Suspended Smith County constable Curtis Traylor Harris found guilty of theft by jury
Sentencing will be held Friday morning
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The jury has reached a verdict in the trial of a Smith County Constable accused of stealing from a home during an eviction.
Curtis Traylor-Harris has been found guilty of the charges against him. The jury returned a verdict at 5:45 p.m. Thursday.
Sentencing will happen on Friday at 9:30 a.m. in Judge Jack Skeen’s courtroom.
The trial of suspended Smith County Pct. 1 Constable Curtis Traylor-Harris continued Thursday morning in the 241st District Court.
Traylor-Harris was arrested in 2021 for allegedly stealing from a home during an eviction.
After the state rested its case Wednesday, the defense called an expert witness to the stand for testimony.
Court resumed Thursday morning with the defense calling Roy Burkett, a Whitehouse moving business owner, to the witness stand.
Burkett owns the moving company called to the home that was being evicted. Burkett testified the constable and his deputies were already inside the home when he arrived.
Burkett testified he saw Tyler police breaking open safes outside. He testified he saw police officers leaving with bags, guns, and other items.
Burkett testified he also saw about 10 to 12 people working for The Cascades, who owned the home, at the house during the eviction. He claims they were not handling the personal items correctly.
On the stand, Burkett claimed he saw employees for The Cascades taking items away in golf carts.
The defense then asked Burkett if he was ever contacted by law enforcement during the investigation. He said no.
Prosecutors asked Burkett if he had any knowledge of what happened inside the home before he arrived. He said no. Burkett was then dismissed.
Following a brief moment of questioning from both the state and the defense, Baggett was dismissed.
The defense then called Curtis Traylor-Harris as their next witness. The jury was then dismissed to allow Judge Skeen to remind Traylor-Harris of his 5th amendment privilege. Traylor-Harris elected to waive that right.
Traylor-Harris was first asked about his law enforcement experience prior to being a constable, which included time in North Texas.
He told the court he came back to Tyler in 2019 because of family. Traylor-Harris was later elected as the Pct. 1 constable for Smith County, and sworn in at the start of 2021.
Traylor-Harris told the court he came into a backlogged office with limited staff.
The suspended constable was then asked about the day he came to serve the writ at the house being evicted. He told the court it was his first time to ever do this.
Traylor-Harris testified that he believed Sgt. Derrick Holman and Deputy LaQuenda Banks had more experience with executing this kind of writ.
The defense then asked about the vehicles taken to the home that day. Traylor-Harris said Banks rode with him in his unit. He also stated that his office had three working body cameras at the time.
The defense then played the body cam video captured by Banks. Traylor-Harris testified the recording started after they had already discovered drugs and guns inside the home.
When inside the closet, Traylor-Harris was asked about what he said. In previous testimony, a Texas Ranger testified he heard Traylor-Harris say “take that s***.”
Traylor-Harris claims he said, “get that s***.”
“My focus was in finding narcotics. So, I wasn’t really paying attention to what LaQuenda was doing,” Traylor-Harris said.
Traylor-Harris said when Banks can be seen taking items out to one of the units, he believed she was taking evidence.
Traylor-Harris was then asked about the moment he can be seen counting cash in the video. He claims it was about $180. He counted it in view of Holman’s body cam and later put it in his pocket.
Traylor-Harris said he later put the money back in a box turned over to Tyler police.
When asked about the items listed as inventory, Traylor-Harris said all of those items were given back to the owner.
When asked about the seized guns, Traylor-Harris said the guns were mixed in with a stockpile that already existed in their office. Those guns were later given to Ranger Baggett when he called inquiring about them.
Traylor-Harris was then asked about the missing safe. He testified Holman said he placed it in a “junk room.” Holman told him he did this because he didn’t have access to the evidence room.
When asked if he was ever aware that Banks had taken any items, Traylor-Harris said no.
After returning to the office after serving the writ, Traylor-Harris said he never saw her lay them out on a table as Banks previously testified.
Traylor-Harris said he had nothing to do with the theft. He was then passed to the state.
District attorney Jacob Putman asked Traylor-Harris about his law enforcement career and the deputies he hired after becoming constable.
Putman then asked Traylor-Harris about the items his office collected on the day of the alleged crime. Traylor-Harris asked to review his inventory records, and said the items were taken because they weren’t safe to put on the curb.
Putman noted a gray safe was missing from the inventory list. Traylor-Harris said he was unaware that one was recovered.
Traylor-Harris was then asked about what happened when he and his deputies returned to the office after the eviction. Traylor-Harris testified Banks was “irritated” and adamant about leaving. He recalls seeing Banks go to Holman’s vehicle. She then left claiming she needed to pick up her daughter.
When it comes to the items loaded into Holman’s vehicle, Traylor-Harris said the items were put into the evidence room.
Putman asked how the safe didn’t end up in the evidence room. Traylor-Harris was pressed on the issue and became noticeably agitated on the witness stand.
The state then replayed a portion of the video in which Traylor-Harris can be seen looking at the safe outside of the home.
“I wasn’t paying attention to the safe,” he said. “I may have had tunnel vision. My focus was on narcotics.”
Putman then asked why the suspended constable was even looking for drugs to begin with. Traylor-Harris said they initially smelled and found marijuana and cocaine. Traylor-Harris testified they were searching for more.
When Putman asked if they had a warrant, Traylor-Harris said no.
Putman asked Traylor-Harris why the cash he testified about counting was never logged. Traylor-Harris said the money was placed in an evidence box that he handed over on Tyler police.
The body cam video of the moment Traylor-Harris and Banks were inside the closet was then played again.
Traylor-Harris said he agrees that Banks stole personal items of value, but claims he had no knowledge of what she was doing.
Putman asked how Traylor-Harris never heard her saying she was taking items. He claimed she was talking to herself throughout the video.
Another video was played showing what prosecutors said was Traylor-Harris looking directly at Banks as she stole a pair of sunglasses.
Traylor-Harris denied seeing her doing this. Putman pressed him on the issue asking if he had vision or hearing problems. Traylor-Harris said no.
Traylor-Harris said he never heard Banks say she was “cleaning house,” as heard on the video.
“I never saw her steal anything,” Traylor-Harris said.
Traylor-Harris said he went to Smith County Human Resources when he learned of the theft, and was told not to fire her.
Putman then asked if he remembers telling the HR director that he would resign if the charges against him were dropped. He said he did remember saying this.
“Y’all never wanted me in office” Traylor-Harris said. “There’s been one thing after another where they’ve tried to find me doing something wrong or illegal.”
When asked who he’s referring to, Traylor-Harris said the district attorney’s office, the county attorney, and the sheriff’s office.
Following Traylor-Harris’ testimony, the defense rested its case. Closing arguments will soon be delivered by the state and defense.
In closing arguments, prosecutors said Traylor-Harris was a “natural born victim.” Assistant District Attorney Emmil Mikkelsen encouraged the jury to look at the facts of the case and pay no attention to the “noise.”
Defense Attorney Andrew Dammann argued the state was trying to tell them what to see in the body cam video. He said he’s confident they’ll find Traylor-Harris not guilty.
The jury will return to the deliberation room after lunch.
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