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Politics & Government

I Got Subpoenaed to Testify in Mayor Eric Johnson’s Divorce Trial

And it all started with his leather jacket.
My view through the doors of the 303rd District Court

Last week, I got a call from a lawyer named Hannah Rector. She said she represented Nakita Johnson, the soon-to-be ex-wife of the mayor of Dallas. As I recall the conversation, Rector was curious about a FrontBurner post I’d written roughly a year ago, on the occasion of Eric Johnson’s wearing a leather jacket to a City Council meeting. It’s not every day that the mayor of a major American city wears leather to City Hall. I wrote: “Check out that sweet leather jacket! The mayor is definitely giving off a hey-ladies-this-divorced-dad-is-back-on-the-market vibe.” Then I made it clear I was kidding in the post, that the mayor was still married.

Thing is, though, the mayor was in the process of getting divorced, and he’d apparently accused his wife of communicating with the press in an effort, I suppose, to embarrass him. Rector wanted to know what I’d say if I were brought into court to testify about the matter. I said I’d tell the truth: I had never communicated with Nakita. I also told her that if I wound up in court in the mayor’s divorce trial, I would, without question, write about it. Rector said she understood and that she’d be sending a subpoena for me to appear on Tuesday, February 13, as a witness in the 303rd District Court. I signed that subpoena Friday, February 9.

Honestly, this whole thing sounded to me like a game of sloppy poker in which both sides were bluffing. I figured I’d get a call Monday informing me that my services weren’t actually needed. That didn’t happen. So late Monday afternoon, I called Rector to make sure we were still on for the following morning. I asked her if, as a witness, I’d be able to remain in the courtroom during the trial. When she told me that wasn’t how things worked, that I’d need to wait in the hallway until I was needed, I told her I would bring a reporter with me. She said that would be fine, that while the case files were sealed, the court itself was open.

That brings us to yesterday morning, when I showed up in Judge LaDeitra Adkins’ court with Matt Goodman, D Magazine’s online editorial director. The mayor’s lawyer, the august and silver-maned Ike Vanden Eykel, told the judge that there were two people present from D Magazine. He argued that the court should be closed. I said from the back pew that while Matt was a reporter, I was there as a witness. Rector, wearing a purple dress and looking like everyone’s favorite fourth-grade teacher, argued on Nakita’s behalf that Texas has a long-established, clear law about maintaining open courtrooms. The judge asked Rector if her client agreed. Nakita nodded in the affirmative.

I was sworn in and then asked to leave the courtroom. Judge Adkins took a five-minute recess to think it over and decided her courtroom would remain open.

I spent the entire day (save for a lunch break) waiting in the hallway. I never wound up getting called into court to testify about the mayor’s leather jacket. But Matt was there for the duration. His report will be published shortly.

Update (4:12 p.m.) Read Matt’s story here.


Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…