Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker and City Councilman Chris Nettles will face no punishment after a Tarrant County judge dismissed contempt of court charges they were facing.
The mayor and councilman were alleged to have violated a gag order with statements made before the conclusion of the trial of former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean.
The day Dean’s guilty verdict was handed down, Nettles and Parker made public statements about the case.
Dean was arrested and charged with murder in October 2019 for fatally shooting Jefferson in her home while responding to a neighbor’s call about an open door at the house.
About two weeks later, Judge David Hagerman, who was then presiding over the case, implemented a gag order that prohibited lawyers and others directly involved in Dean’s trial from speaking publicly about the case until it was over.
Parker and Nettles were sworn in as possible witnesses during pre-trial hearings about the defense team’s motion for a change of venue, making them subject to the gag order.
From his bench shortly before noon on Wednesday, January 4, Judge George Gallagher said he spoke to both Nettles and Parker, and each apologized for making statements before Dean’s sentencing took place last month.
“I want everything involving this Aaron Dean case to be finished. This was a tragic situation involving our community and it continues to be more tragic with the illness of Miss Carr. She attended this hearing and you could tell she was very sick. So it’s time for us to move on,” Gallagher said Wednesday, referring to Jefferson’s sister Amber Carr, who has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
“With that, I will make no finding of any type of actions against either Mayor Parker or Councilman Nettles,” Gallagher continued. “I’m satisfied that their actions were not intentional and it’s time for us to move on.”
Mayor Parker did not attend Wednesday’s hearing in 396th District Court. Judge Gallagher said Parker had a conflict with her schedule and appeared early the day before.
Councilman Nettles was at the Wednesday hearing, which lasted about two minutes.
Judge Gallagher cautioned the councilman that his remarks could have an effect on future jurors and that his comments could cause residents to be concerned about doing their civic duty.
After the hearing, Nettles made a brief statement, apologizing to the community and vowing it would not happen again.
He also thanked the Fort Worth community for its support, as several community members attended Wednesday’s hearing.
“This is over as of today,” Nettles said.
Parker released a statement after the hearing on Wednesday.
“As Mayor, I felt that I had a great responsibility to communicate to the Fort Worth community following a verdict around a tragedy that deeply impacted so many in our city,” the mayor said. “I respect Judge Gallagher’s responsibility to ensure a just and fair trial, and I appreciate that we have found resolution on this issue.”
Contempt of court is defined as any action that is disrespectful to the court or that obstructs the administration of justice. Contempt of court charges in Texas district courts can carry a maximum fine of $500 or a maximum prison sentence of six months.