Judge temporarily suspends embattled Smith County constable from office

Curtis Traylor-Harris temporarily suspended
East Texas News at 6.
Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 3:54 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2022 at 8:45 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A Smith County constable accused of stealing from a residence while on the job was temporarily removed from office following a civil lawsuit hearing Thursday afternoon.

Curtis Traylor-Harris was served a civil lawsuit from a Smith County resident seeking his removal from office amid allegations Traylor-Harris and his deputies abused their authority and engaged in theft at a residence where they were serving eviction papers in November 2021. According to state law, the process of removing an elected official from office must begin with a petition being filed by a private citizen in the district court where the officer resides, or where the alleged cause of removal occurred. Traylor-Harris was served with his lawsuit last month.

At the start of Thursday’s hearing, Traylor-Harris attempted to delay the proceedings when he informed the court he had no attorney present. However, the state argued that an attorney is not needed for such proceedings and visiting Judge David Brabham informed Harris that unless sufficient reasoning could be presented otherwise, the hearing would continue. No such reasoning was given.

Assistant Smith County District Attorney Thomas Wilson began with calling their sole witness: Christopher Baggett, a Texas Ranger and lead investigator on the public corruption case involving Traylor-Harris. Bodycam footage was offered as evidence, specifically footage from the bodycam of LaQuenda Banks, one of Traylor-Harris’ deputy constables who also is under indictment. Baggett said the footage provides evidence of organized theft as it shows the constables are searching the house instead of just clearing as they should have and that none of the items taken were ever inventoried.

The footage also shows Traylor-Harris holding boxes before giving them to Banks, who then put them in the vehicle of Deputy Constable Derrick Holman, who also is under indictment. Items allegedly stolen include watches, sunglasses and ammunition. Baggett said Banks admitted Traylor-Harris instructed them to take those items from the residence before they picked through them back at the constable’s office. While some of the items were eventually returned to the victim after the investigation started, Baggett said one of the allegedly stolen watches was seen on Banks’ wrist during a call.

The monetary value of the items allegedly taken and the involvement of public servants makes this a felony act, Baggett said.

After the state passed the witness, Traylor-Harris began questioning Baggett.

However, following Traylor-Harris’ questions, Judge Brabham said he found the state’s allegations to be true and will sign the necessary documents to temporarily suspend Traylor-Harris as Smith County Pct. 1 constable. Ralph Caraway Jr. was appointed as interim. His name was among three on a list submitted by Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran and county commissioners. Other names on the list included Bobby Garmon and Willie Mims Jr. Caraway is currently an investigator with the district attorney’s office.

Traylor-Harris argued there’s “too much doubt” to grant the state’s request for suspension. He argued none of the claims made so far are substantiated.

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