Joey Dauben

It’s apparently pretty unpopular in Navarro County to be Ellis County Observer Publisher Joseph Glen “Joey” Dauben, judging from his difficulty in getting a court-appointed lawyer assigned to his sexual assault of a child case.

Dauben, whom the Dallas Observer and D Magazine featured in stories last year about his gonzo style of journalism in coverage of small-town issues and missing child cases, has been sitting in the Navarro County Jail under $200,000 bond since Dec. 19. In a story dated Dec. 20 about Dauben’s arrest and high bond being set in Judge James Lagomarsino’s court, the Corsicana Daily Sun noted that Dauben had declared himself indigent and filled out paperwork requesting a court-appointed attorney.

Dauben, 30, is accused of molesting a 15-year-old male during a church trip four years ago in 2007. The Texas Rangers investigated the allegations of the youth, who is now 19, and filed the charges against Dauben.

In a handwritten letter Dauben sent to me on Feb. 9 from the Navarro County Jail in response to a letter requesting an interview, Dauben said he still had not had the benefit of legal counsel. “As of this letter, on Feb. 9, I have yet to see a lawyer on this case,” Dauben said in the letter.

Dauben goes on to say he filed a request on Dec. 20, as was reported by the Corsicana Daily Sun, and that he refiled it recently after continuing to languish in jail without seeing a lawyer.

Melissa Butler, court coordinator for Judge Lagomarsino, said today that Dauben has been appointed an attorney. “I don’t know who you heard that from, but he has been appointed an attorney,” she said. When asked when the appointment occurred, she admitted that it had just been done Monday. She noted the request had just been filed recently. When advised that Dauben claimed he had filled one out in December, she had no explanation for why it had not been received by the judge. “It did not make it to District Court,” Bulter said. “I don’t know who he filled it out with, but the judge didn’t see it until yesterday.”

Butler said Corsicana attorney Steve Keathley had been appointed to his case, but a call to the attorney’s office revealed yet another surprise. At first, a member of Keathley’s staff said the attorney had refused the appointment. When asked for details, she revised her statement to say the appointment was never received. Finally, she transferred the call to another member of Keathley’s staff who said, “You’ll have to call the court. We decided we couldn’t handle the case” and quickly hung up when asked for her identity.

A follow-up call to the judge’s office failed to get anyone to answer the phone. A message left on voice mail has so far not been returned.

Dauben’s arrest on the sexual assault of a child case has been widely reported by DFW media outlets. WFAA Channel 8 did a brief interview in the jail with Dauben days after his arrest during which he declared his innocence.

Dauben repeated in his four-page letter that he is being falsely accused, but he declined further comment on the sexual assault of a child case because of his pending prosecution on the charges.

Previously, Dauben wrote in a column published on the Ellis County Observer that he expected retribution because of his reporting, and that he viewed the charges to have been manufactured as part of a conspiracy against him. He also claimed the teenager had made similar accusations against others. Dauben’s column was written before his arrest and contained instructions to publish it if authorities served an arrest warrant against him.

Since his arrest, the Ellis County Observer website has gone down, and Dauben said in the letter that former associates had turned on him, lied about him and taken down the website without his permission. He said legal action would be forthcoming in connection with the alleged misappropriation of his website. Dauben said claims by former associates that he was on suicide watch and that he had admitted to sexually assaulting the teenager are “lies.”

“But again, I am not bitter, angry or depressed at any of these legal battles,” Dauben said in his letter. “I rejoice and praise Yahweh for suffering the persecution. I pray for my enemies and false accusers daily, and encourage others to show love to one another, even if they come against you.”

Dauben, who describes himself as a Torah-observant Christian, also asked for the contents of the letter to be shared with the rest of the media either publicly or privately.

Dauben has said in private conversations that he is not gay, but that he is tolerant of LGBT people because he got to know many while working on a political campaign in the Northeast several years ago. The Ellis County Observer was read by many LGBT people living on Cedar Creek Lake and in other parts of East Texas. It occasionally featured LGBT people in its coverage.

This is not Dauben’s first encounter on the wrong side of the law. He previously served 12 days in jail in 2009 after he ran a mug of a police officer in connection with a story he wrote. All of the charges were later dropped.

Last summer, his home office was raided and all of his files were seized in connection with an investigation by Red Oak Police and Ellis County concerning documents he published. An Ellis County grand jury issued an indictment in that case, according to Dauben, who claims the charges have no merit because they would infringe upon his rights as a journalist