LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- A Loving County, Texas, judge and rancher, along with three others, were indicted by a Howard County, Texas, grand jury on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity and theft of livestock under $150,000 in connection with May 2022 arrests in southwest Texas.
Indicted was Skeet Lee Jones, a local ranch owner who has served as a county judge in Loving County since 2007. Also indicted were former Loving County sheriff's deputy Leroy Medlin Jr., Cody Williams and Jonathon Alvarado.
The grand jury convened in Howard County, which is several counties east of Loving County.
Each indictment names an individual followed by: "On or about the 11th day of November 2021, and anterior to the presentment of this indictment, in the county of Howard and state of Texas, did then and there, with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination, the combination consisting of" the four men who "collaborated in carrying on criminal activity, intentionally and knowingly commit the offense theft of livestock under $150,000."
To get an indictment in Texas, prosecutors are required to persuade nine out of 12 grand jurors that the probable cause of guilt exists. Once an indictment is issued, an arraignment hearing is typically held within two to four weeks. It is possible a prosecutor could decide to dismiss a case following an indictment.
According to DTN's reporting from 2022, the men were arrested in connection with the alleged theft of seven head of cattle in what is the nation's least populated county with only 57 residents.
The seriousness of the alleged crimes with the organized crime component raises the charge from a third-degree felony for cattle theft to a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony in Texas is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. A third-degree felony carries a fine of up to $10,000 and two to 10 years in prison.
According to Chapter 142 of Texas ag law, if someone finds estray livestock, they are required to report it to the county sheriff. The sheriff then must notify the owner of an estray animal that it has been found on private property.
Jones is the owner and operator of P&M Jones Ranch, founded in 1953 by his father, Elgin "Punk" Jones, and mother, Mary Belle Jones.
DTN's attempts to reach Jones were unsuccessful.
Jones is not a registered lawyer, according to the Texas Bar Association. In Texas, county judges oftentimes are not lawyers but serve as the head official of a county. Jones was sworn in as judge in 2007.
The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct in 2016 issued a public warning to Jones regarding illegal rulings he issued in connection with multiple speeding tickets. According to the commission, Jones offered a one-time deal to first-time speeding offenders to allow them to change their citations to illegal parking.
In its findings, the commission said from 2009 to 2014, "at least 90 citations had been changed, but that some of the citations that were changed were for charges other than speeding."
The commission concluded that Jones "failed to comply with the law and/or failed to maintain professional competence in the law by entering judgments finding defendants guilty of 'illegal parking' violations that were not supported by a proper complaint or probable cause, and imposing fines for these 'illegal parking' offenses in excess of amounts allowed by law."
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @DTNeeley
(c) Copyright 2023 DTN, LLC. All rights reserved.