Smith County elections heat up - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Smith County elections heat up


It is day two of early voting and already the gloves are off between two East Texas candidates.

On Monday, we brought you footage from The League of Women Voters forum where a heated exchange took place between the two district attorney candidates.

First, Smith County District Attorney candidate Austin Reeve Jackson talked about his prior prosecutorial experience in Lubbock County.

D.A. Matt Bingham fired back disputing his work in Lubbock by reading a letter from the Lubbock County DA.

"I prosecuted for a year. I started in Lubbock County," Reeve explained. "And in that time I handled cases ranging from misdemeanor to felony and was fortunate enough to work on a capital murder appeal that went to the supreme court."

Bingham replied, "It appears Mr. Jackson served as intern in juvenile division while he was in school. He never served as an assistant criminal district attorney and wasn't paid by our office. It's signed by district attorney."

Since that debate, KLTV 7 has done some fact-checking and spoke with both candidates to clear up some confusion.

Those comments Monday night stemmed from a letter Matt Bingham said he received from Lubbock District Attorney Matt Powell, in regards to Smith County DA candidate Austin Reeve Jackson's standing in 2003 with Lubbock County. That letter states, "he was never an assistant criminal attorney and wasn't paid by our office."

"Being a prosecutor is much different than being a licensed attorney, handling cases, than an intern who is not a lawyer or a third year bar card," Bingham said. "You're a law student at that point without having not passed the bar it's not the same thing."

Reeve tells KLTV he never claimed he was a paid employee in Lubbock and that he had many of the same experiences by using a temporary license.

A Texas Tech University newsletter from 2003 shows Reeve was part of a clinic, similar to an internship, where he, "prosecuted juvenile delinquency cases in Lubbock."

"They're given a temporary license to go in and practice law and that's exactly what I did," Reeve said. "I tried jury cases, I represented Lubbock County in court, on an almost a daily basis, I worked in an office, in a district attorney's office, I mean, I handled cases on behalf of Lubbock County."

In an email blast Bingham received, sent out by Reeve's campaign, it states, "Reeve served as a prosecutor in Lubbock County and Gregg County."

We spoke with Lubbock County Assistant DA Wade Jackson, who has worked there since 1995, and he tells us Reeve was, "never an assistant DA."

"I prosecuted on behalf of Lubbock County. I walked into court and tried a jury trial as the person representing the Lubbock County District Attorney's office. That's how simple this is," Reeve said.

We also checked with Texas Tech University, and they did say they have internship programs with the county for students with those temporary licenses, but any student would be under the supervision of a professor or assistant DA.

"They perform the work, if there's an issue, she's there to review it," Reeve explained. "If there's a question she's there for you to seek assistance with. It's the same set up we've got in every district attorney's office across the state. You have more experienced lawyers helping out less experienced lawyers."

At Monday night's discussion, Reeve also said in that time he had handled cases ranging from misdemeanor to felony and even worked a capital murder appeal. Lubbock County tells me no capital murder appeal happened there during that time.

"I began my career in Lubbock County, but things like the death penalty appeal, that was in Gregg County. I mean, that sentence was covering all of it," Reeve explained.

Reeve tells us one of the main reasons he is running is a budget increase under Matt Bingham.

"It's going to buy things like a fleet of vehicles for his personal use. Seven new Tahoe's for he and his investigators to drive back and forth to lunch during the week. Meanwhile our sheriff's department doesn't have the vehicles that they need," Jackson said.

Reeve said that budget has increased by 49 percent over the past ten years.

"It has increased 1.4 million, in increments added together over ten years, but we've given back 1.488 million dollars, so our budget effectively has decreased 88,000 dollars in total over a ten year period of time," Bingham explained.

Bingham also explained that investigators are on call 24 hours a day, so those cars are for work, whenever that may be, and he explained they were paid for without taxation.

"I am so proud of the fact that we have taken an aggressive stance on taking illegal money, money derived from illegal criminals, and seized it," Bingham said. "And over the period of 10 years I've given back to law enforcement over 2 million dollars in money I've seized and the percentage of money that my office gets, we have turned that back to law enforcement and to this department and not had to go through the tax payers to ask for the money. For instance, those Tahoes."

Both candidates separately told KLTV that the most important thing in this election is that the people know the truth.

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