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2015-12-24

Questions raised about city warrant

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

(Editor's note: The first time I heard about this incident, I listened; the second time, I took a few notes; the third time, I wrote this article - with a little help from the Texas Open Records Act. And, for the record, the Bandera County Courier has never needed to "stay on anyone's 'good side'.")

On Oct. 20, City of Bandera Deputy Marshal Willie Smith obtained a misdemeanor warrant, signed by Municipal Judge Francis Kaiser, against Ryan M. Baldwin, 30, for driving with an invalid license.
According to several senior law enforcement officers, shortly after a warrant is issued, it is normally logged into a computer system to allow the information to be accessed by law enforcement officers throughout the country. Class C misdemeanors are only logged in at the county level while Class B and Class A misdemeanors are put into a statewide database.
"A officer might physically have the warrant in his possession - and not in the system - if he knows the location of a suspect and plans to pick him up shortly," an officer explained, "but a warrant is rarely 'held' for an extended period of time."
According to the Texas Constitution, a county sheriff is designated as the "custodian of official records" with all warrants being filed with that office.
However, in this case, Smith's warrant was not entered into the system until Nov. 13. On Nov. 24, an officer with the City of Boerne Police Department detained Baldwin after Baldwin was involved in what was described as a "minor fender bender" by Lt. Steve Perez.
"We ran a background on Mr. Baldwin and discovered he had an outstanding warrant against him in Bandera County. He was then taken into custody," Perez said in an interview on Thursday, Dec. 10.
Saga begins
Sgt. Jose Hernandez submitted an offense report to the Bandera County Sheriff's Office about the following incident. At 11:19 pm, Nov. 1, Baldwin - aware that Smith had obtained a warrant for him - had attempted to "... turn himself in but Deputy Marshal Smith refused to make location to serve the warrant he had in hand on the male subject."
The offense report noted that an emergency telecommunication operator informed Hernandez that Baldwin was refusing to leave the lobby of the Bandera County Jail on Highway 173 North until Smith arrived to serve the warrant.
Accordingly, Hernandez met Baldwin, his wife and mother-in-law in the jail lobby. Purportedly, Baldwin desired to "turn himself in" so he could bond out of jail and not miss work the next morning.
Baldwin told Hernandez he was aware that Smith had a warrant for his arrest for driving with an invalid license, but Smith had refused to serve the warrant at the jail. For his part, Baldwin informed Hernandez he did not intend to meet Smith at the "Mini Mart" where he presumably would be served and arrested.
Hernandez's offense report continued: "(I) advised R. Baldwin that Deputy Marshal Smith was in possession of the warrant and (I) could not make him turn it over to him as (Smith) worked for the Marshal's office." Further, Hernandez had apparently spoken to Smith about the matter, but the deputy marshal refused to turn over the warrant.
As an alternative, Hernandez suggested Smith give him the warrant so he could serve it on Baldwin, but Smith again "declined to turn the warrant over."
Free to go
Consequently, Hernandez advised Baldwin that because the warrant had not been entered into the system, he could not confirm that there was, in fact, an active arrest warrant in effect. Hernandez told Baldwin he was free to go.
At this point, Baldwin's wife advised she intended to file charges against Smith for "harassing them about the warrant."
In response, Hernandez told the woman to contact City Marshal Will Dietrich or Mayor John Hegemier about Smith's actions. In an interview with Dietrich on Friday, Dec. 18, the marshal said that a written complaint had not been filed. "A written complaint has to be signed by the complainant and presented to the officer's administrator, which would be me," he said.
Additionally, when asked, Mayor John Hegemier denied knowledge of the incident, but later acknowledged he was, in fact, familiar with certain aspects of the problem.
Enter Constable Phil
Shortly after Hernandez left the jail to assist Deputy Marshal Earl Heidelberg, Bandera County Precinct 1 Constable Phil Tobin contacted Hernandez, advising him that he and Baldwin planned to meet Smith at the courthouse on Main Street "if he was willing to meet them still." Apparently Baldwin had contacted Tobin, attempting to turn himself in to the constable.
At this point, Hernandez had a face-to-face meeting with Smith, according to the offense report. He reiterated to Smith that Baldwin "wanted to turn himself in to the deputy marshal at the courthouse." As the report concluded: "Deputy Marshal Smith again declined to meet with R. Baldwin."
Several officers verbally confirmed that Smith allegedly indicated he intended to "serve the warrant when he was ready."
'Not first rodeo'
During last week's telephone interview, Dietrich noted that Smith had stopped Baldwin on Oct. 19 by Bandera High School for speeding - driving 43 mph in a 25 mph zone. According to Dietrich, on that date, Baldwin also had no insurance and was also driving with a suspended license. "This wasn't this guy's first rodeo," Dietrich said.
According to Dietrich, Baldwin had pleaded with Smith "not to take me to jail, I have to go to work." In response, Smith gave him a speeding ticket and told him he would "get a warrant for his arrest."
On August 17 and August 20 Smith had given Baldwin warnings for driving with an invalid license. BCSO records indicate Smith had also arrested Baldwin for driving without a license last April.
Dietrich explained that during the intervening weeks after the warrant was issued, Smith attempted to serve it at Baldwin's residence at The Oaks Apartments where both men had resided at the time. Additionally, Smith had scheduled two times for Baldwin to "turn himself in," but both times Baldwin had failed to show, according to Dietrich.
Baldwin making fuss
Regarding the incident on Oct. 31, Dietrich said he had received a call from emergency dispatch about Baldwin causing a disturbance at the jail. Dietrich was told "Baldwin wants to be arrested and won't leave until he is."
"I called Willie and discovered he was on his way home after working 16 hours," Dietrich said. "Willie said he would be glad to turn around and I said, 'No, sir, you go on home'." Parenthetically, Dietrich explained that members of Baldwin's family had repeatedly harassed the deputy marshal at the apartment complex. The Baldwins reportedly have moved from the complex shortly after the latest incident.
"(Baldwin's) cried to anybody who would listen to him, but if he has a valid problem, he needs to make a complaint in writing, sign it and present it to (me)," Dietrich said. "I'll be glad to investigate it."
Who did you talk to?
Nonplussed after discovering that Baldwin had not been interviewed for this article, Dietrich wanted to know "who I had talked to" about the incident. As was explained, the facts of the case were taken directly from Hernandez's incident report.
In an email on Thursday, Dec. 17, Dietrich was asked why Smith had on multiple occasions on Nov. 1 refused to serve the warrant on Baldwin, and what was Smith's rationale for "holding" the warrant.
Additionally, the Courier requested that responses, if any, be in writing "so no erroneous information would be included in the article." Dietrich apparently took exception to "the tone" of the questions about the incident, noting, "You want to stay on my good side."
However, on Monday, Dec. 21, the Courier received an email detailing Smith's account of the incident, which will be published on Thursday, Dec. 31.