HOUSTON (KETK) – Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bail reform bill that he highlighted as one of his main goals of a second special legislative session.
The Damon Allen Act, a bill named after the state trooper murdered near Fairfield on Thanksgiving in 2017, is meant to “reform our broken bail system in Texas and keep our communities safe,” according to Abbott’s office.
Dabrett Black, a Lindale native, is the suspect behind Allen’s murder and is still awaiting trial for capital murder.
The bill took aim at Black being out on a $15,000 bond in 2017 despite previously being arrested for assaulting a Smith County deputy in 2015. Abbott made no mention of Black being offered an unauthorized plea deal by current Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman when he was an assistant prosecutor.
Despite Black assaulting a deputy and trying to take his gun, Putman downgraded the assault charge to a misdemeanor and dismissed the charge where Black tried to take the gun.
Black was arrested again on July 2, 2017, after police say he intentionally crashed into a Smith County deputy’s car during a high-speed chase down several county roads. The deputy had to be taken to a local hospital for his injuries.
Black was charged with evading arrest, aggravated assault of a public servant and reckless driving. However, his bond was only set at $15,500. He was released on July 31.
On Oct. 5, a grand jury increased his bond to $400,000 after he was indicted and a new arrest warrant was issued. Before he could be captured, Trooper Allen was shot and killed.
An internal audit revealed that out of 674 criminal cases in Smith County that had charges dismissed or reduced over a five-year period, 204 were done improperly. The agreements did not have the necessary signatures of approval from either then-District Attorney Matt Bingham or his first assistant DA.
This was roughly 2% of the more than 10,000 criminal cases the DA’s office handled over the five-year period.
The audit showed that Putman was the biggest violator of this policy and dismissed or reduced charges in 79 cases without getting signatures.
The information came out during a race to replace Bingham and Putman was the only candidate at the time. On the last day to file, former prosecutor Alicia Cashell Barkley entered the race.
Putman would win the Republican primary in March 2018 over Barkley by nearly 2,700 votes, which propelled him to a 56-44 point win.
He has already announced that he is seeking reelection next year. So far, he is the only candidate in the race. The final day to file is December 13.