Charges tossed after Hays County constable arrests one of his own

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For months, Ray Helm would not agree to an interview with KXAN. We found him at a Feb. 5, 2020 candidate forum.

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) – When Gary Griffin rolled his car into the Hays County jail parking lot in January, he knew he was about to go through the same process he put hundreds of people through in his 30-plus year law enforcement career.

He took off his belt, shoelaces, rings and wallet and locked it all inside his trunk.

Then Griffin made the long walk into the lobby doors to surrender to Hays County jailers. He was fingerprinted and had his mugshots taken, then put inside a jail cell where he’d spend the next 13 hours.

Hays County jailers took Gary Griffin’s mugshot hours after he voluntarily surrendered to the county jail to face five charges in January 7, 2020. (Hays County Photo)

“Because of my background, because I was a good cop, I got warrants on me, I need to self-surrender,” Griffin told KXAN during an interview last week. “I don’t need to be running from the law or ditching the law, I need to turn myself in,” Griffin said.

Griffin was handed five separate warrants: two were felonies, three were high-level misdemeanors. The charges came from Hays County Precinct 3 Constable Ray Helm. Helm accused Griffin of stealing public records from the Precinct 3 office during his employment under Helm.

The paperwork had “No bond” noted on it, Griffin said. That’s a status typically reserved for people charged with crimes who are believed to be a flight risk or a danger to the public and are held in jail until trial.

Griffin was later released on a personal recognizance bond, which meant he walked out of jail without paying any bond. This is the bond setting reserved for defendants whom judges and prosecutors believe are no risk to the public or failing to show up for court dates.

Griffin, who was the elected Precinct 1 constable in Williamson County for more than two decades, went to work under Helm as his second-in-command in 2017 and helped Helm manage the Hays County precinct.

Griffin left Helm’s office in June 2019. Helm issued Griffin an “Honorably Discharged” status, which means Griffin resigned in good standing and was “not because of pending or final disciplinary actions or a documented performance problem,” according to Griffin’s separation form Helm filed with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, also known as TCOLE.

In November 2019, Griffin filed a formal complaint with TCOLE, alleging Helm falsified body camera training records from a June 2019 TCOLE-sanctioned training. The training awarded state-mandated training credits to Helm and 11 of Helm’s deputy constables.

Griffin told the commission Helm had committed a felony offense of tampering with a government record by submitting the training roster for law enforcement credits—a roster Griffin contended was falsified.

TCOLE substantiated Griffin’s complaint, finding one deputy constable never even took the course, but that Helm submitted a roster showing he had. None of the officers listed on the roster spent the required two hours in the training, TCOLE found.

TCOLE Executive Director Kim Vickers issued Helm a written reprimand over the training but did not sanction him further.

Hays County District Court Judge David Junkin reviewed the probable cause affidavits filed by Ray Helm, then issued five arrest warrants for Gary Griffin. (KXAN Photo/Tim Holcomb)

Just six days before TCOLE issued Helm the reprimand, Helm sought five warrants for Griffin’s arrest. Helm handed Hays County District Court Judge David Junkin five probable cause affidavits in January.

On Jan. 7, Junkin accepted Helm’s assertions and issued five arrest warrants for Griffin.

Judge Junkin did not respond to a request for comment for this report and to answer questions about his decision to sign the warrants. Instead, Junkin had his court administrator respond to say, “It’s the policy of the court not to comment on a pending or impending proceeding,” Steve Thomas told KXAN.

Insufficient evidence

After Griffin’s arrest, the case was sent to Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau for prosecution. Mau filed a recusal in the case, telling the court neither he — nor anyone in his office — would handle Griffin’s prosecution.

The court sent the case to Caldwell County District Attorney Fred Weber. Weber spent a little more than a month reviewing the case file and conducting interviews.

On March 10, Weber sent District Attorney Mau two letters — both letters telling Mau that Weber would not be pursuing a prosecution on any of the five charges against Griffin.

Gary Griffin served as the elected constable in Precinct 1 in Williamson County for more than 20 years. After he was arrested, his retired peace officer credentials were stripped. He got his credentials back on March 12. (KXAN Photo: Jody Barr)

None of the five charges ever made it to the grand jury and Hays County court records show Griffin was never formally arraigned on the charges.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances the State believes there is insufficient credible evidence to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt,” Weber wrote to Mau in his March 10 letters.

“In my mind, in my heart I knew I was being wrongfully charged but I had to submit to the process. That’s the law and I did because I’m a good cop. Everybody’s supposed to follow the rules. Everybody. Even guys that wear badges,” Griffin told KXAN.

Griffin denied he stole any record from the constable’s office. He faced more than a decade in prison if convicted of the charges.

The day after Griffin received the Weber declination letters he began the work to have his peace officer credentials restored, along with getting his hospital security and his National Guard post reinstated.

Griffin also went back to Williamson County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office to get his retired peace officer certification back. The certification allows retired Texas peace officers to carry a badge and a firearm in places where any other officer can carry. 

Helm would have likely been one of the state’s main witnesses had the Griffin prosecution proceeded to trial. Helm claimed in a Jan. 15 email to KXAN that he spent three months investigating “who took and stole documents from this office.”

“I interviewed every one of my employees about the incident,” Helm wrote in the email.

But, Griffin said his attorney requested Helm’s investigatory documentation and only received copies of the five probable cause affidavits used to have Junkin sign the arrest warrants. Griffin said his attorney never received any of Helm’s written reports or any documents showing who Helm interviewed during the investigation.

“It was retaliatory, and I will say something I told you once before: a blind man could see it was retaliatory. That’s how egregious, how blatant it was,” Griffin said.

Helm never responded to a request for comment concerning the district attorney declining to prosecute the charges he swore out against Griffin. But, at a Feb. 5 campaign forum, we asked Helm about Griffin’s claims the charges were payback for Griffin filing complaints against him.

“Can I ask you what led to you investigating your former second-in-command?” KXAN investigator Jody Barr asked Helm.

“I already told you I’m not going to answer that investigation,” he responded.

Hays County Precinct 3 Constable Ray Helm has not responded to a request for comment concerning the charges he sought against Gary Griffin being declined for prosecution. (KXAN Photo: Tim Holcomb)

“Were the charges you leveled against Gary Griffin any sort of retaliation for what’s been going on?” Barr asked.

“No comment, go on,” Helm responded as he walked away during the Feb. 5 interview attempt.

“It’s so far beyond the pale. I mean, to file a case that has no supporting facts, no research, no interviews, no investigation, no offense report — he even communicated that in an email he pushed everybody, including yourself (KXAN), responded to you that said he had conducted a three-month investigation and interviewed and took statements from all the other deputies. That didn’t happen,” Griffin said.

“If it would have happened, we would have had those documents,” Griffin told KXAN in an interview last week.

Griffin said he’s hired an attorney and is considering suing Helm and Hays County over what he calls an “unlawful” arrest.

Helm is currently the subject of investigations by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and the Hays County Auditor’s Office. Neither agency has closed its investigations as of this report.

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

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