Dispute over hay bales leads to charges for Bertram police chief

Hill Country

BERTRAM, Texas (KXAN) — Bertram Police Chief James Jay “JJ” Wilson turned himself into the Burnet County Jail Wednesday after a grand jury indicted him on charges stemming in part from a dispute over bales of hay.

According to the grand jury indictment, Wilson, in his official role as police chief, dispossessed a man of his hay bales and threatened to tow his truck if he didn’t turn over the hay to a woman.

The police chief is also accused of threatening to have another man’s commercial driver’s license revoked if he and the first man failed to give the bales of hay to the woman.

Wilson is accused of making false statements under oath, claiming that a third man was acting irrationally and becoming aggressive toward officers as they tried to question him, referring to him in court documents as a “narcotics suspect.” The incident ended in the third man’s arrest for public intoxication.

The chief is also accused of intending to harm or defraud by releasing the non-public criminal history of a person to a third-party. He also allegedly asked for and received non-public information from a Bertram police officer in order to defraud or harm another person.

Wilson, 53, faces three charges of official oppression, a charge of misuse of official information and a charge of aggravated perjury. The latter two charges are felonies, the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office said.

Wilson told KXAN he maintains his innocence and will remain working as police chief. He plans to fight the charges filed against him. 

“I believe it’s a personal vendetta,” Wilson said. “It’s a witch-hunt with this [district attorney] investigator, who’s basically trying to get at me and look at me under a microscope and find something wrong somewhere that I’ve stepped out of line or done something wrong that he can go after an indictment on me.”

Sonny McAfee, the district attorney for the 33rd and 424th judicial districts, does not usually comment on pending cases, but he made an exception to refute Wilson’s claims. McAfee said the initial complaints and the ensuing investigations began outside his office. 

“As public servants we all have a duty to do what’s right, what’s just and what’s fair,” McAfee said. “That’s what we seek to do, and that’s what we’re seeking to do in this investigation and prosecution.”

“[This case] was presented to a grand jury, so a grand jury could review it. A grand jury returned indictments,” he added. “We don’t engage in witch-hunts. We’re more interested in trying to seek justice, as the law requires us to do.”

After the grand jury indictments were issued Tuesday, Wilson was processed at the county jail Wednesday morning and has already bonded out, according to the sheriff’s office.

The total bond was set at $101,000. Conditions of Wilson’s bond include drug testing, a substance abuse treatment and/or education program, no contact with a list of five people and their families and no possession of firearms or ammunition.

Bertram city leaders are standing behind Wilson.

Mayor Adam Warden wrote in a statement, “Chief Wilson has served the City of Bertram professionally and ethically for over three years. During his tenure, he has given the City no reason to doubt his integrity and has become a valuable part of the Bertram community. We will certainly follow the pending Burnet County case but do not anticipate a change in his position or responsibilities at this time.” 

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