Texas Death Race

Rebel 1Judge John Miller and County Attorney Val Varley are locked in a neck-and-neck race to see who qualifies as the most bizarre public official in the great state of Texas.  Since a subscription is required, I have copied the story from the Texarkana Gazette that updates an important story from Red River County

Miller is the judge who was recently recused after going to war with the state Attorney General’s Office.  Varley is the prosecutor who accused a Texas attorney and his wife of a heinous crime on the uncorroborated word of an emotionally disturbed woman with a checkered past.   Since the finish line in the Varley-Miller race is the lip of a yawning precipice (think of James Dean and “Buzz” in Rebel without a Cause), there can be no winner and Red River County justice is the clear loser.

Incredibly, prosecutor Val Varley spent a quarter-million dollars prosecuting Mark and Rhonda Lesher without conducting a single interview with the couple.  By the time the Leshers where acquitted by a Collin County jury in January of 2009, it was clear to any objective observer that Shannon Coyel, Varley’s star witness, had perjured herself every time she opened her mouth.  Her story of being drugged and raped weren’t just off-the-wall, they were demonstrably false.  Although Coyel was eventually charged with misdemeanor perjury in Red River County, Varley still hasn’t investigated the incident (more on this below).

You will remember Val Varley as the gung-ho prosecutor who showed up at a bogus drug bust sporting a flak jacket and waving an automatic rifle.  This cameo appearance made him a potential fact witness in the case and led to his recusal.  The Attorney General’s office took over the prosecution and, after a careful review of the facts, negotiated a plea agreement with a single defendant and filed motions to dismiss charges against half a dozen clearly innocent people.  Judge Miller refused to sign off on the deal until brothers Mark and Vergil Richardson agreed to drop their civil suit against a host of Red River County officials.  Miller’s actions aren’t just irresponsible, they may be criminal.

Now 6th District Judge Eric Clifford has appointed Paris, Texas, attorney Barney Sawyer to assess the severity of the perjury charges against Shannon Coyel.  My gut tells me that Ms. Coyel’s testimony was coerced by her husband Jerry (one of the wealthiest men in Red River County) and County Attorney Val Varley.  It appears likely that the lies Ms. Coyel told at trial were initially sold to two sets of grand jurors.  Attorneys representing the Leshers have obtained judicial permission to depose members of both grand juries. 

Not surprisingly, Mark and Rhonda Lesher have accused Mr. Varley of conducting a vindictive prosecution. 

This is a cautionary tale that shows how easily the unfettered power of the American prosecutor can be abused and how difficult it can be to remedy the damage.   You haven’t heard the end of this one.

Perjury charges may rise

Special prosecutor named to study accuser in Lesher case

Lynn LaRowe – Texarkana Gazette -Published: 09/14/2010

CLARKSVILLE, Texas—A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate possible perjury by a woman who accused area attorney Mark Lesher and his wife of raping her in 2007.

Mark and Rhonda Lesher and Robert “Red” McCarver were acquitted by a jury in Collin County last year of aggravated sexual assault. Their accuser, Shannon Coyel of Clarksville, faces a charge of misdemeanor perjury in Collin County, where the trial was held because of pretrial publicity.

Friday, 6th District Judge Eric Clifford, who serves Red River and Lamar counties, appointed Paris, Texas, attorney Barney Sawyer to determine whether Shannon Coyel lied when she testified before the two Red River County grand juries that indicted the Leshers and McCarver in 2008.

“Red River County spent a lot of money, probably $250,000, prosecuting that case,” Clifford said. “It needs looking into.”

Clifford added that the pending perjury charge in Collin County, coupled with a recent ruling in a civil, malicious prosecution action connected to the criminal case, made his order appointing a special prosecutor necessary as well.

“Obviously we’re pleased. It appears an investigation is going to be conducted that should have been conducted immediately after our trial,” Mark Lesher said. “Val Varley should have done this.”

The Leshers and McCarver were twice indicted by Red River County grand juries. The first round of indictments for sexual assault were legally flawed and tossed out. A second grand jury indicted the Leshers and McCarver for aggravated sexual assault.

The Leshers have criticized Red River County District Attorney Val Varley for failing to conduct a thorough investigation before bringing Coyel before a grand jury to testify. The Leshers were never interviewed by law enforcement and were not given the opportunity to appear before either of the grand juries that indicted them.

Following their January 2009 acquittal in Collin County, the Leshers filed a malicious prosecution suit in Collin County naming Shannon Coyel, her husband, Jerry Coyel, and Varley as defendants.

Recently the presiding judge granted a motion by the Leshers’ attorney to lift the veil of secrecy typically attached to grand jury proceedings. That means the Leshers’ attorney, William Demond of Austin, can formally question them about Coyel’s testimony before the grand jury.

Jerry Luther, foreman of the second grand jury to indict the Leshers, signed an affidavit expressing concerns with Shannon Coyel’s grand jury testimony.

“I was a little bit embarrassed for indicting the Leshers and I felt that we had been lied to,” Luther’s affidavit states.

The depositions of the grand jurors who indicted the Leshers could prove helpful to the special prosecutor in determining whether Shannon Coyel should face perjury charges in Red River County.

6 thoughts on “Texas Death Race

  1. So thankful some of this is being exposed. The picture you placed on this story is worth millions of words. But the picture and the story is clear! These people are not going to get by with what they have done to these innocent ones who are very nice people! Too many prayers going up and God is using the Richardsons, the Leshers and you and others to expose the mean things our governing body is and has done to innocent people We know there are many others and we pray their day will come also. Thank you for your diligent and difficult work in unraveling the mess.

  2. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations has run out on Coyel’s perjury case in Red River County. Judge Clifford tried and for that he is to be commended.

    Mary Madewell

  3. The DA did that on purpose. He knew it was running out and he did nothing–even though people were screaming for him to. He needs to be behind bars himself for obstructing justice, if that is what it is called. Costing our county a quarter of a million dollars to try a case based on total lies is really bad. This kind of stuff is what is breaking our county. The officials own actions.

  4. I do not understand how the statute of limatations could be over when it was in Janaury of 2009, at the trial, when the woman admitted she lied. That being the case, two years would not be up until January 2011.

    What is really happening on this?

  5. B.S. I don`t have much to say about Eric. I myself had a case for custody of two children constantly put in situations of molestation, abandonment, and violence brought on by the mother and the numerous men in her life. All of which could have easily been proven by three professionals of the local police, school, and CPS. These offenses were heard by all three but ignored. All three agreed the mother was to be removed from custody. Sadly the only thing that received any attention was the fact that I was behind on child support by three thousand dollars. Mothers attorney claimed I never paid before. My mother died before this and an insurance claim settled in the amount of five thousand. The mother in the case took the settlement. At the time of this case I owed the three thousand. As I was placed in custody, bound for jail, the judge added “and from now on you can pick up and drop off the children”. Same day mother moved to Sherevport Louisiana. Inmates in the courtroom that day who were scheduled to be released
    received paperwork at the county jail. The judge, Eric, withheld mine insuring i was to stay.
    I already had the money before court. I have another story about Jim Dick Lovett who had a secretary named Lucill Lawler who had an adopted daughter, who had two girls who were best
    friends to the mother in this case. Can you guess how previous custody cases to this one went?
    I have no respect for local government in Red River County. The children keep asking
    if they can see the judge when they reach the age of twelve, the age they have heard they can make up there own mind who they wish to live with. The grandmother also in lousyana has told
    them “ha ha your in LA now and you have to wait till 14. I ask you does this sound like a child
    talking to a child? Judicial Misconduct, You have no idea.
    James Darren Craft

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