Ellis County Observer publisher Joey Dauben finally gets a court-appointed attorney

Joey Dauben

Joey Dauben, the publisher of the now-defunct Ellis County Observer, finally got to see a court-appointed lawyer this week to help him fight the three felony counts of child sexual abuse that have kept him in the Navarro County Jail without legal advice for almost two months now.

Edward Jendrzey, whose office is in Waxahachie in Ellis County, received the court-ordered appointment Thursday, Feb. 16. Jendrzey accepted the case after Steve Keathley, a Corsicana attorney whose wife is the president of the Navarro County Bar Association, declined an appointment by District Court Judge James Lagomarsino to represent the journalist.

In a telephone interview today, Jendrzey said, “Yes, he knows I’m representing him,” when asked whether he had met with his new client, who reached out for help from the media this week in a handwritten letter from jail. When a defendant declares himself to be indigent and asks for a court-appointed attorney, that is supposed to occur within 72 hours. In the letter, Dauben also again claimed he is innocent of the charges.

Jendrzey said his first step in Dauben’s representation will be to conduct an independent investigation of the case to learn the circumstances and to attempt to get Dauben’s $200,000 bond set by Lagomarsino lowered. “I’ll be meeting with the prosecutor about that,” Jendrzey said. Dauben’s family and friends have been unable to raise the 10 percent (or $20,000) payment bond agencies typically charge to get a defendant released from jail.

—  admin

Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

—  admin

Feedback • 12.02.11

Valdez.Lupe

Lupe Valdez

Valdez vs. Latham for sheriff

“Southern Baptists don’t believe in that.” Don’t believe for a second he won’t use her sexual orientation as a way to turn out religious voters for him if he feels the need.
Tyler, via DallasVoice.com

“I wasn’t raised that way.” What exactly is Latham implying by this statement? What exactly is “that way”? I guess in this part of the world religion trumps science.
Lynn, via DallasVoice.com

They can’t attack her on job performance because she’s doing a great job. After all, she brought the Dallas County jail up to state standards, something the previous sheriff wasn’t able to do.
Matthew, via DallasVoice.com

Texas Dems and gay marriage

While most of the GLBT community is focused on marriage equality and DOMA, personally I think that ENDA — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — is vastly more important to the community. Marriage and the concomitant rights that come with it are great and I’m all for that of course. But having the right to “marry” your partner if you are unemployed with no income means very little. Today, all over America, GLBT people can be fired just for being GLBT and that’s wrong. I wish our community would fight as hard for ENDA as they seem to want to do for marriage. In today’s very competitive economy, a good paying job should be of primary concern to our community, in my humble opinion.
Jay Narey, via DallasVoice.com

Jay, I agree. I just don’t know why we can’t put as much energy behind both. Both are important. Sadly there is not enough votes in congress to pass it. My side (Dems) are not all behind it, either. I know some think the president can just sign something and put it in place, but that’s not how it works. Congress makes laws; the president enforces them. ENDA is vital for everyone, but is going to be just as hard to get through as marriage is. It sucks.
George M., via DallasVoice.com

Freaking cowards. And just hours ago here on the pages of Dallas Voice, we read about that Waxahachie gal who was fired from her job for “working while lesbian.” It just sickens me.
Ray Harwick, via DallasVoice.com
This isn’t strategic; it is cowardly. Principals should rule politics, not fear.
Carrie Stewart, via DallasVoice.com

Ray, you’re not going to get ENDA from Texas. It needs to come from the U.S. government. Texas won’t pass it, even if Dems scream it, and I’m sure you know that.
George M., via DallasVoice.com

ENDA won’t pass here in the near term. But an ENDA resolution might help drive voter turnout. It could also help us to educate Texans. Most people don’t realize that you can be legally fired in Texas for being gay.
Matt, via DallasVoice.com

A few things: Prioritization of rights (ENDA trumps DOMA repeal, blah blah blah) is insulting to anyone who really regards himself or herself as a free and equal person. In other words, “How dare you tell me that certain civil rights are more important than others.” Injustice is injustice is injustice, plain and simple. I represent a growing LGBT population that is weary of this piecemeal, backburner approach to gaining our rights. “My thoughts are that we should be dealing with issues about jobs and education and the economy.”  This is a cop out, and not even a good one.
I will let the words of Harvey Milk sum this one up: “It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.”
What we are seeing is simply cowardice. The Democrats want our votes. They constantly remind us just how terrible the alternative would be. Well, NEWS FLASH! If they aren’t even willing to SAY they support us, they are helping fuel the fires of bigotry.
Remaining on neutral ground ALWAYS helps the oppressor, NEVER the oppressed.
So Dems, you want my vote? Make good on your commitment to this community or take a hike. I would rather sit out the damn election.
DSC, via DallasVoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay couple shot near downtown apartment

Police say investigation is ongoing but decline to discuss details

David-Zaragoza-Travis-Vanderlaan

David-Zaragoza, left, and Travis-Vanderlaan, right

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

David Zaragoza and Travis Vanderlaan were shot during a robbery near their Dallas Farmer’s Market-area apartment at about 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18.

One of the victims was shot in the head and the other in the neck. Both are improving and expected to survive.

Two suspects were taken into custody soon after the incident.

According to friends, Zaragoza and Vanderlaan are a couple. The two live at the Camden Farmer’s Market apartments in Downtown Dallas.

Police are releasing very little information about the shootings or the arrests.

“We don’t want to jeopardize the investigation,” said LGBT police liaison Laura Martin.

The names of the suspects arrested are being withheld by police, Martin said. Although she said that was unusual, she said it was because of the ongoing investigation.

She could not confirm if police are looking for additional suspects.

According to Dallas County jail records, however, one of the people taken into custody is Kyle Bibbs, 31, of Carrollton. He is being held in Lew

Sterrett on $100,000 bond for two counts of aggravated robbery.

Police would give no details about the robbery beyond what went into the police reports.

“The complainant was shot during the course of an aggravated robbery,” said the police report. “Complainant was shot twice and robbed.”

The report also indicates that a blue Puma messenger bag containing $3,500 was taken during the robbery but recovered, apparently by police when they arrested the suspects.

Records from 9-1-1 indicate Vanderlaan called for help at 2:46 p.m. on Friday, reporting it as a shooting and robbery. Police were dispatched at 2:47 p.m.

Bibbs’ time of arrest is also listed as 2:47 p.m.

Bibbs has had several prior charges. One case was no billed by the grand jury. One was dismissed. In February, he agreed to plead guilty on a possession of marijuana charge. Dallas County records indicate he had probation revoked for possession of marijuana and possession of a prohibited weapon.

The incident is not being investigated as a random shooting.

Zaragoza is listed on police records making two calls to 9-1-1 earlier this year. No details appear on the reports but the signal codes indicate that one was to report a major disturbance and the other a burglary.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Schoolteacher arrested in 2008 shooting death of partner

Vaughn told police Judy Bell was shot by an intruder, but police say Vaughn was a suspect all along

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn

CEDAR HILL — Few details emerged this week about what may have led a woman to fatally shoot her lesbian partner in this suburb south of Dallas in 2008, or how authorities finally linked her to the crime three years later.

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn, 41, was arrested Monday, Dec. 6, on a charge of first-degree murder in the February 2007 murder of her partner, Judy Marie Bell, 34.

After being taken into custody at the high school where she teaches in Oklahoma City, Vaughn waived extradition and was brought Tuesday to the Dallas County jail, where she was being held on $500,000 bond.

Vaughn called 911 in the early morning hours of Feb. 29, 2008, and said an intruder had shot Bell in the Cedar Hill home they shared. But there were no signs of forced entry, and authorities never believed Vaughn’s story.

“She’s always been a person of interest, and our detectives have actually kept up with her location over the years because of that,” said Corky Brown, a spokesman for the city of Cedar Hill. “Recently, they came across some information that gave them what they were looking for.”

Brown declined to elaborate and said the motive for the crime remained unknown.

“We don’t typically try them [cases] in the public,” Brown said. “The idea is to get the information to the district attorney and let them try the case.”

Marshall McCallum, the assistant Dallas County district attorney assigned to the case, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons said court records contained no additional information because the case was referred by a grand jury.

According to media reports, both Vaughn and Bell taught at Permenter Middle School in Cedar Hill at the time of the murder. They’d lived together for four years.

Bell was a special education teacher and basketball coach. Vaughn taught English and language arts.

Bell’s 10-year-old son and three of Vaughn’s children — ages 11-20 — were in the home sleeping at the time of the shooting.

Vaughn began teaching in Oklahoma City in February 2009.  Bell’s son now lives with his father in Houston.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens