UPDATE: Verdict reached in trial of Van Zandt Co. commissioner - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


UPDATE: No jail time for VZ Co Commissioner Ricky LaPrade


LaPrade has been sentenced to four-years community supervision, a $2,000 fine, and has been ordered to pay $6,000 restitution and sign a waiver of right to appeal.

All other charges were taken into account in the agreement between the defense and the prosecution, and LaPrade will not be tried on those charges. 

The Van Zandt County District Attorney's office says according to government code, if convicted, an elected official is to be removed from office within 24 hours following the signing of the verdict.

UPDATE: The jury finds Van Zandt County Commissioner Ricky LaPrade guilty of misapplication of fiduciary property.

Closing arguments in the trial for Van Zandt County Commissioner, Ricky LaPrade are happening at this hour in a Van Zandt County Courtroom.

As she has been doing all week, KLTV 7 Reporter Melanie Torre is feeding live updates of the proceedings:

-The jury is read the charge.

They are told the definitions of fiduciary, owner, misapplication, benefit, property, intentionally and recklessly. They are told that because LaPrade chose not to testify they cannot take that into account against him.

The prosecution begins their closing argument. "Overwhelming, undeniable, compelling, conclusive," are the words Martin uses to describe the evidence in this case. He tells the jury they are lucky to have such compelling evidence. He goes through each testimony:

A friend who testified that she saw him the night before the arrest who is a former DWI prosecutor and could tell in less than a minute he was under the influence. "What more could you ask for?" says Martin. "She's not in a position that would have to hold LaPrade accountable for his actions," said Martin. He talks to the jury about Deputy Roop who watched the test from afar and said LaPrade looked unsteady on his feet and smelled the overwhelming smell of alcoholic beverage when he drove LaPrade's truck to the Sheriff's Office. Martin reminds the jury that Lt. Allen said he saw a glazed over look in LaPrade's eyes and saw LaPrade slumped over the wheel. Martin reminds the jury of officer Burton's testimony in which the officers were trying to eat at Dairy Palace but the grill wasn't working so they went to Whataburger instead. Martin reminds the jury how Burton described the truck-- not fully in a parking space, with reverse lights on, running, windshield wipers going and someone slouched over the wheel. Martin reminds the jury of the dash cam video,"you can see what I've seen, what [LaPrade] has seen and everyone else in this courtroom has seen," says Martin.

"You've seen how this man can't hold up a foot and the evidence doesn't stop there," he says. Martin says Kenneth Dean from the Tyler Morning Telegraph testified to calling LaPrade's office and someone coming on the phone, identifying himself as Ricky LaPrade, and admitting to drinking then driving the county truck. "As a jury, look at the insurmountable amount of evidence," Martin says. Martin tells the jury Judge Koches said LaPrade was a fiduciary operating a truck that belonged to the county. Martin goes over the county employee handbook that says "the utmost care will always be exercised to minimize damage." Martin tells the jury that the defense will say this rule doesn't apply because LaPrade isn't an employee. So Martin shows the jury State's Exhibit 6 which is a copy outlining the county's drug and alcohol policy with LaPrade's signature on it. Martin shows the jury the check from the county for the payment of LaPrade's truck and points out that it was purchased for more than $22,000 and that check was dated and signed just 48 hours before LaPrade's arrest. Martin closes by telling the jury, "There is a sign outside that courtroom that says leave a lot of things outside-- gum, phones, kids. But it does not say leave your common sense outside."

-Defense begins closing argument.

"We spent a day and a half talking about DWI but this isn't a DWI case. This is a case about the misuse of property," says Nolan White.

White goes over Cade's testimony telling the jury Cade only spoke to LaPrade for a minute and he was joking around with her. White tells the jury Lt. Allen went to the bathroom before helping Burton get LaPrade out of the car. White reminds the jury Roop testified to not being an expert on DWI. White reminds the jury about the discrepancy regarding Burton's field sobriety test training. White tells the jury the one legged stand test is not a normal thing for the human body to do regardless of alcohol influence and that any normal person's mind would cause them to mess up because they know they're being watched. White says the manual applies to employees and Mr. LaPrade is not an employee but an elected official. White says in the charge Rita Koches is listed as the owner of the vehicle representing the county but she should be listed as Judge Rita Koches and therefore the charge is alleging Koches the private citizen is the owner that is not true. White tells the jury, "the state is trying to take away his life, liberty and pursuit of happiness." He tells the jury there was no substantial risk of loss because statistics show the majority of DWI arrests do not result in property damage. White asks the jury to remember everything must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt". White says, "There are separate laws regarding elected officials. Elected officials are elected by We The People and if their county policies apply to them our votes would mean nothing."

-Martin beings his rebuttal.

Dean White objects three times in the first minute.

Martin addresses the defense's attempts to discredit Cade. He asks the jury why a friend of the commissioner would testify against him if she wasn't positive about what she saw. He asks the jury to recall Cade's body language-- how uncomfortable she looked on the stand and how emotional she became when the defense asked if she regretted not telling someone Ricky shouldn't be driving. Martin reads an excerpt from the agreement LaPrade signed that said it applies to everyone, "regardless of rank or position". Martin tells the jury, "He is not an employee. He is an elected official. Well, who pays him?" Martin tells the jury there has been no evidence presented to support a conspiracy theory between the arresting officer and the constables. Martin says, "It's time for someone to put a stop to the Good 'ol Boy system in Van Zandt County." he tells them, "you as the jury, the 12 of you are the only people who can hold him accountable for his actions. You are the last link in law enforcement. We cannot turn a blind eye to the criminal wrong doing of any citizen, particularly elected officials. They should be held to a higher standard because of the trust they hold and the oath they take when accepting their office." Martin holds up the Van Zandt County employee handbook and tells the jury, "He doesn't have to play by these rules but he has to answer to you. If you believe it's ok for an elected official to be driving around at all hours of the night under the influence in a truck-- in your tax payer property-- if you think that's ok let's pack it up and go home." Martin tells the jury, "this trial isn't about punishment. It's about accountability. Don't let that just be something we teach in our homes." Martin says this is about justice and can send a message to Van Zandt County. He says their verdict can show people, "It doesn't matter who you are or who you know." Martin closes with "let common sense lead you and find Commissioner Ricky LaPrade guilty because that is what he is."

*note: Over the course of closing arguments the defense had more then two dozen objections. All but about two were overruled.

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