TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Former Smith County Constable Curtis Traylor-Harris was found guilty by a jury on Thursday of theft of property valued between $750 and $2500 by a public servant.
The day began with the defense calling their last witnesses to the stand.
Roy Burkett, the owner of the company that moved the family, was called first and testified that he saw Tyler PD officers take items from the home.
The defense’s last witness was the defendant, former Smith County Precinct 1 Constable Curtis Traylor-Harris.
“I had nothing to do with the theft,” said Traylor-Harris.
He was taken through the bodycam footage to discuss what he remembers from Jan. 26.
“So when I looked at LaQuenda I was looking at her body camera to see if it was on,” Traylor-Harris said. “I looked to see if it was on. I saw her red light and the green light was on. I didn’t see her put anything in her shirt at that point.”
He said he had no idea what was happening around him that day.
After the defense rested their case, closing arguments were then made by both sides.
“Don’t listen to the noise, and do what should be fairly obvious and find him guilty of theft,” Emil Mikkelsen with the DA’s office said.
Traylor-Harris’s attorney Andrew Dammann said the jury should think for themselves and not do what the State tells them to do in his closing argument.
“I am confident that you will come back and find Constable Curtis Traylor-Harris not guilty so that he can continue to serve the community he was elected to serve,” Dammann said.
The jury deliberated for about four and a half hours before returning a guilty verdict.
The jury has found Traylor-Harris guilty of theft.
The court has now broke for lunch, and when they return, jury deliberations will begin.
The defense said “because they say it doesn’t make it true” in the opening statement of their closing argument.
“I’m not going to tell you what to look at like the State did,” the defense said. “That’s your job.”
The defense said the DA’s office has tunnel vision in this case, but “cannot fathom” that someone else would do the same like Traylor-Harris testified he had that day.
In their closing argument, the State said that Traylor-Harris is “obviously guilty,” caught on tape and “preyed on people who nobody would believe.”
They said the DA’s office was lucky he worked with “incompetent” people who mistakenly filmed the incident.
The defense has rested its case. Closing arguments will be made soon.
Traylor-Harris said Banks only offered her testimony in exchange for a plea deal. His testimony has now concluded and the court will take a brief recess.
Traylor-Harris said he asked Banks for her bodycam footage but she said it was not on. He said he told Banks it was on and downloaded the footage himself.
“If I was doing anything illegal that would’ve never happened,” Traylor-Harris said.
Putman then asked Traylor-Harris if he was aware the DA’s office obtained the footage from a search warrant of his office.
Traylor-Harris said he told the HR director he would resign if the criminal charges were dropped, but denied telling Banks to deny everything about the incident to the Texas Rangers.
He said the sheriff’s office and DA’s office had widely opposed him as constable, and tried to get him out of office. Traylor-Harris said they had often tried to push him out of office in favor of someone else they preferred.
“When I was looking at LaQuenda I was looking at her body camera to see if it was on,” Traylor-Harris said. “I didn’t see her put anything in her shirt at that point. I don’t know what LaQuenda was doing.”
Traylor-Harris said he also did not hear Banks say anything about “cleaning house,” a statement that can be heard from her bodycam footage.
“I never saw her steal anything, no,” he said.
Putman is played part of the footage where Banks is taking items near Traylor-Harris and talking about putting things in his shirt.
“LaQuenda narrates her theft,” Traylor-Harris said.
However, Traylor-Harris said if he had noticed this Banks taking the items, she would have been fired.
“My eyes don’t look like they were looking at her,” Traylor-Harris said while reviewing the footage with Putman.
When asked if he had watched Banks bodycam footage, Traylor-Harris said he had seen it before the trial.
“I haven’t watched them that much because they irritated me,” he said. “The narrative that was being painted.”
Traylor-Harris told Putman the $180 he is seen holding was turned over to Tyler PD as a part of the seizure.
When asked why he continued searching the house for drugs, Traylor-Harris said he was doing his due diligence to remove them from the home.
Putman asked why he searched the home for drugs instead of Tyler PD and Traylor-Harris said he searched while waiting for Tyler PD to arrive. Traylor-Harris agreed with Putman that his office did not have a warrant to search their property.
Traylor-Harris said some items were logged incorrectly after the eviction not on purpose, but because they “just forgot.”
While watching the bodycam footage with Putman, Traylor-Harris is seen picking up boxes near the safe. However, he said he did not notice the safe.
“Do you have vision problems?” Putman asked.
Traylor-Harris said he did not, but may have had tunnel vision while carrying out the eviction.
Traylor-Harris said during the incident his office confiscated items they deemed “not safe” to be put on the curb of the Poster’s home. This included guns and drugs found inside.
He said he was unaware his office had taken a safe from the property.
“I had nothing to do with the theft,” Traylor-Harris said.
DA Jacob Putman will now cross-examine him.
Traylor-Harris said he rode back from the Poster’s home with Banks, and said he did not see any of the items in his vehicle, and was unaware she had taken items.
Banks is seen in the video, placing different items in Holman’s car. Traylor-Harris said Banks seemed annoyed when they got back to the office because Holman did not arrive back at the same time as them.
Traylor-Harris said he did not take any phones or computers from the home, and that he made an inventory list of what he did take. He said the items on the list were voluntarily relinquished.
Traylor-Harris said he did not know how different items from the house ended up with his office instead of being turned over to another agency, and said some of the items, including guns, ended up in the evidence room.
Banks can be seen in the footage placing items taken from the home into a patrol car. Traylor-Harris said that he did not know about that until watching the bodycam footage months later.
Traylor-Harris said he found about $180 cash in the home, and after counting it in front of a deputy, placed it in his pocket until he remembered it was there and turned it over to Tyler PD as evidence.
Traylor-Harris said he was unaware Banks was taking items from the home, and though his words have been thought to be “take that s**t,” he said he remembered himself saying “get that s**t” meaning to to get it out of his way.
He said his focus was on finding drugs and not what Banks was doing.
Traylor-Harris is now reviewing the bodycam footage with his attorney in front of the jury.
He said he grabbed the box he is seen carrying because he had found a similar box containing drugs in the other room. Traylor-Harris said he was carrying it “absent mindedly” and eventually handed it back to Banks.
Traylor-Harris said he had a good relationship with all of his deputies on the day of the incident. He said it was his understanding that the other deputies had all worked evictions before, and that they had more knowledge on how to carry them out than him.
Traylor-Harris said there was no conversation with Banks about her potentially losing her job. In Banks testimony, she said she felt like she would have been fired had she not taken the items.
Traylor-Harris said after taking office as Precinct 1 Constable in Smith County on Jan. 1, 2021, he was met with a stack of paperwork from the last administration and was mostly learning on the job. He said his office had limited personnel other than his deputies.
He said that stack of papers was how he came in contact with the Poster’s case, and was instructed by a judge to carry it out. When he arrived at the home, it was his first eviction.
The defense has called the defendant, Curtis Traylor-Harris, to the stand as their next witness in his trial.
The defense has again recalled Chris Baggett with the Texas Rangers. Baggett was asked if he ever saw a wallet “fat enough” to contain $3,000. He said he did not see one in his investigation.
When the prosecution asked him about this, Baggett said the Poster family reported $3,000 missing from the home.
Burkett said he saw staff from the Cascades take items from the bags set out at the curb. He said he notified Tyler PD officers who said it was fine.
In his cross-examination, Burkett said he does not know what happened at the house prior to him showing up to help the family move.
The defense has called Roy Burkett who owns the moving company who helped the Poster family move out of the home Traylor-Harris is accused of stealing from to the stand.
Burkett said he was called to help the family move out of the house, and said when he arrived Tyler PD and the Cascades staff were there. He said it did not look like any previous eviction he had seen in the past as a mover.
“It was like they ransacked the house,” Burkett said.
TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The trial of former Smith County Precinct 1 Constable Curtis Traylor-Harris continues into day three.
The defense is expected to call the remainder of their witnesses Thursday morning after their first witnesses testified Wednesday afternoon.
Before resting their case, the State called their last witness, Chris Baggett with the Texas Rangers to the stand. Baggett was contacted by the Smith County DA’s office to investigate after former Chief Deputy LaQuenda Banks bodycam footage was reviewed for a separate case.
Baggett said he interviewed Traylor-Harris, Banks and former Deputy Derrick Holman after watching the footage. He said all three of them denied taking anything from the home, but after their arrests, Banks changed her story and brought back a few of the items reported stolen to her interviews.
The first witness the defense called to the stand was Ashley Harmon, a former constable who testified as an expert and said he has worked more than 1,000 evictions.
“We don’t personally move the property,” Harmon said.
Harmon said in his review of the footage, it seemed that Traylor-Harris was focused on searching for drugs in the home and did not notice Banks taking items. He said he did not see Traylor-Harris take anything unlawfully.
A second witness was called by the defense, but was deemed improper.