The story behind the police report on some harassing calls in the Constable Dupree case
There’s some really strange goings on behind the scenes of the scandal that is threatening to destroy the law enforcement career of gay Dallas County Constable Mike Dupree.
It appears someone wants to embarrass Dallas Observer reporter Matt Pulle, who broke a story late last year about Dupree’s alleged involvement with a 20-year-old Honduran native who was deported back to his home country. That story apparently ignited a revolt in the Precinct 5 Constable’s office that led to several of Dupree’s employees claiming he had sexually harassed young Latino men who worked for him and another who alleged the constable ordered him to plant drugs in a political opponent’s car.
Dupree, who has denied any wrongdoing and has alleged Pulle misquoted him in the original story, is awaiting the outcome of an internal personnel investigation launched by Dallas County, a criminal investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s office and a lawsuit filed by several employees on behalf of the State of Texas in an effort to remove him from office. After months of silence, the constable recently accused several of the employees of retaliating against him because he had ordered them to quit working as off-duty security guards at strip clubs and raised some other reasonable questions about the employees’ credibility.
The quote in Pulle’s story that Dupree claims is inaccurate relates to the nature of the constable’s relationship with the Honduran native and how the young man came to be deported. Pulle quoted Dupree as saying his relationship with the 20-year-old began as a sexual one, but it evolved to a father-son type of relationship. When the Honduran native began hanging out with an unsavory crowd that included a female stripper, Dupree arranged for him to be deported, according to Pulle’s report.
Pulle stands by his story. He insists Dupree told him he had sex with the 20-year-old. Dupree, whose reported attraction to young Latino men has long been discussed in the LGBT community, has repeatedly denied ever having had one single sex act with the 20-year-old or of having arranged for his deportation.
A photo the Observer has published shows Dupree and the 20-year-old in a pose that seems more romantic than it does familial.
It’s a volatile standoff between a hard-hitting reporter and a powerful political official. That’s a pretty common occurrence in journalism.
But what makes this situation unique is that Pulle’s name recently turned up on an Ellis County Sheriff’s Department report that identified Pulle as the owner of a cell phone number believed to be the origin of seven harassing phone calls made to one of Dupree’s worst enemies someone who had filed a lawsuit against Dallas County alleging Dupree had wrongfully terminated him five years ago.
I first heard about this report several weeks ago when I started getting phone calls from someone who identified themselves as straight and no fan of Dupree’s, but who said he was concerned about Dupree possibly being railroaded out of office. He told me about the report and identified the complainant in the report as Jim Gilliand, a former constable’s deputy who lost his job when Dupree first won office.
I called Gilliand, and he confirmed that he had been the victim of harassing phone calls. He came to see me the next day and brought along a recording of the calls he had received. In almost each one, the caller referred to him as a “fat ass” and in one suggested he perform fellatio on Dupree if he wanted his job back.
Gilliand, who is straight, said the Ellis County Sheriff’s investigator had told him the phone calls came from a number assigned to Pulle.
Of the seven calls on Gilliand’s tape recording, only the last one registered a phone number. That number was Pulle’s phone number, but there was no message left as there had been on the previous calls. Gilliand theorized that Pulle must have blocked all of the previous calls using a service commonly available on telephones but failed to block the last one and just hung up.
I listened to the tape recording. I had only talked to Pulle on the phone once, so I could not say whether it was or it wasn’t him. But it sounded preposterous to me that a reporter would do something so ridiculous, especially to someone who had been a source for stories critical of Dupree.
Gilliand said he was mystified by the calls and had decided not to pursue any criminal action. He praised Pulle’s reporting about Dupree and said he wanted to drop the matter.
I saw no purpose in writing about it under those circumstances, but I suggested he call Pulle’s editor, Patrick Williams, and arrange a meeting with both of them to clear up the mystery. Unfortunately, he did not take my advice, and it resulted in some pretty uncomfortable moments for a number of people.
I forgot about the meeting with Gilliand until I received a phone call from Dupree a couple of weeks later telling me that he had received an anonymous phone call from someone advising him about the meeting with Gilliand where I listened to the tape recording. Dupree said he had obtained a copy of the sheriff department’s report, and he faxed it to me at my request.
Dupree said he believed the report’s mention of Pulle cast doubt about the reporter’s credibility and lent strength to his claims that he had been misquoted in the first story.
I examined the report and sure enough, there was Pulle’s name in the report. It had to be checked out.
I called Pulle. He seemed genuinely shocked to learn about the report, and he assured me he had never made any harassing phone calls to anyone. I also called Williams, Pulle’s editor. The mention of Pulle’s name in the report and my inquiries about the allegation angered the editor and led to a heated exchange.
My editor, Tammye Nash, and I met with Pulle, Williams, Gilliand and Observer Senior Editor Julie Lyons the following day at the Observer’s office.
The phone records they had which showed Pulle made the last call but obviously none of the others demonstrated to me that Pulle was not responsible for making the phone calls. The records also showed that Gilliand had called Pulle immediately afterwards, and that they had talked for about 13 minutes. Gilliand acknowledged in the meeting that he had called Pulle numerous times both before and after he had received the harassing phone calls.
Once again, I decided this was not a story, and I called Dupree and explained why I would not be writing about it.
But then Dupree’s campaign manager, Geoff Staples, apparently decided to write about the report on his blog. That has resulted in both the Observer and the Dallas Voice writing about the allegations and the report this week in an effort to clear up any confusion.
I’m convinced that Pulle did not make any harassing phone calls to his source, and I’m confident we made the right choice when we initially decided not to write about the allegations.
But there’s several troubling questions left in my mind. Who did make those phone calls to Gilliand, and why did someone go to so much trouble to bring attention to the incident?
According to Williams, we may someday know because the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department launched an investigation into the incident after it received a letter from the Observer’s lawyer.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 25, 2007.