Walker, Texas Eavesdropper
In Texas, a small town constable decided to take matters into his own hands when he heard that a few of his colleagues were illegally forcing drivers and motorists to give up money. He placed bugging devices in their offices to gather more information on the subject, which he later admitted to doing in a search warrant affidavit by the FBI.
The affidavit by the FBI was based on interviews conducted by various FBI agents and Texas Rangers. In it, Fred Walker, a constable for the Shelby County Sherriff’s Office, is quoted as saying he allowed for the installation of several hidden surveillance cameras and digital audio recorders. He gave his authorization, but this problematic because Walker did not have the legal authority to give the authorization for such a procedure. Included in this affidavit are also several claims from witnesses who say that Walker was involved in a scheme to sell seized drugs to others.
This incident is only the latest in a long line of problems regarding the illegal seizure of money in Tenaha. Tenaha is a very small town, only consisting of about 1,160 citizens near the Louisiana border. In this town, nearly $800,000 in cash seized illegally from motorists who have been stopped for various traffic violations along U.S. Highway 59. As a result of these incidents, there is now a federal investigation into the county’s District Attorney’s office and the police office.
53 year old Fred Walker was elected to the position of Constable in 2010, but the bugging began sometime before then. Walker claims not to have known anything about the FBI’s affidavit, which was filed on February 6th. He also has refused to make any comment regarding his authorization of the bugging.
Bassey Akpaffiong, the attorney representing Walker in this case, commented on the matter, saying that prosecutors told him to expect an indictment. Akpaffiong said Walker was never involved in selling drugs and never told the FBI he authorized the installation of secret listening devices.
Malcolm Bales, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, declined to comment.
The search warrant affidavit was filed as part of a federal case against the owner of a computer repair business in Tenaha. The business owner, Roderrette McClure, pleaded guilty Tuesday to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Authorities found the firearms after obtaining the warrant last August to search for hard drives and other computer devices on McClure’s property.
According to the affidavit, McClure told authorities that Walker instructed him to installcovert listening devices and other bugging and eavesdropping equipment into the offices of Tenaha Mayor George Bowers and deputy city marshal Barry Washington. Walker said he wanted to “cover” himself over the traffic stops, most of which were conducted by Washington.
Walker acknowledged in an interview the same day that he had authorized the installation of the devices in Washington’s office and at City Hall, the affidavit states.
Washington and Bowers are among the defendants in a class action lawsuit asserting that authorities in Tenaha and Shelby County threatened innocent motorists, most of them black, with money laundering charges if they didn’t forfeit the money they were carrying. Walker has been deposed as part of the suit, initiated in 2008, but isn’t named as a defendant.