Grassroots America-We the People says they are standing by Smith County prosecutor Jacob Putman, the only candidate running for Smith County District Attorney.
Executive Director JoAnn Flemming said Monday that she reached out to Putman to get answers about his media interviews regarding what he described as his misunderstanding of an office policy he thought gave him the ability to dismiss or reduce Dabrett Black's 2015 case involving the assault of a former Smith County deputy.
Black is now accused of capital murder in the Thanksgiving Day shooting of Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Damon Allen.
Fleming said Putman sent her two emails regarding Smith County District Attorney's Office office policy.
She contends those emails show contradictions in the policies.
"The average Joe or Jane on the street should be able to understand the policies of the DA's office," Fleming said. "It is confusing and there needs to be clarification."
The District Attorney's office said Fleming was not interpreting the email correctly.
Bingham said the email Fleming received is referring to an office procedure regarding punishment recommendations on felony cases.
The email sent by First Assistant District Attorney April Sikes to the entire DA's office on May 7, 2013, is a change to a prior procedure that did not allow the assistant DAs the ability to screen a case and make a recommendation for punishment, Sikes said.
The privilege of being able to make recommendations on punishments was taken away for a time. Sikes' email gave the assistant DAs their authority to screen the case and make a recommendation for punishment, according to the DA's office.
"I am writing to inform you of a change in the Office Procedures," the email read. "Beginning immediately, ADAs do not have to receive permission from the First Asst. or the District Attorney for any plea recommendations, on any case."
The email went on to say that dismissals still needed to be signed by either the First Assistant or the District Attorney, on the dismissal of cases, but not on any revocations or motions for continuance, etc.
Bingham said this statement means the same as his policy and procedures regarding dismissals, reductions, lesser-included offenses and plea bargain recommendations that is in his Dec. 7, 2012 edition of office policies.
It is this policy that Bingham said Putman failed to follow when he arranged Black's plea deal and dismissal of a felony charge.
"Only the First Assistant and the District Attorney have permission to dismiss felony cases," the policy reads. "If an assistant district attorney believes a case should be dismissed, a written memo must be submitted to the First Assistant or the to the District Attorney, accompanied by the case file for review. This rule applies to any way that a case might be dismissed including reductions."
Grassroots America-We the People's statement went on to criticize what they described as a lack of media attention regarding the $15,500 bond set by Justice of the Peace Mitch Shamburger for Black in 2017 after he was charged with evading arrest, aggravated assault against a public servant and reckless driving. Black posted that bond less than a month after his arrest.
Shamburger initially told KYTXCBS 19 in a Nov. 27 statement about Black's bond that he did not remember the case or the defendant, but he stood by his decision.
"A $10,000 bond for him might be equivalent to a $100,000 bond to a rich person," said Judge Shamburger. "We have to be careful that we don't just convict people just because they're put in jail. We set a bond to ensure they show up in court."
In a follow-up call, Shamburger stated that he set the bond that would ensure Black's appearance, according to the KYTX-CBS 19 report.
"I didn't know he could get out on that...," Shamburger said. "I wasn't aware of his previous convictions."
In hindsight, Judge Shamburger said he wishes he would've done something different.
In the Grassroots America statement, Fleming said. the person who murdered Trooper Allen is responsible for his death.
"That does not in any way relieve those we hire at the ballot box from their responsibility to run the Smith County Criminal Justice system in a sober, clear-eyed, purposeful, diligent and thorough manner to uphold the rule of law," Fleming said.
Last week, Putman apologized to current DA Matt Bingham for his handling of Black's case.
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham said during a news conference Thursday that he accepted Putman's apology and will not terminate him for violating office policy, which requires the DA or the first assistant DA to sign off on dismissals or reductions for felony cases.