JP arrest, indicted

Megan Pinson Grigsby

The indictments that led to the arrest of Harrison County Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Megan Pinson Grigsby accuse the elected official of stealing funds in her capacity, dating back as far as Oct. 31, 2017.

Grigsby, 33, of Marshall, was arrested on Thursday following an indictment, and charged with theft more than $2,500, but less than $30,000; and abuse of official capacity more than or equal to $1,500, but less than $20,000. Bonds were set at $5,000 for each offense, totaling $10,000. She posted bail the same day.

“I can tell you she’s under indictment; she’s been arraigned and I’ve been appointed as the attorney pro tem,” said former Gregg County District Attorney Carl Dorrough, who was appointed in February to serve as an attorney pro tem, acting in the role of Harrison County District Attorney in the case. His appointment came following the culmination of the Texas Rangers’ investigation.

Dorrough said because the case is pending he can’t disclose too much regarding the allegations.

“Unfortunately, it is what it is and ultimately we’ll see what happens,” he said.

The indictments, which are filed in the district clerk’s office, accuse the justice of the peace of stealing money that came through her office. The money was not turned over to the county treasury to be accounted for.

According to the theft indictment, pursuant to one scheme or continuing course of conduct that began on or about Oct. 31, 2017 and continued until about July 31, 2018, Grigsby allegedly unlawfully appropriated, by acquiring or otherwise exercising control over property, specifically money, that valued more than $2,500, but less than $30,000, without consent of the county treasurer.

“It is further presented that the defendant was then and there a public servant, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace, and such property appropriated by the defendant had therefore come into her custody, possession or control by virtue of her status as a public servant,” the indictment states.

According to count two of the indictment, related to the offense of abuse of official capacity, on or about Oct. 31, 2017, with intent to obtain a benefit or harm or defraud another, Grigsby allegedly intentionally or knowingly misused government property which had come into her custody or possession by virtue of her employment or office as Justice of the Peace of Harrison County, by unlawfully appropriating the money, which was more than $100, but less than $750.

The grand jury indictment goes on to accuse the justice of the peace of committing the same actions with the same value of money again on Oct. 31, 2017, and further on Dec. 12, 2017; on March 12, 2018; on April 12, 2018; on May 4, 2018; on May 15, 2018; on June 14, 2018; and again on May 4, 2018.

The indictment further alleges that on or about July 31, 2018, she did the same thing but with money valuing $750 or more, but less than $2,500, the indictment shows.

“And it is further presented that all of the transactions were conducted pursuant to one scheme or continuing course of conduct, and the aggregate value of the property obtained was $2,500 or more but less than $30,000,” the indictment states.

On Thursday, 71st District Judge Brad Morin filed an order of referral on a motion to recuse himself from presiding over the case.

In the motion, he requested presiding judge of the first administrative judicial region to assign another judge to hear Grigsby’s criminal case. The presiding judge of the 10th Administrative Judicial Region Alfonso Charles assigned retired Gregg County Court-at-Law No. 1 Judge Rebecca Simpson to the case.

FATE OF OFFICE

When asked by the News Messenger whether or not Grigsby will still be able to serve in her capacity in light of her indictment, Harrison County Judge Chad Sims said he has conferred with the county’s outside counsel, Bob Bass of the law firm Allison & Bass in Austin, on that matter.

“Their law firm works closely with Texas counties on a variety of issues, including issues like the indictment of an elected county official,” said Sims. “Most frequently with an issue like this concerning a Justice of the Peace, The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct would suspend the official’s certification but not suspend their pay.”

Sims said while there is a process whereby the official could be removed from office pending the trial and the commissioners court could even suspend pay, there is, however, “a catch.”

“In the United States, we are still innocent until proven guilty; and for good reason,” the county judge said.

“If the case goes to trial and the defendant wins, the county would be required to go back and make up the missed pay,” he explained.

Sims noted that another question has arisen as to whether or not the commissioners court will move to fill the position while proceedings are pending.

“There has been the question of filling the position during this process,” he said. “The position cannot be filled — even temporarily — unless there is a vacancy.

“There is no vacancy until (the) district court rules to either remove the official or the official is convicted,” Sims explained.

“This will be a slow process and we appreciate the continued support of the community during this time,” the county judge said.

TIMELINE

Harrison County District Attorney Reid McCain said he can only speak on the case procedurally as he is recused from serving as prosecutor.

“Generally, after an indictment, the next phase in the process is for that case to go to an arraignment docket,” said McCain.

“Next, in this county, in three to four months, it will go to a pretrial docket,” he said, explaining the purpose of the pretrial docket is to give the court some direction on where the case is heading, what hearings are anticipated, and whether they anticipate a resolution in the case or ultimately a trial.

“It gives the court directions on where the attorneys think the case is going to go,” said McCain. “If it looks like the case is going to resolve or plea, then it’ll go to a plea docket. If it looks like it’s not going to be resolved during a plea or dismissal then it goes to a trial docket.”

Generally speaking, cases go to trial within six to eight months, he noted.

“Some go faster; some go longer,” said McCain. “Those are possible paths that case can make.”

Grigsby has served as Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace since September 2013. She was appointed to the office, at the time, by the Harrison County Commissioners Court to fill the unexpired term of the prior judge, Westy Meisenheimer. She was then elected to the position in 2014, and elected again in the March 2018 Republican primary.

Prior to taking the bench, Grigsby worked as senior court clerk for the Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace office for eight years under the administrations of Hugh Taylor and Meisenheimer.

During her tenure, she made history, becoming the county’s first certified justice court clerk and only court clerk with a senior JP clerk ranking. She was also the only one to earn a Master’s Justice Court Certification from Texas State University — the highest certification to be achieved from the Justice Court Training Center.

Grigsby has also served as a teacher for the Texas Justice Court Training Center (TJCTC) where her role included educating and updating experienced and advanced clerks in the state on the laws in which govern their court.

Besides her role as justice of the peace, Grigsby also served as the associate judge for the Waskom Municipal Court.

INDICTMENTS

Others indicted on Thursday were:

  • Montoyria Deuntay Hill, 34, of Waskom, violation of bond/protective order assault/stalking;
  • Stormie Shyanne Rhodes, 18, Hallsville, injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury;
  • Billy Don Tradewell, 34, injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury;
  • Kyram Bernard Irving, 35, Karnack, possession of a controlled substance;
  • Wesley Steven Holloway, 40, Marshall, driving while intoxicated third or more offense;
  • Rhett Dillon Butler, 30, Marshall, unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon; and
  • Rodney Wayne Calhoun Jr., 36, Pelican, La., sexual assault of a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child.