Brownwood defense attorney John Lee Blagg can empathize with fellow lawyer Rudy Taylor, whose job got harder recently when one of Taylor’s clients decided to go for a walk.
Strictly speaking, Taylor’s client, Mark Rhoads, did go for a walk outside the Law Enforcement Center — but sheriff’s officials and prosecutors have another word for it: “escape.”
It’s a third degree felony offense.
Blagg can empathize because he knows what it’s like to have a client who escapes. It happened to him back in 1997, when a trusty Blagg was representing ran away and made it to Coleman County, where he was on the loose for about two months and sexually assaulted two women.
When the man went to trial, the husband of one of the women he’d sexually assaulted finished testifying and then lit into his wife’s attacker — Blagg’s client. Can you blame him?
“I think I took the first blow, and it knocked me back,” Blagg recalled.
By the time Blagg got up, deputies had swarmed the defendant and the witness, and the fight was over, leaving some scratched furniture as a memento. I have no idea if the scratched furniture has been repaired or replaced.
Blagg said his client — now his former client — is serving two life sentences.
So, when Blagg read in the papers recently that Taylor’s client, Rhoads, had escaped, he remembered his own experience.
“It certainly makes your job a lot harder,” Blagg said. “Usually after an escape the DA is in no mood to offer a plea bargain.”
Blagg said he doesn’t fault Sheriff Bobby Grubbs for the escape by Rhoads, who walked away from the Law Enforcement Center while working as an outside trusty. He said he agrees with Grubbs’ earlier statement that the trusty business is “a calculated risk.”
Grubbs said his office constantly re-evaluates its procedures, and did so after Rhoads’ escaped.
“(Inmates are) looking for gaps in our armor, and we’re trying to close them,” Grubbs said. “It’s an ongoing battle. They’re always looking for a way to beat the system. That’s how they got here in the first place. … I take responsibility for whatever happens in this agency. That’s my job.”
And I don’t think Grubbs is amused that he and Rhoads share the same birthday — today, in fact. Rhoads turns 44; Grubbs, I believe, his 64. I don’t think Grubbs plans to share cake and party favors with Rhoads, who is in custody in Oklahoma after this three says of freedom ended with a wrecked car and manhunt.
Blagg said and his advice to any clients who might be thinking of trying to go over the wall: Don’t do it.
“I’d never advise anyone to escape. It’s dangerous. It’s a felony offense itself,” Blagg said.
He allowed one exception: if someone is being held a political prisoner in a corrupt Gestapo or KGB-type system.
“Otherwise, escape is certainly not the right thing to do,” he said. “As far as I know we don’t have any political prisoners in the Brown County Jail.”
They said it …
“What are you gonna burn now, Dad?” — 9-year-old Johnson after learning I had been appointed lunch chef.
“I heard you burned the macaroni and cheese. You’ve got to pay more attention when you’re in the kitchen.” — Wife, after appointing me lunch chef.
“After 20 minutes, take a fork and turn the chicken over. That doesn’t mean turn it around in a circle. It means turn it over.” — Wife, same scenario.
“Johnson Johnson (not his real name) needs to have his @$$ kicked, point blank.” — An anonymous poster in another newspaper’s online comments forum, responding to a signed letter to the editor published in the paper’s print edition.
And to think the Bulletin could have had that comment (and lots more like it) if only it had continued with its own online forum.
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.