Report: Former Wood County DA resigned to avoid sexual harassment prosecution

Report: Former Wood County DA resigned to avoid sexual harassment prosecution
(Source: KLTV)

AUSTIN, TEXAS (KLTV) - A report released to KLTV Thursday states former Wood County District Attorney Jim Wheeler resigned from the office as part of an agreement to avoid prosecution in connection with an investigation into sexual harassment allegations.

The Texas Rangers report states the investigation began when a male employee with Wood County reported to Texas Rangers on Sept. 28 that Wheeler had been sexually harassing a female employee with the county.

The male employee stated he confronted the female about his suspicions three days before, and the female confirmed Wheeler had been pursuing her.

On Oct. 1, a Ranger met with the female employee, who provided him recordings of conversations between her and Wheeler. She gave the Ranger an interview and gave details on the kinds of advances Wheeler made toward her. She also provided screenshots of text messages between them, which the Ranger did not feel was inappropriate.

On Oct. 4, 10th Regional Administrative Judge Alfonso Charles appointed District Judge Lauren Parish as the judge in the matter. On Oct. 8, Parish appointed Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd as the attorney pro tem.

On Oct. 11, the Ranger contacted Wheeler and requested they meet. Wheeler agreed.

On Oct. 12, the Ranger confronted Wheeler about recordings of him making inappropriate sexual comments toward the female county employee and said he believed it amounted to official oppression. According to the Ranger report, Wheeler said he disagreed, then asked if he was the target of a criminal investigation.

“I told him that he was the target of a criminal investigation,” the report states. “He then asked if he was free to leave. I told him he was free to leave.”

Later that day, Wheeler turned in his resignation.

On March 23, the Ranger spoke with Byrd, who said he met with Wheeler and Wheeler had agreed to resign his position in lieu of prosecution. Byrd said this was acceptable to the victim, so he decided not to move forward with prosecution.

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