DA: Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell criminal referral ‘very active investigation’

Investigations

A decision on whether an investigation into allegations of criminal conduct into Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell will happen is now in the hands of the Milam County District Attorney. (KXAN Photo)

MILAM COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) – In April, Georgetown attorney Robert McCabe put together a criminal complaint against Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell. McCabe accused the elected official of abusing his power and his own stay-at-home order.

Gravell – the day he signed an extension of the county’s “Stay Home Stay Safe” order forcing Williamson County citizens to shelter at home or face potential prosecution – decided to get a county deputy drive him to the Jarrell fire station so he could borrow a fire uniform. Gravell’s next stop was documented by photographs.

This picture of Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell taken April 7, 2020 led the Williamson County District Attorney to file a criminal referral, requesting an investigation into whether Gravell abused his power to attend his grandson’s birthday party. (Credit: Buddy Falcon Twitter Account)

Gravell stopped by his grandson’s birthday party; a move strictly forbidden under Gravell’s own emergency order.

McCabe said Gravell admitted to violating the law in a three-way phone call between McCabe, Gravell and Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick. The call happened soon after pictures of Gravell wearing the fire suit at the birthday party hit social media that same day.

McCabe initially filed his complaint with Dick’s office. Dick, who called himself a “witness” to what McCabe described as “admitted criminal conduct” by Gravell in the phone call, said he forwarded the Gravell complaint as a criminal referral to Williamson County Attorney Dee Hobbs.

Hobbs’ office held onto the complaint for weeks while Hobbs tried to figure out whether he held a conflict of interest in handling the complaint, according to Hobbs’ former general counsel Jason Nassour. A part of Hobbs’ office’s duties included acting as legal counsel for Williamson County Commissioners Court – a court over which Gravell presides.  

Hobbs later decided he couldn’t handle the Gravell complaint and forwarded it to Williamson County District Judge Stacy Mathews. Mathews also later recused herself from handling the Gravell matter.

In July, the Gravell complaint landed on Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht’s desk. Hecht eventually ordered a Bexar County District Court judge to decide which Texas prosecutor to hand the case to.

The Gravell complaint eventually ended up in the Milam County District Attorney’s Office. A county located right next door to Williamson County.

Texas Rangers ‘Reviewing’ Gravell Complaint

“This is still a very active investigation,” Milam County District Attorney Bill Torrey told KXAN in an Oct. 5 phone call. “I met with an investigating agency just last week,” Torrey said.

That investigating agency was the Texas Rangers.

Torrey, who declined to discuss the details of the Gravell investigation, said he’s made attempts to have the Rangers investigate the allegations against Gravell. “The Rangers haven’t said no to taking the investigation, but they haven’t agreed to take it, either,” Torrey said.

The Judge Bill Gravell Stay Home Stay Safe order details the criminal penalties for anyone caught violating the March 24, 2020 order issued in response to the coronavirus outbreak in Texas.

The Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed the Torrey meeting. In an email to KXAN, an unidentified Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson wrote, “The Texas Rangers did meet with Williamson County Attorney Pro Tem Bill Torrey last week. The Rangers are currently reviewing that information, and at this time there is no open investigation.”

Torrey got the Gravell case in June.

Aside from the pandemic’s impact on the speed of Texas courts since March, Torrey said Gravell “changed lawyers” at the end of August, which has caused a new set of attorneys to play catch up in defending the elected judge against a potential prosecution.

“The case is progressing,” Torrey told KXAN.

Torrey’s office, like the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office, doesn’t have the staff to perform investigations. Those offices have to refer complaints like this out to third-party investigative units like the Texas Rangers. Torrey tried to make that happen, but until the Rangers agree to open an investigation, the Gravell complaint is in limbo awaiting investigation.

Torrey did not have a timeframe on when the Rangers could decide whether to work on the Gravell case. The Rangers didn’t indicate any timeframe for a decision in the emailed statement to KXAN.

Since April, Bill Gravell has never responded to multiple messages seeking comment in this series of reports concerning the criminal allegations against him.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Austin-Travis County

More Austin-Travis County News

More Investigations

More Investigations

Latest Central Texas COVID-19 Cases

More Coronavirus Live Blogs

Trending Stories

Don't Miss