2012-06-14 / Front Page

Grand Jury No Bills Allegations in Report Regarding State School

The Lee County, Texas Grand Jury met on Friday, June 8, 2012 to consider allegations raised by Texas Juvenile Justice Department Independent Ombudsman Debbie Unruh in an April 13, 2012 ninepage report about conditions at the Giddings State School.

In the report, Unruh said, “Youth ringleaders are controlling the culture on this campus; staff have a lack of control over youths; youths have refused to leave security detention for fear of their safety; and bullying and extortion of food are common.”

The department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) presented the details of its investigation to Lee County Attorney Martin Placke for prosecution with assistance from the Texas Special Prosecution Unit of TDCJ/TJJD.

The Lee County Grand Jury considered the matters raised in the report, but did not return any True Bills of indictment for any felony or misdemeanor offenses against any alleged offenders.

Placke said, “I do not intend to present these matters to another Grand Jury unless new information develops warranting presentation. The allegations in the report of bullying, terroristic threat, and assault constituted possible misdemeanor offenses. This was an experienced Grand Jury and all that I will surmise is that they concluded that the allegations did not rise to the level warranting a True Bill of indictment.”

This latest event comes on the heels of an incident which occurred on May 26 at the Giddings State School where six incarcerated youths allegedly vandalized a dorm. The youths barricaded themselves in a closet before being apprehended by officials, who reportedly used pepper spray to apprehend them.

There have been months of reported problems at the Giddings State School. Jim Hurley, spokesperson for the facility, reported to the Leader that pepper spray was used to quell a fight involving six youths at the facility on May 3. Also, on May 5, a juvenile correctional officer was injured when a youth punched her in the face, causing injuries serious enough to have her taken to the emergency room.

The Lee County Grand Jury returned True Bills of indictment against two Giddings State School students last Friday. Shawn Vasquez, 17 years old, and Louis Byers, 18 years old, were both indicted for separate incidents where they are accused of assaulting staff at the Giddings facility. Assault on a public servant is a third degree felony with a range of punishment of up to ten years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice adult prison system.

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