Visiting Justice of the Peace Treg Hudson from Mason County recently approved a change of venue to hear several complaints of alleged cruel treatment of animals against Burnet County Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall.
Hudson arrived in Burnet after Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Lisa Whitehead signed a warrant to seize “cruelly treated animals” which prompted the removal of several cattle on property controlled by Wall.
More than 20 people watched the brief hearing Sept. 16 in the Burnet County Courthouse first-floor court room, when Judge Hudson granted a motion to move the case out of the city of Burnet and the Precinct 2 court to the Marble Falls Precinct 3 court. The decision satisfied op posing attorneys, including Burnet attorney Eddie Shell, the representative for Wall, and Carson Walker, the Assistant
“Most of the cattle I saw were underweight and some ribs and hip bones could be observed.”
— Jason Jewett Livestock Deputy County Attorney Pro Tem.
Before Hudson decided, he allowed Shell and Walker to approach the bench. Their discussion could be heard throughout the courtroom.
Shell pointed out to the judge, Texas law states “a suit in a justice court shall be brought in the county and precinct in which the defendant resides.”
Wall lives in Precinct 3, not Precinct 2, Shell informed Hudson.
“So, you have the law on your side?” Hudson asked Shell.
“Oh, yes,” Shell replied.
Then, Hudson ordered the venue transfer. As such, the case will go to the court of Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Jane Marie Hurst in Marble Falls at the South Annex, 810 Steve Hawkins Parkway.
“It (Precinct 3) is the proper court,” Shell told the Bulletin.
No date was set immediately for the Precinct 3 hearing. The case began last month, when Burnet County Livestock Deputy Jason Jewett began to investigate complaints about cattle “unreasonably deprived of necessary food and care” on or near several acres reportedly managed by Wall in Burnet County at CR 336 and CR 337. “I observed approximately 12 cattle that could be seen from the road,” according to an affidavit by Jewett. “Most of the cattle I saw were underweight and some ribs and hip bones could be observed. Three of the cattle I noticed were very low weight, and you could observe most of the hips, spine and ribs.” Jewett discussed the complaints and his observations with Wall.
“He (Wall) agreed he did have some cattle that were getting too skinny, and he explained, he had been feeding them hay,” Jewett recalled in the affidavit. “He had fed them about 200 round bales through the winter, but the drought conditions were making it worse with no grass or hay production.”
According to his affidavit, Jewett advised Wall the time had come “to feed or sell” some of his cattle.
Later, through Sheriff Calvin Boyd, Jewett viewed the image of a dead cow in a photograph submitted by an anonymous person. During his rounds, Jewett found the dead animal in a pond.
“The pond was at the corner of Massy Lane and CR 336,” Jewett recalled. “It is the back part in the northeast corner.”
Also, Jewett took his own photographs of cattle reportedly owned by Wall at CR 336, CR 337 (both precinct 3) and more of his reportedly-owned cattle at 6000 block of west FM 243 (precinct 2).
“I did not enter the property,” Jewett said. “I only photographed the animals from my truck and public access roadways.”
Several of the cattle he photographed looked very underweight, he added.
Jewett sent his photographs to Dr. Joe Paschal of Texas A&M University for evaluation. “I realize your county has been in a severe drought but some attempt should have been made to provide for these cattle,” Paschal told Jewett. Jewett requested a warrant to seize the cattle. Judge Whitehead authorized the seizure warrant Sept. 7. The next day several cattle were seized from Wall and transported to the Burnet County Fairgrounds.
One day later, County Attorney Eddie Arredondo filed a recusal for himself and his entire department from the Wall matter.
Currently, Arredondo represents all of the Burnet County commissioners (including Wall) in a nationwide lawsuit which involves a dispute related to election machines.
As such, there is “an actual conflict of interest,” Arredondo explained.
Arredondo asked Williamson County Attorney Doyle “Dee” Hobbs for help, and Hobbs appointed Walker to represent the state of Texas and Burnet County in the Wall case.