Documents shed light on coercion case

Some are now questioning if the Dallas city attorney overstepped his bounds in the handling of a coercion case against City Councilmember Scott Griggs.

This comes after FOX 4 first reported Wednesday that the Dallas city attorney, Warren Ernst, is the one who took the case to police.

Since then, FOX 4's Lori Brown has been digging through the city's newly released documents and learned just how large of a role the city attorney played.

Documents just made public show that Ernst says he was advised by his staff to get witness statements about what happened April 13, the day Griggs was accused of threatening an employee.

A week later, the city attorney told Police Chief David Brown that Griggs verbally threatened Bilierae Johnson.

According to a police document, Johnson initially told police there was no incident between her and Griggs.

In his only interview about the incident, Griggs emphatically denied the threat.

Pete Schulte, an attorney who is not connected with the case, says the city attorney should have known not to collect witness statements.

“Acting like an investigator, he is the city attorney, one of the top executives for the City of Dallas,” said Schulte. “When you go into somebody’s office who is a lower-level employee, and say, ‘Hey, I need you to write a statement,’ that's not appropriate."

The documents show that Chief Brown told Ernst to stop collecting witness statements and wait for detectives.

Later, the city attorney met with Chief Brown.

He told him that a witness said an assistant chief told her nothing would be done about the Griggs incident.

“There was pressure put on the police chief by the City Attorney to go after Councilman Griggs,” said Schulte. “That's my opinion, but that's what these documents scream to me. There needs to be an external investigation to figure out how that took place."

Even the first assistant city attorney expressed concerns.

Chris Bowers wrote in an email, "These allegations as described do not sound like crimes, so it will appear weird for DPD to investigate them, and weird to refer them to the grand jury."

“What's your biggest concern when you see how this happened?” said Brown.

“This is how innocent people may find themselves indicted for crimes they absolutely did not commit,” said Schulte.

Ernst was not available for an interview Friday.

In a written statement, he said Dallas city code requires all city employees to report known incidents of intimidation, and failure to do so can constitute grounds for dismissal.

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