WACO (September 17, 2012)--Retired State District Judge Ed Magre of Milam County Tuesday denied a motion filed by attorneys for embattled McLennan County Tax Assessor-Collector A. F. “Buddy Skeen” seeking to bar State District Judge Matt Johnson from presiding over Skeen’s felony trial.
The recusal motion filed Monday sought Johnson’s removal because he, his wife and his children are McLennan County residents and by extension victims of the breach of fiduciary duty of which Skeen is accused.
The motion also cited an exchange during a meeting Friday in chambers involving a prosecution motion to amend Skeen’s indictment in which the defense claims Johnson threatened to “stack” Skeen’s sentences if Skeen exercised his right to 10 additional days to prepare for trial.
Jury selection was underway Monday morning when Skeen's defense attorneys asked Johnson to step down, but he refused
Magre was named to decide the recusal motion.
His ruling Tuesday cleared the way for resumption of jury selection with Johnson presiding.
Skeen, 69, is charged with one count of abuse of official capacity, five counts charging misappropriation of fiduciary property and additional counts stemming from the alleged misuse of his office.
His attorneys are also asking that the trial be moved out of Waco because of excessive pretrial media coverage.
Johnson deferred a ruling Friday on the request and said he would assess the impact of media coverage of Skeen's arrest and indictment as prospective jurors were vetted.
Monday he presented prospective jurors with a special questionnaire as jury selection began intended to gauge the panel's prior knowledge of the case.
Skeen was arrested in December 2011 on warrants charging theft by a public servant and false name, information and forgery after the McLennan County Grand Jury indicted him.
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said the charges stemmed from a false statement on a motor vehicle title application and the theft of accessories from a county-owned vehicle that were installed on Skeen's personal vehicle.
In April he was named in six new indictments, along with a woman who works for him.
The charges included one count of abuse of official capacity and five counts charging misappropriation of fiduciary property.
Dorothy Ramos, a top deputy in the tax assessor-collector's office, was indicted for abuse of official capacity.
Texas Rangers served a warrant on Skeen's office on July 20, 2011 searching for records to support an investigation involving allegations that Skeen fraudulently listed a county-owned vehicle as a trade-in for the purchase of a personal pickup truck to avoid paying more than $1,300 in sales tax.
Skeen was defeated in the GOP primary in June in his bid for a seventh term, has denied wrongdoing.