Is Joey Dauben Being Railroaded in Corsicana?

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.  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  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.  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, 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.


  • bluebird

    It sure looks like retribution against a journalist who has made some officials in local government uncomfortable. It’s beyond comprehension that he could be sitting in jail for two months without receiving legal representation. And everything that the judge and attorney’s staff says only makes them look more shady.

  • This coupled with the huge miscarriage of justice that resulted in Cameron Todd Willingham being executed makes Corsicana seem like that worst place in America to be accused of a crime.

  • ernest t bass

    Wow, way to go Wick!

    Sure hope you or another bulldog for justice continue this investigation.

  • John R Huff Jr

    I have never heard of such incompetence and obviously prejudice on the part of the court
    system in this county. I do hope the family will not let this whole affair go on. I do not understand why they have not taken legal proceedings. This is a disgrace. And, yes, the ACLU will be more than happy to intervene. They do an excellent service with nit wits like this.

    I am contacting some lawyers in my family about this now.

  • Edward Robertson

    Great article. Nice to see someone speaking out about a possible injustice here. Well done!

  • Brown Bess

    I think Joey could use some good old fashioned ACLU help, if only to make things really confusing for the ideologues.

  • No joy
  • JoeyVictim

    It does not make sense to believe the entire Navarro County Court system is “corrupt.”

    More than likely, Keathey cannot represent him because he or someone else in his firm has been of Joey’s countless victims. There may not be a SINGLE defense attorney/firm in that county whom he hasn’t attacked.
    It is much more plausible that they’re having trouble finding him representation because of this.

    Let’s also remember Joey attended law school. Who’s to say he didn’t offer to represent himself leading up to the hearing, then change his mind and demand an attorney to “blame the system”? We’re assuming this “poor accused felon” is playing fair; he does not. That is an important element here.

    Are we not to consider the fact that other jurisdictions are seeking charges against him also? A $200,000 bond is very high for a first-time offender, and I have to believe there is a true concern Joey will flee the country if he’s let out for even a moment.

    And then there’s ECO. When the DA seized control of his website, they realized exactly what Joey has been doing for the the last 11 years. At last count, there were somewhere between 1,200 – 1,300 names of people whom Joey has either libeled or personally attacked during his “reign”. Those people want their day in court, too. Many have contacted the DA already. So do other jurisdictions. There are at least two other law enforcement agencies looking into Joey’s shenanigans, and probably many more than that.

    People are angry. Joey burned everyone with whom he came into contact. He may be sitting there for a while before the word “trial” is even uttered.

  • Edward Robertson

    “Joey Victim”, You are talking about OTHERS making assumptions? All the while making several yourself?

    You said, “More than likely, Keathey cannot represent him because he or someone else in his firm has been of Joey’s countless victims. There may not be a SINGLE defense attorney/firm in that county whom he hasn’t attacked. It is much more plausible that they’re having trouble finding him representation because of this.” … “Who’s to say he didn’t offer to represent himself leading up to the hearing, then change his mind and demand an attorney to “blame the system”?”

    Sounds like a bunch of assumptions right there to me… You don’t do the “anti-joey” group any favors with your blatant hypocrisy.

  • Kakhi Jack

    Whit is right. Innocent or guilty, we don’t treat people awaiting trial this way. If Joey is found guilty, there will be a shadow of doubt that he was given a fair trial. If found innocent, there may also be doubt that the case against him was bungled. Or, worse, he is an innocent man being abused by the system spending undeserved months in jail.

    JoeyVictim, Joey didn’t attend law school. He doesn’t even have an undergraduate (or associate) degree. He has however said before that he was capable of representing himself in court. However, I doubt he’d ever consider that for these charges.

    The idea that not just days, weeks, but full months have passed without representation is egregious. If some mistake with paperwork was made early on (even if Joey’s fault), the judge or staff should have noticed a long long time ago.

  • Chris R.

    I’ve known Joey for a long time and have ONLY seen him look at women & “check out” women. In fact he really liked one of my female friends at one time. As for people calling themselves “victims”, those are different issues and despite if you are mad or not, Joey has been criminally accused of something.

    This means under our constitution he’s allowed the right to counsel. PERIOD. Sitting for 2 months with no counsel is OUTRAGEOUS. This is a clear and distinct violation of his rights. 200k bail is also outrageous, as he has never been convicted of anything before, and a 19 year old came out and said “guess what happened 4 years ago”.

    I hope the media gets all over this, and that the bar association and any other legal people come to his aid. I hope the ACLU gets involved. This is about rights…

    Even if you hate Joey, he has his rights.

  • I really get tired of people being so spiteful to think, well Joey has been a bad journalist so he deserves to go to prison. Not to mention that the “system” has taken one alleged incident and turned it to 4 felony charges which add up to a possible 80 year sentence for what is the equivalent of statuary rape. The Waxahachie Daily Light reports it as aggravated, the indictment does NOT say indictment. I posted comment on the Daily Blights website, never made passed moderation. I called the reporter to clarify before they went to print, never received a call back.

    The indictment in December had the accusers nickname as KOBY as the victim. As of January 24th another copy received from Navarro County said YACOOB as the victim. Curious you think?

  • I haven’t had any coffee yet. No edit function on new comments? The indictment never said aggravated- turning the charge from consensual underage sex with a teenager to violent rape with force.

  • Susie In Ohio

    Glory be! People who make sense!

    I happened on this Joey controversy yesterday, looking for something totally unrelated. Joey had written a story about what I was originally looking for – and it wasn’t complimentary. Thus, I was trying to find out if he was credible. Then I proceeded to spend the next 10 hours (probably more) trying to untangle an incomprehensibly bizarre situation in one small Texas town.

    This article is the first rational, save the one “victim”, line of dialogue I have seen in regard to Joey’s situation.

    As Brandy points out above, and most of the others agree – guilty or innocent – he has the right to representation. Further, whatever happened to a “fair and speedy” trial? Hopefully those of you who mentioned the ACLU are staying on task with that to help him regain his freedom.

    To say Judge Lagomarsino’s is running a kangaroo court would be a gross understatement. The damage he is allowing will only go in Joey’s favor. If this “Judge” believes no one knows about his misdeeds, other than his toadies, he’ll continue. Problem is – now the spotlight is being pointed at it. Can’t hide in the light.

    Joey needs a change of venue, post haste, to get out of that pit of vipers. It should be obvious, to even the most incompetent lawyer, that he will not receive a fair trial in that community.

    Thank you to the journalists who have brought this matter to the public’s attention – and to those who have been kind enough to respond to my requests for information.

    As a native Texan, albeit misplaced, it’s good to see that there are still sane folks in the Lone Star State (other than my dad, sister, brother, etc). If I can be of assistance with this – I would be more than happy to oblige.