Shhh! It’s a secret - City Attorney hides Kendrick Perkins deal

Shhh! It’s a secret - City Attorney hides Kendrick Perkins deal

It was supposed to be a secret. In what some might call a wink-and-nod agreement, Beaumont City Attorney Tyrone Cooper’s office dismissed misdemeanor criminal charges against NBA star Kendrick Perkins for disorderly conduct and public intoxication and took no position when Perkins filed to have his criminal record expunged – a move that would erase any trace of his conduct and actions toward the Beaumont Police Department inside and outside The Ticket Sports Bar on Aug. 13, 2011.Sources have told The Examiner that in exchange for dismissing the case, Perkins would take an anger management course, although there is no proof that actually occurred because the city is fighting the release of related documents. Court records obtained by The Examiner confirm some type of “pre-trial” diversion, but they do not indicate what the agreement was. The source said the evidence against Perkins was contrary to statements he made proclaiming his innocence shortly after his arrest.

In an attempt to keep its part of the deal, the city has twice refused to release what would normally be considered public information about the case to the local media and others who requested it pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act.

According to information from the Beaumont Police Department, Perkins was arrested after refusing to cooperate with police at the bar on College Street. A BPD sergeant at the scene said, “There were approximately 50 people gathered around Perkins as he was attempting to fight the manager. The crowd was able to push Perkins out the back door of the club where he stopped and continued to yell obscenities. Several officers attempted to quiet Perkins and to get him to leave the property. Perkins continued with the obscenities and was trying to fight several other people in the crowd who were apparently trying to help.”

The sergeant decided that because of Perkins’ actions toward officers, he would be taken into custody and transported to the Jefferson County Correctional Facility, where he was later released on a $150 bond ($300 total) for each charge.

Earlier in the night, Perkins canceled a celebrity basketball game with area youth, part of his Second Annual Basketball Camp. According to published media reports, he was supposed to be resting after being taken to the hospital the night before while at a party at NBA star Stephen Jackson’s house in Port Arthur.

Perkins, a 2003 graduate of Ozen High School, won an NBA Championship while playing for the Boston Celtics in 2008 and currently plays center for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Shortly after being released from jail, Perkins hired Port Arthur attorney Langston Adams to represent him. Less than a week later, on Aug. 18, 2011, Adams met with the city attorney’s office to discuss the case and review police videos of the arrest, according to copies of court records obtained by The Examiner. That same day, a gag order was issued preventing any extra-judicial comments from being made about the case.

Court documents filed by Adams and later obtained by The Examiner from multiple sources highlighted the city’s apparent desire to dismiss the charges against Perkins.

“Movant (Adams) accompanied by Mr. Perkins met with City Attorney, Tyrone Cooper and assistant city attorney Sharae Bassett,” states a document entitled Motion to Withdraw as Counsel filed on Sept. 8, 2011. “At the outset of such meeting Mr. Cooper indicated that he wanted to see the charges against Mr. Perkins go away. However, the public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges against Mr. Perkins have yet to be dismissed. At such meeting movant and Mr. Perkins were allowed to view three of four DVD’s capturing audio and video of Mr. Perkins and the events leading to his arrest. Such recordings were made on the motor vehicle recording devices of the Beaumont Police Department.”

The document continues, stating that the court should order the videos released to Perkins because they would aide in his defense. It also states that an officer was overheard on the video “taunting” Perkins while he was in the back of a patrol car, and Perkins told Cooper the officer struck him on the leg with a police baton during the disturbance.

Adams said the reason he was filing his motion to withdraw as counsel was because four days after he and Perkins met with Cooper, he was told that his services were no longer needed.

“Why would he need me if the case was going to go away,” Adams told The Examiner.

When questioned as to why his office was so adamant about withholding information in the case, Cooper became defensive.

“We are not withholding (anything),” Cooper said. “We had a gag order. It was requested by Langston Adams when he was still on the case. The gag order was still in effect 30 days beyond the date the case was disposed of by the signing of Judge (Craig) Lively. The attorney general said that as long as a gag order was in effect, we couldn’t release anything.”

But Adams didn’t request the gag order.

“Tyrone can say whatever he wants to say because the bottom line is that I never did ask for a gag order,” Adams said. “Why would I ask for a gag order when I had just issued a press release for anyone with information to come forward? I did not ask for a gag order. I didn’t even know about it. From my understanding, the judge did that sua sponte (on his own accord). I didn’t know about it until I got it by fax.”

Adams was telling the truth. Beaumont Municipal Court Judge Craig Lively, who, like Cooper, serves at the direction of the Beaumont City Council, issued the gag order in the case. Lively admitted to The Examiner that the gag order was unprecedented, but he was trying to ensure that Perkins received “a fair trial.”The gag order prevented attorneys on either side from making public statements about the case, but Cooper took it a step further and used it as a reason not to release documents related to the case, including videos and court documents. 

“This is the first one (gag order) I have done,” Lively said.

When pressed about whether or not anyone pressured him to file the gag order sua sponte, he said, “no.” He also said he was not aware of the negotiations between the city and Perkins. He said he expected the case would eventually go to trial and he was trying to ensure that Perkins was treated fairly based upon evidence to be presented at trial and not as presented in the media. “It just seemed like it was getting so large, so fast,” Lively said.

He said it was a coincidence that the gag order was issued on the same day that Cooper, according to court documents, made the statement that he wanted the case to “go away.”

“From my standpoint it would be coincidental because I am not in their scheduling of negotiations,” Lively said. “Whatever they were doing with Kendrick, that was their deal.”

On both occasions where interested parties requested information about the case, the city appealed to the Texas Attorney General’s Office to withhold any documents related to the case. At first, Cooper’s office argued that the gag order, when coupled with the fact that the case was still pending, meant the AG should rule the information be withheld from public scrutiny. The AG ruled in favor of the city, but when the case was resolved those records would normally have become available. Not so in this case.

The Examiner filed a request for information on Jan. 3, 2012, seeking, “to review all documents related to the charges that were filed and later dismissed against Kendrick Perkins. This would include any supposed ‘gag order’ in the case.”

Additionally, because The Examiner had learned that Perkins was now being represented by Sean Samuel, the son of Beaumont City Councilman Audwin Samuel, all e-mails and correspondence between City Council members and the city attorney’s office were also requested.

Rather than release any information, including the disposition of the case, Cooper’s office again requested an opinion from the Texas attorney general, which is now being challenged by The Examiner. A review of the letter sent to the attorney general revealed Cooper’s office left out key elements of the case, specifically that a city councilman’s son is now representing Perkins and the fact that the gag order has expired.

Additionally, Cooper’s office filed a motion seeking sanctions against Adams for allegedly violating the gag order when he included information about the meeting with the city in his motion to withdraw.

“Mr. Adams’ motion to withdraw was clearly drafted by Mr. Adams with full intent to have it published by news media,” states the motion for sanctions filed by Bassett. “Rather than just noting that he was withdrawing, Mr. Adams included a full page and a portion of the second page rambling about matters, much of which is wrong, that have no bearing on his withdrawal, but would provide salacious information to the news media.”

Judge Lively later denied the city’s motion for sanctions, which asked that he fine Adam $2,000, deny him the right to practice in municipal court for a year and “notify the State Bar of Texas regarding Mr. Adams’ unethical conduct, along with a transcript, so that the State Bar of Texas may take the appropriate action against Mr. Adams’ license.”

Adams, who made a name for himself by representing Derrick Newman in an official oppression case against the Beaumont Police Department, said he was upset because the city attorney’s office tried to take away his livelihood.

“They were trying to hurt my career,” he said. “That was a frivolous motion, and it was filed because the city was upset with me because of the wording of my motion where he (Cooper) said he wanted to see this case ‘quietly go away.’”

When it was pointed out that Perkins’ case was now dismissed, Cooper said his office wouldn’t release information about the case because Perkins was now seeking to

have his record expunged of the arrest. He claimed the expunction would be considered pending litigation in his office’s letter to the attorney general.

“An expunction, as soon as, well, very shortly after (Judge) Lively signed his order of disposition, an expunction was filed, a petition for expunction,” Cooper said. “We are not sure what to do in the face of an expunction. Some consider it to be pending litigation. We don’t know.”

The request by Cooper’s office for a ruling from the attorney general filed on Jan. 17, 2012, included the date of the expunction hearing – Jan. 25, 2012 – just a week later. Because it takes about 45 days for the attorney general to rule on a request, once the expunction was ultimately granted, the ruling from the attorney general would be moot because the records would have been destroyed.

That left little time to try and delay the expunction hearing, so a reporter with The Examiner filed a motion in Jefferson County Criminal District Judge Layne Walker’s court explaining the circumstances, asking the judge to delay his ruling until the attorney general could decide whether the records should be released. Walker granted the motion for delay.

“Cooper was playing a game with you guys and that’s chicken sh##,” said one local attorney, when it was discovered that The Examiner successfully filed a motion to delay the expunction hearing. “He hoped the record would be expunged so the record wouldn’t be able to be released.”

An objection was also filed with the attorney general requesting that the city be required to make all public documents in the case available for inspection.

When asked about his involvement in the case and any potential conflict related to his son, with whom he shares his law practice, Audwin Samuel said he had not discussed the case with his son.

“That is not something we talk about,” he said, adding that it was OK for his son to have cases in municipal court. “We have an opinion from the AG that there isn’t a conflict.”

Sean Samuel said he understood there could be conflicts at times regarding his work related to the city but his work in this case shouldn’t be an issue. He said he is only handling Perkins’ expunction and was not involved with the case when Perkins was facing misdemeanor charges at the city level.

Because Cooper has refused to release any documents in the case, it is impossible to know who filed subsequent motions in Perkins’ case or who represented him when it was ultimately dismissed.

Other members of the Beaumont City Council, including Alan Coleman, Mayor Becky Ames and Mike Getz, said they would have to find out more information about the case before they could make a detailed comment.

“I believe we should be transparent, and I don’t agree with backroom deals,” Getz said.

Getz also confirmed that when he was facing a Class C misdemeanor on a similar charge brought by the Beaumont Independent School District in municipal court, he was not afforded any special treatment and no gag order was issued in the case.

With regards to the alleged use of force by officers at the scene and the statement about Perkins being taunted by a BPD officer, Chief of Police Jimmy Singletary said he would look into the case further. He said the incident occurred before he became the chief, but he wants to know when, and if, his officers act inappropriately. He said it was important that people be held accountable for their actions, and that included his officers.

Attempts to reach Perkins for comment through media representatives at the Oklahoma City Thunder were unsuccessful, and his former sports agent, Denise White, who issued a statement defending Perkins at the time of his arrest, said she was no longer employed by Perkins.