By now, you’re aware that District Attorney Craig Watkins hit someone on the Tollway and then paid that someone to keep quiet about the accident. Read this Tod Robberson post from yesterday. The FBI is now looking into the matter. As Robberson points out, Watkins apparently did the old “Do you know who I am?” bit at the accident scene. Let’s go back to another accident involving Watkins, this one from 2007.
That year was a bad one for the DA when it came to cars. He had at least three accidents, possibly four, from my accounting (though two occurred at his house, and one, according to the DA, was his son’s fault). County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield (a Republican) raised questions about Watkins’ mishaps behind the wheel. From a Morning News story published in April 2008 (I couldn’t find it online):
[I]n October, Mr. Watkins was in a county vehicle when his car made contact with a car in front of him at the Hyatt Regency valet stand downtown [accident No. 1]. His office’s civil attorneys determined he was not at fault after the owner of the other car filed a claim. The county car was not damaged.
But Mr. Mayfield wanted an outside investigation of the claim, saying it was inappropriate for lawyers to investigate their boss. However, the Sheriff’s Department and state Department of Public Safety both declined to investigate.
Mr. Watkins said he borrowed the car for a speaking engagement at the hotel, honoring a pastor. He said his Mercedes was damaged when his youngest son left the passenger door open while he backed out of his garage [accident N0. 2].
He said he was traveling a lot and didn’t have time to rent a car. So he borrowed a car from his office that was paid for with forfeiture money. He said the car belongs to the DA’s office, not to commissioners.
Mr. Mayfield brought the second accident, in November, to light this week.
Mr. Watkins said he slightly dented the hood when he got too close to the wall while pulling into his garage [accident N0. 3].
Allen Clemson, the Commissioners Court administrator, said the county received a damage estimate for $1,165. An additional $700 in unrelated prior damage [accident N0. 4?] to the rear of the vehicle also was discovered, he said.
For now, let’s focus on Accident No. 1, primarily because I have related affidavits sitting on my desk. Following is how Watkins described the accident in his affidavit. Far as I know, this has never been reported.
On October 22, 2007, around 7:30 p.m., while sitting in the valet parking line at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, my car was bumped by the driver in front of me. While I was reaching into my jacket pocket, which was laying on the passenger seat, I felt a slight bump at the front end of my car. I immediately exited my vehicle to speak with the driver in front of me. He told me that my car ran into the back of his car. I disagreed. He had four passangers [sic] in his car that basically agreed with the driver’s assessment of the accident. I did not argue with the driver. I gave him my phone # and my D.L. He drove up to the valet stand and parked. When he again exited his vehicle, I pointed out to him that he had no damage.
The driver of the other car was a man named Paul Gipson. His wife Unettia was with him. As was a woman named Ruthie Wyatt. Here is Wyatt’s affidavit:
To whom it concern. I am Ruthie Wyatt. Let you know happen on the 10/22/07. We was park at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Dallas, Texas, to be access the valet for us to be park that when this guy hit us Mr. Watkins from behind ahard bump. After that, he talk smart about it.
Wyatt’s affidavit was done in her own hand. She is no Keats, but it is the story, not its telling, that should concern us. Here’s how Unettia put it:
Attending our church founder’s banquet dinner at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Located at 300 Reunion Boulevard, Dallas, TX. We had enter at the parking valet, waiting too be park, and as we was waiting, it was a force of a hit from behind us and Mr. Watkins had hit us from behind and my husband had got out and said, “Man, you hit us,” and he said, “Man, I think you hit me,” and he began saying, “You don’t know who I am. I am the district attorney,” and my husband said, “Man, I don’t care about that. I don’t know if you is or not.” So Mr. Watkins began writing the information too give too my husband, Paul Gipson. My husband got back into the vehicle and the valet parking that was directing the cars told us too come forth. It was a distract between the parking valet and Mr. Watkins. Mr. Watkins was not being obedient so the parking valet told him too stopped and for Mr. Gipson too come forth too be parked.
In the interest of readability, I added quote marks, which Unettia left out. Otherwise, that was how she related the details, again in her own hand. Which brings us to the driver, Paul. He wrote:
On 10-22-07 about 7:10 p.m. or 7:25 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, we was on the street next to entry was waiting on instructions to pull forward for a valet parking. While we were waiting, we was structed by Mr. Craig Watkins in the rear. I, Paul Gipson (driver) had went forward from the impact. I put my car in park and Mr. Craig W. and I got out at the same time. He immediately accussed me backing into him. I, Paul G., told him he ran into me and would like to get his insurance information. He stated that he didn’t have it. He gave me his license number tags and car information and told me to contact [name illegible, but looks a bit like Teresa Snelson, an assistant DA]. Mr. Watkins stated that “You must don’t know who I am” (boldly). I told him I don’t care. Just want the information. We look at our cars [illegible] car had pushed my bumper all the way in and scratches on bumper popped the corner popped out on right side, which we did not see at the time because it was dark.
When we was writing down information, Mr. Watkins stated again, “You must don’t know who I am” (smart mouth like) then pull out his badge. “I am the district attorney for Dallas County.” Mr. Watkins stated that he was looking down at something and he did not finish the statement so my first thought was he was not paying attention and did not realize his car was moving. We exchange well he didn’t want want mine. After his information, we got in our cars. Mr. Craig pulled on our right side, gunning his car, ran up on the curb & grass and valet attendant told him to stop and told us to come forward.
So we both was getting out of our cars. Mr. Craig came up and said, “Don’t y’all go and say your necks & back hurting,” and walk off. Mr. Craig didn’t ask nobody how they are doing or nothing, just wasn’t concern. We got into the hotel. Some guy was walking with him. Mr. Craig seen us and stated to the guy that he think we backed into him and was laughing. Wasn’t anything was funny to me. This is a problem.
I’ve done my best to decipher the handwriting of everyone involved. You can look at the affidavits yourself. A couple of points bear mentioning: the Gipsons both have a police record. Unettia did submit a claim to the county for a CT scan and other medical services she received the day after the accident. As the DMN reported, that claim was investigated by the DA’s office and denied. Just know all that on background.
But here’s the takeaway, as far as I’m concerned: the district attorney’s car far too frequently comes into contact with other cars and structures. When this happens, it appears that he likes to inform people of what he does for a living. The county would be a safer place, and our district attorney would have fewer automobile-related distractions, if he simply hired a driver. If Mike Miles over at DISD can have one, why not Craig Watkins?