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Leading Off (12/19/14)

Mavs Acquire Rajon Rondo. In a move that signals the 19-8 Dallas Mavericks are planning a serious run at the NBA title this season, the team traded three players and draft picks to the Boston Celtics to get the point guard. Rondo is set become a free agent after this season.

Pilot Dead After Small Plane Crash. He was attempting to land his aircraft at Mesquite Airport just after 6 p.m. last night when he struck two homes in Seagoville about 9 miles south of the airport and landed in an open field. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

Cow Thefts on the Rise. Just two or three cows are now worth $4,000 to $5,000 thanks to our insatiable appetite for beef, so the number of incidents of cattle rustling at North Texas ranches is up. As this great recent Planet Money podcast episode explains, the crime is fairly easy to get away with.

UT-Dallas Graduates Its Youngest Ph.D. Ever. Austin Howard started college at age 13 and earned his bachelor’s degree before he was 16. Now, at 22, he’s got a doctorate in physics. Yeah, so what have you done with your life, slacker?

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Barrett Brown Moved Due to Threats Against Him

Kevin Gallagher runs Barrett Brown’s legal defense fund. On Twitter, he is reporting that Barrett has been threatened by inmates. Gallagher shared some more details with me, and I’ve talked to Barrett’s mother. Here’s what I can tell you:

Last night, Barrett was threatened by two inmates, one an associate of the Aryan Brotherhood. Barrett’s cellmate called Barrett’s mom this morning to tell her about these threats — Barrett having already been moved to SHU (isolation) for his own protection. Then Barrett called his mom this afternoon but not from the Seagoville unit, where he has been incarcerated. He has been moved to the Kaufman County jail, and all his belongings have been sent to his mother. Barrett’s cellmate told Barrett’s mom that he thinks yesterday’s op-ed in the Morning News might have had something to do with the threats. Like the bad guys were all like: “You think you’re so fancy? We’ll show you.” But that’s speculation.

Anyway, Barrett’s mom says he sounds fine. He requested one of Robert Caro’s LBJ books and something on the Renaissance. No telling at this point where things go from here, how long he’ll be in Kaufman, but here’s his new address, if you’re inclined to send him something to read:

Barrett Brown, No. 45047-177
Kaufman Law Enforcement Center
P.O. Box 849
Kaufman, TX 75142

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Barrett Brown Will Just Have To Wait for That Sentence

“Lots of bench conferences and long recesses — this hearing has it all!” That was the sarcastic assessment yesterday of Tom Korosec, who was covering Barrett Brown’s sentencing hearing for Bloomberg. Tom and I know each other. He has written for both D Magazine and D CEO. We were standing around during an afternoon recess, marveling at how little Tom would have to work with when it came time to file his story. Before lunch, Judge Sam Lindsay had already warned everyone that things were moving so slowly that he wouldn’t issue his sentence until January 22.

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Fair Park Fire Displaces Nearly 40

In 2000, you might recall a tornado ripping through Fort Worth. I was at my aunt’s house that evening, had gone to bed early, and snoozed through the whole thing.

Somewhat closer to home, last night I had the strange experience of sleeping next door to a five-alarm fire. I live in Fair Park. I went to sleep at 2 am, which is why when I woke up at a little past 3 am because my bed was shaking and sirens were wailing and my neighbor was pounding on my door, it felt like I was in some sort of weird red and orange and blue dream. That’s also possibly why, after poking my head out in to the hall and not really seeing anything, I went back to sleep. In retrospect, I should have done a little more investigating. When I woke up again, my power was out, my building smelled like badly burnt toast, and I couldn’t leave to get to work—firefighters were still parked outside my garage and the air was thick with smoke. The fire started at a warehouse, 4100 Commerce, and spread toward my building, which, thankfully, is fine. My neighbors in 4130 Commerce are not so lucky. The units are uninhabitable.

Justin Terveen, cityscape photographer extraordinaire who apparently lives nearby, got a photo of the fire—it’s huge. Anyway, what I am saying is, I’m glad everyone made it out alive. Firefighters are awesome and brave and I’m crazy grateful they contained the fire. And I need to rethink my sleeping patterns.

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No, The Guy in That Fight Video Is Probably Not Mike Brown

A video has been circulating recently that purports to show Mike Brown, the 18-year-old shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, beating an older man over a backpack. I’ve seen this video passed around on Facebook in the last few days, mostly by people working backward from the notion that Brown was a menace to society who deserved to die. Some of the individuals sharing the video without skepticism are local journalists — because the industry just hasn’t had a hard enough time of late.

The footage is brutal and disturbing, and you probably shouldn’t watch it. Especially since the person in that video almost certainly is not Mike Brown. The rumor-debunking site Snopes looked into the matter and has determined that the video has been mislabeled. (It was also taken off of Facebook at one point, not because of the content or label or any policy of the social network, but because the person who first shared it removed the post and that’s how that works.)

Turns out, this footage was shot two years ago, when Brown would have been 15 or 16. Also, it was shot in Dallas, in the Woodland City Apartments (the original video is titled “Only in Woodland City”), and there is no indication Brown ever spent time in North Texas.

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Leading Off (12/12/14)

OSHA to Investigate Thanksgiving Tower Fire. Thursday’s blaze beneath the downtown Dallas building’s parking garage claimed the lives of three men working in a thermal storage tank. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined. Officials don’t know if the workers may have been welding or cutting even though the company that employed the men hasn’t had a valid permit for that sort of work since 2009.

10th Irving-Area Earthquake in 2 Months. Last night at 9:25 p.m., a 2.6-magnitude quake struck near Spur Road and the Trinity River northeast of the former Texas Stadium site.

Dallas DA’s Office Dismissed Cases Without Informing Victims. WFAA reports on two family violence cases dropped by the district attorney in violation of the Texas Bill of Rights, which states that crime victims are entitled to be told about all proceedings involving their cases.

Former Fort Worth Cop Not Indicted For Shooting Dog. Kenneth Wayne Flynn shot a neighbor’s German shepherd back in September after being led to believe the dog had killed his cat. A grand jury yesterday no-billed him on animal cruelty charges.

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SMU in Violation of Title IX

The U.S. Department of Education has determined that SMU has violated the federal law prohibiting gender-based discrimination. The Morning News reports:

Investigators determined that SMU violated Title IX “by failing to promptly and equitably respond to student complaints of gender-based harassment and sexual violence, including sexual assault, and to reports of retaliatory harassment,” according to a Thursday news release.

In one case, investigators found that SMU did not respond “promptly and equitably” to a complaint of a sexual assault of a male student by another male student. The student withdrew from SMU after other students harassed and retaliated against him.

They also found SMU’s sexual harassment and sexual violence policies and nondiscrimination notice didn’t comply with Title IX requirements, according to the news release.

SMU has already reached an agreement on steps it can take to comply with the law, including revision of its grievance procedures, and the university’s official response to the Morning News tried to spin the news as a positive (which is what PR departments are supposed to do.)

“We appreciate OCR’s recognition of the new policies and procedures SMU has implemented prior to and during its investigation, as well as recognition of the work of the President’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct. Although we take issue with some of OCR’s conclusions and generalizations, we look forward to taking additional actions as outlined. The well-being of our students is our highest priority.”

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Issuing a Challenge to the Dallas City Council

Friends, I must report that my editor and I nearly came to blows this week over the contents of today’s column, which I am officially filing under protest. I badly wished to give his proboscis a good wringing after he required that I supplant the golden prose I had spun for both your entertainment and edification with a tepid pool of my second-best work.

Granted, my second-best work is more satisfying to the mind and the soul than 99.9 percent of the pabulum churned out by other so-called “professional” scribes. That does not change the fact that I must live with the knowledge I have done you a disservice, dear readers. You’ll learn nothing of my extensive knowledge of weaponry or hand-to-hand combat, and all because some yellow-bellied stuffed-shirt down at the D Magazine offices is afraid the company might be charged with inciting a riot or threatening the lives of public officials if we’d run my original, superior text.

Oh, hang it all. Let’s get this nonsense disposed with.

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Dallas Crime Down But Violent Assaults Up

The Dallas City Council’s Public Safety committee was presented with the latest crime statistics (through Nov. 11) for 2014 today. Overall, crime is down 12.7 percent as compared to 2013, and 45.38 percent from 10 years ago.

However, aggravated assaults are actually up 6.61 percent in the last year. (Though, it should be noted, that’s still down 56.85 percent from a decade back.)

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Leading Off (12/5/14)

Protesters Can’t Get on Interstate 35. For the second straight week, following the second straight week in which the non-indictment of a white police officer for the death of a black man made national headlines, demonstrators took to the streets of downtown Dallas to voice their displeasure. Five people were arrested. The protesters were demanding justice for Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a cop in Staten Island, New York, last summer. Unlike last week, they were unsuccessful in making their way onto Interstate 35E to block traffic. They are reportedly planning another demonstration tonight at 8 p.m.

Cowboys Beat the Bears. Dallas topped Chicago 41-28 at Soldier Field. The win comes a year too late to spare downtown Dallas the sight (and sound) of Tim busking.

Baylor and TCU to Make Final Bids For Playoff Spot. The Horned Frogs have the better shot of finishing ranked among the top four teams in college football and therefore to make the playoffs. That’s because they’ve got a higher ranking than the Bears at this moment and are facing a weaker opponent for their final game of the season on Saturday. However, Baylor beat TCU in the team’s head-to-head matchup earlier this year, and both teams are likely to finish with identical records, which gives the Bears a decent counterargument to the Frogs’ overall stronger strength of schedule. FiveThirtyEight says TCU has a 96.3 percent playoff chance while Baylor’s odds are only 18.2 percent.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Can You Park at Broken Meters?

I trust you are all sufficiently recovered from last week’s federally-mandated feasting to pay heed to what I am about to say because I am going to say this but once: D Magazine’s 10 Most Eligible Men in Dallas list is a joke. This ordinarily upstanding periodical purports to present a collection of gentlemen who exemplify the finest specimens of masculinity in our corner of northern Texas, and yet there’s not a single farmer or rancher among them? The only manual laborer in the bunch is a damn Canuck paid to play-act at some form of figure-skating combat. And what the hell is an “events and cultural coordinator?” I’ll bet not a one of these fellows has so much as wrestled a bear in his life. It’s no wonder no women have been willing to have any of this lot for husbands.

I’ve already volunteered to take charge of next year’s search, so as to spare the careless editors at D further opprobrium. I was known as quite the man’s man in my day.

Now, to address your needs, as filed at

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Leading Off (11/26/14)

Dallas ISD Administrator “Fear[ed] Coming in Close Contact” With Bernadette Nutall: That’s the gist of a complaint filed by the HR administrator Tonya Sadler Grayson, which the DMN got its hands on. Nutall denied the “unpleasant” interactions with Grayson; DISD has hired former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins to look into the complaints. I don’t know, guys, this just doesn’t sound like the Bernadette I know.

Fort Worth Policer Officer Helps Deliver Baby on Highway: First of all, this happened on November 15. Someone sat on this bundle of news joy for 10 days. Fort Worth Officer Robert Scott was helping with traffic control when a man ran to his patrol car seeking help. Scott ran to the car, saw the man’s daughter in labor, and promptly helped deliver the baby. In a past life, Scott was an EMT.

“Dallas Man Who Made Fake Government IDs and Had Illegal Steroids and Child Porn Admits Guilt”: I cribbed that headline right from the story, because it was just too good, perfectly capturing the ludicrous nature of this case. Nicholas Freed was originally under investigation for receiving steroids by mail. When he went to go pick up that package, he was dressed as a federal officer, complete with a U.S. Marshal badge. Note: Freed is not a U.S. Marshal. When police raided his house, they found a “sophisticated government identification counterfeiting operation.” And child porn. Can’t forget the child porn.

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Child Porn Suspect Told Police He’s Raped More Than 100 Kids

The details emerging in this case are incredibly disturbing. And you will probably be hearing the name Randy Ray Wesson a lot in the next few months. Wesson, a 28-year-old Fort Worth man, was arrested after police linked him to an Instagram account. It appears he was living with a 17-year-old named Ricardo Lugo, who was posing as a 12-year-old and attending Hurst Hills Elementary. Police say Lugo helped recruit victims. Wesson apparently also told police that he has sexually assaulted more than 100 children — identifying a dozen by name — and possessed 42,000 images of child porn.

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