking a door to a hallway is not the most significant of crimes, this trial did provide all of us just a glimpse of the corruption that if left unchecked, will likely destroy what remains of our public school district. Looking back over this past week, I am proud of the hard work of my team and I am proud of BISD Police Department Corporal Juan San Miguel who courageously took the stand and uncovered corruption in the face of great personal risk,” Crenshaw said. “Critics often claim racial bias in the effort to bring wrongdoers in the school district to justice. This trial with this jury and Judge Langston Adams presiding is proof that we do not convict based upon the color of our skin; we convict based upon the facts and the evidence.”

The six jurors included three white men and three black men. Judge Adams is also black.