12News has learned that charges against Steve Hartman, a process server who was arrested inside a courtroom as he attempted to serve papers to Judge Layne Walker, have been dropped.
Orange County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Troy Johnson Friday granted a motion to dismiss the charges because special prosecutor Joe Alford was not sworn in properly. Alford never signed the oath and it was never filed.
Hartman's arrest was captured on a ballpoint pen camera he was wearing May 28 2013 when deputies took him into custody.
Hartman says the video shows a completely different set of events than those described in sworn statements from witnesses.
Hartman's attorney, John Morgan told us, "The video contradicts all of the witnesses' affidavits totally. None of the affidavits present truthful evidence. The video is very clear on that."
In the video, Hartman is first approached by Deputy Sharon Williams. But attorney James Makin states that Hartman approached Sergeant Steve Broussard and that he crossed the bar, which is the area that divides where the courtroom personnel sit from the public.
The video shows Deputy Williams going to get Broussard and Broussard coming towards Hartman.
Hartman said, "He started telling me I need to leave. I politely told him 'no sir'. And he came and he started to push me, he pushed me towards the back of the courtroom and told me I was under arrest for disturbing."
Attorney Joe Vazquez also gave a sworn statement that Hartman had tried to get to the judge's bench and was intercepted by Sergeant Broussard and that Hartman had attempted to push by Broussard.
But Morgan said, "What the video shows is a very aggressive and hostile, almost accosting by Sergeant Broussard."
Morgan believes the attorneys, courtroom staff and law enforcement gave sworn statements before they knew the incident was being recorded.
According to an investigative summary done by the Sheriff's Office, attorney Rebecca Fleming would not give a statement saying she did not agree with the facts of the affidavit.
The investigative summary also showed that the pen used to record video of the incident was taken home by Sergeant Broussard before being entered into evidence, and according to Hartman replaced with something else.
Hartman told us, "I ended up with some sort of screwdriver."
Hartman was charged with hindering a proceeding by disorderly conduct.
Morgan sought to have charges be dropped as a result of what the video shows.
In the end, the charges were dropped, but not because of the evidence that was presented.
Friday afternoon, Hartman's boss Philip Klein, President of Klein Investigations, issued the following statement:
"We contend that Steve Hartman has always been an innocent man. Videotapes don't lie. It is our sincere hope that the Jefferson County District Attorney's office, and the Southeast Texas Corruption Task Force, will turn now to those that falsely accused Mr. Hartman. They are the true criminals in this matter. We are proud of Mr. Hartman's professional behavior and the leader he has proven himself to be to his company, his family and community."Previous coverage:
- 8/18/2013 Another Jefferson County deputy under fire following courtroom arrest
- 9/25/2013 Jefferson County process server wants trial moved out of Jefferson County
- 8/21/13 Embattled deputy plans to retire at the end of the month
- 8/24/2013 Jefferson County sergeant is on paid leave pending internal investigation
- 8/9/2013 Sheriff recommends terminating deputy accused of mishandling evidence
- 7/11/2013 Arrest of process server leads to internal investigation into Jefferson County Sheriff's Office