HOUSTON – The defiant Wayne Dolcefino.
He was a T.V. journalist for ABC13 for decades. Then he went into private consulting. He makes videos. He investigates corruption for clients.
Sometimes he carries a pen with a hidden camera.
In 2020, Dolcefino was investigating a Harris County, Texas, commissioner and his wife. On June 30, he entered Judge Darrell Jordan’s courtroom. He had his pen with the camera.
Dolcefino asked the judge why he ignored complaints alleging public corruption.
The judge told Dolcefino not to ask questions. The court was in session.
The courtroom was empty, except for the judge, his clerk, and a bailiff.
Dolcefino asked again.
Judge Jordon threatened to hold him in contempt.
Dolcefino said, “You want to hold me in contempt for simply asking questions? Go ahead. I mean, we’re just trying to find out why our complaints have gone unanswered.”
Judge Jordan ordered the bailiff to arrest him. She escorted him to a holding cell conveniently located next to his courtroom.
Jordan had Dolcefino shackled within a few hours and taken to Harris County jail. Dolcefino spent the night there.
The following day, television cameras recorded guards returning Dolcefino to Jordan’s courtroom. Dolcefino was in handcuffs and a jail-issued orange jumpsuit.
The judge took his seat on the bench. He was the prosecution, judge, and jury.
He found Dolcefino was guilty of “Direct Contempt.”
Where the judge went wrong was in his evidence, in his role as prosecutor.
The judge described it a little different.
He said, “The spectator was disrupting court. He was warned three times, “Have a seat or leave the courtroom.” He refused. Kept demanding to interview judge. Upon final warning, judge stated he would be held in custody, to which spectator responded, “‘You do what you have to do.'”
He sentenced him to three days in jail and 180 days of probation.
Dolcefino went back to the county jail to complete his sentence.
Dolcefino appealed his conviction with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Judge Jordan added probation conditions. Dolcefino now had to carry an alcohol monitor and submit to random drug tests.
The appellate judges asked Judge Jordan his reason for arresting Dolcefino. He told them he disrupted his court while in session.
Dolcefino showed the appeals court a video recorded with a pen camera.
The appeals court held that the contempt charge “is not supported by the habeas corpus record.” This was judicial payback and indefensible. They overturned Dolcefino’s conviction.
Dolcefino filed a criminal complaint against Judge Jordan.
Fort Bend District Attorney Brian Middleton took the case. Prosecutors spent months investigating.
A Harris County Grand Jury indicted Judge Jordan for “official oppression,” a Class A misdemeanor prosecuted in felony court.
The indictment says he illegally held and punished Dolcefino without a hearing. Police arrested, processed, and released Judge Jordan on bond.
Dolcefino filed a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Commission to remove the judge.
“This guy does not deserve to be on the bench, period,” said Dolcefino. “If I had not had a hidden camera on me that day, Judge Jordan would not have been indicted. No one would have been able to argue about the violation of my rights that day.”
“There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance”- Walt Whitman.