Dauben, the iconoclastic publisher we profiled last March, has been sitting in the Navarro County lockup since he was arrested on molestation charges in December. He filed for indigent representation on December 20, according to this story in the Corsicana Sun. The court claims the paperwork was never received. (That seems odd. At the hearing reported by the Sun, the judge told Dauben his attorney would explain the charges against him. Â But at the hearing Dauben had no attorney, which an observer might think the judge would have noticed.) By law, a request for indigent representation is to be answered in 72 hours.
But things get worse. The court clerk for State District Judge James Lagomarsino told the Dallas Voice on February 13 that a repeat request by Dauben had been received, and the court had appointed attorney Steve Keathey to represent him. So reporter David Webb called Keathey’s office:
At first, a member of Keathley’s staff said the attorney had refused the appointment. When asked for details, she revised her statement to say the appointment was never received. Finally, she transferred the call to another member of Keathley’s staff who said, “You’ll have to call the court. We decided we couldn’t handle the case” and quickly hung up when asked for her identity.
Joey Dauben is a controversial figure. He has made a lot of enemies in his years of crusading journalism in Ellis County. On one occasion, local police raided his home and arrested him over a leak he published. He has returned the favor in print on many occasions with accusations of malfeasance at all levels of government. Some of his accusations were on target, others probably were not. Dauben is not shy nor is he necessarily an exemplar of journalistic standards. Nevertheless, he has made a lot of people in local government uncomfortable, and often for good reason.
We are supposed to presume that Dauben is innocent until proven guilty. But for purposes of understanding what’s going on in Judge Lagomarsino’s court, let’s flip over that presumption. Let’s assume Dauben is guilty as charged.
Judge Lagomarsino is not doing himself, the judicial system, or the bar any favors in his handling of this case. Setting bail at $200,000 for someone with no prior convictions is one thing. Mishandling a request for attorney representation — the most basic right of all Americans — might just be an instance of Â incompetence. But couple the two together, and one gets the impression that the Judge Lagomarsino is either partially blind or plainly partial.
The bar is implicated as well. The president of the Navarro County Bar Association is Sarah Keathey, whose partner Steve Keathey has apparently declined to represent Dauben. Â There are dozens of reasons to decline a case, ranging from conflict of interest to sheer overload of pro-bono work. But a moment’s consideration of the implications that arise with the arrest of a journalist like Dauben — on whatever charges — should require the judge and the bar to consider how this looks to a public already suspicious of cronyism in high places.
If an attorney of repute is unavailable in Navarro County, I should think Ms. Keathey would at this moment be eagerly reaching out to her colleagues,Â Jeremy Cleverly of the Ellis County bar association and Paul Stafford of the Dallas County bar association, to make sure that Joey Dauben gets the best representation possible.
And I’d hope that Judge Lagomarsino would notice the next time a defendant shows up in his court without an attorney.