- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

DALLAS — Two Texas sheriffs were indicted by a local grand jury Wednesday, hours after both had been soundly defeated in primary elections.

Jim Bowles, 75, sheriff in Dallas County since 1985, was accused of misusing campaign funds. Weldon Lucas, 61, longtime sheriff in Denton County — about 35 miles northwest of Dallas — was charged with lying to the grand jury. Both men are Republicans.

Though indictments had been rumored for days, Wednesday’s actions were seen by some insiders here as just the tip of the iceberg — since the present charges appeared almost accidentally during a widespread probe of kickbacks from a local company that has lucrative commissary contracts with jails in several counties.

Sheriff Bowles has been the target of a special investigation for months after he was accused of accepting extensive travel, scores of often-expensive dining opportunities, and repairs and additions to his home from a man who currently holds a contract for sales to Dallas County prisoners.

Sheriff Bowles has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the concessionaire in question, Jack Madera, received no special consideration from him in hiring his company.

Mr. Madera was indicted several weeks ago in nearby Kaufman County on charges that he falsified documents to gain that county’s commissary deal.

The Madera contract in Dallas County pays the county about $600,000 a year — about $400,000 less than competing bids would have produced. Sheriff Bowles disallowed three other bids in awarding the pact to Mr. Madera’s firm in June 2002.

According to campaign finance reports, Sheriff Bowles received $363,544 in political contributions between January 1988 and June 2003. He spent about $214,900 over that same period, leaving a balance of $148,644.

But on a report he filed with the county Elections Department in January he said he had only $7,532 on hand.

Sheriff Lucas was indicted on two counts of felony aggravated perjury for statements made to the grand jury about gifts he had received from Mr. Madera (an $8,000 barn for the Lucas farm) and also statements he made to other sheriffs about Mr. Madera’s ability to help them finance their campaigns.

Sheriff Lucas and Sheriff Bowles had promoted Mr. Madera’s business at various sheriffs and law enforcement meetings around the state. Several other sheriffs currently have contracts with the Madera firm, Mid-American Services Inc.

Sheriff Lucas made a last-minute appearance before the grand jury Wednesday and after the indictments claimed the prosecutors “attempted to get me to change my testimony.” He said he refused, telling them “I had already told them the truth.”

Sheriff Bowles, in a telephone interview last week with The Washington Times, said he was “completely innocent of all this stuff they’re saying. I need a chance to give my side of it.”

“I know the rules,” he added. “In over 50 years as a law enforcement official I have never been accused of such stuff.”

If convicted Sheriff Bowles faces 2 to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. Sheriff Lucas faces up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

On Tuesday, Sheriff Bowles was defeated by a former deputy in the Republican primary for sheriff. Sheriff Lucas, who planned to step down as sheriff next year, lost in a race to become a Denton County commissioner.

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