UPDATE: The AP picked up The Austin American Statesman story on Friday, July 24 and it has run in multiple publications around Texas. http://www.chron.com/news/texas/article/Texas-judge-amends-sentence-for-former-utility-6403701.php
We jail more people in the United States than any nation on earth. Get crossways with a Texas state trooper and you can go to jail for changing lanes without a signal. If you are caught with a few grams of marijuana, you can be jailed for 10 years or more. A bank robber can get life.
But if the bank you rob is the membership of PEC…and the collar you wear is white…and you are well-connected with the means to hire the best lawyers in the state…who also happen to know some good ole boys who fix things, orange may not be your color after all. Such it seems is the case of Bennie Fuelberg, the notorious former general manager of PEC, convicted in 2010 on all charges of theft, money laundering and fiduciary misapplication of property–felonies. He was sentenced in District Judge Dan Mills’ courtroom in 2011 to 300 days in jail, plus restitution. Appeals exhausted, Fuelberg was to turn himself into Blanco County jailers on June 21, 2015. But he never showed.
With no public notice or hearing, a district judge named J. Allen Garrett was located to modify Mills’ carefully considered sentence. It is not clear now if or when Mr. Fuelberg will ever see a day behind bars. How does this happen? How can such a double-standard apply in the state of Texas? The 270,000 members of PEC deserve the justice of seeing Mr. Fuelberg jailed for his crimes, if even for a week. Soon.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Bennie Fuelberg’s walking free is a travesty of justice.
My friend, Blanco Co. retired attorney John Watson agrees and has given me permission to share his letter to Judge Garrett:.
Hon. J. Allen Garrett
Judge, 33rd District Court
1701 E. Polk St., Suite 74
Burnet, Tx 78611
Re: Bennie Fuelberg Sentence Modification
I read the Claudia Grisales article in the Austin American-Statesman today concerning the new order you entered on July 10 modifying the sentencing provisions set by Judge Dan Mills, who presided at the trial at which Mr. Bennie Fuelberg was convicted of multiple felonies by a jury. That trial was held more than 5 years ago yet Mr. Fuelberg has not yet been required to comply with the terms of probation set by Judge Mills.
There appears to be a dispute, according to the reporting, between the District Attorney’s office and the Blanco County Community Supervision and Corrections Office as to the roles they may have played in this new order. No mention is made of the Office of Attorney General, the actual office that handled the prosecution and sentencing in 2010. Makes me wonder if that office was even consulted about the modification.
If accurately described the modification appears to considerably ease the conditions under which Mr. Fuelberg will serve the 300 days of jail time to which Judge Mills sentenced him. In addition it appears you modified the sentence without public notice or a public hearing. The process as described seems procedurally questionable to me. I wonder if you could explain why you acted in secret on this matter.
My interest in this stems from my participation along with other co–op members in ending the Fuelberg regime of mismanagement, and, as we now know, criminal activity on his part. Indeed I testified at both the trial and sentencing hearing. A number of people testified at the public sentencing hearing. Seems to me if you sought to or even considered modifying the sentencing terms you should have given notice and held a public hearing, giving the public an opportunity to at least observe what was happening, and perhaps weigh in with testimony.
Mr. Fuelberg violated his office as GM of PEC to which its members had entrusted him. His self–enrichment and misuse of co–op funds merited both the felony conviction and sentencing meted out by Judge Mills. To now allow this check–in check–out of jail for short periods of time is an insult to all PEC member/owners who were victims of Mr. Fuelberg’s crimes.
Please consider this a formal request that you immediately vacate the amended sentencing order you signed, and, that if you continue to consider modifying or amending the original sentencing order, you provide for ample public notice in all counties and hold a public hearing on the matter. If you prefer I will file a Motion with the court asking for this relief.
I will be happy to discuss this matter with you should you care to do so.
1404 Pedernales Hills Rd.
Johnson City, Tx 78636
Ms. Claudia Grisales
Attorney General Ken Paxton
Assistant District Attorney Gary Bunyard
Mr. William Knight
Judge Dan Mills