City editor John Sliney District attorney John Green damaging story leads about Green. The most promising information came from a prisoner in the Midland jail who claimed that after he bribed Green in a pipe-theft case, the DA welshed on the deal and went on to convict the man. Ashley interviewed him four times in jail, but couldn’t verify his story and dropped it. But in the process, Ashley communicated with Texas Ranger Al Mitchell about the investigation, and Mitchell tipped off Green. On March 30 of this year, Green wrote to DeBolt to say he was conducting a four-part investigation involving the American staff. Green alleged that Ashley and Sliney were trying to influence grand jurors; that Sliney was involved in a gambling operation; that Ashley and Sliney had libeled Green in comments to other lawmen; and that Sliney was implicated in an election bribe. Felony indictment Three weeks later, Ashley and DeBolt went to Green’s office to ask the DA if he was “serious.” Green said yes, he was. The American then ran a detailed story about the DA’s allegations. DeBolt charged that Green was attempting to intimidate the paper “because of its vigorous and forthright policies of news reporting.” If you have anything, prosecute, Ashley and DeBolt told Green, who soon took them up on their advice. On May 4, the grand jury returned a felony indictment against Sliney for attempting to bribe Jimmy Edwards, a 4 The Texas Observer 1976 Democratic primary runoff candidate for county judge, to get him to drop out of the race with Mike Adkins. \(Edwards didn’t withdraw, but Adkins won urging Green to continue his probe of a gambling operation involving an unnamed American reporter. Sliney arranged to be mugged and printed on his day off. He posted a $5,000 bond. The grand jury notified Ashley that he could testify if he wanted to. Ashley declined the invitation. The panel subpoenaed the American’s courthouse reporter, Robert C. Borden, who refused to take the oath of secrecy. Borden was questioned anyway, and went on to write a story about his boss’ indictment, citing his own grand jury testimony. The American seemed to .have Green on the brain, but not altogether firmly. A week later, the paper slipped up in a five-sentence item that mentioned the DA. The American reported that a mistrial had been declared in a civil suit because Green, representing plaintiffs, compromised the proceedings by shaking hands with a juror. The paper ran a retraction the next day. The mistrial had been declared for another reason, it said. But Green, unsatisfied with the retraction, filed a $3.5 million libel and slander suit against the American and Ashley and DeBolt individually. The 22-page pe tition covered the waterfront, going into numerous allegations of libel and slander and winding up with the mistrial story complaint. DeBolt said Green’s’ allegations were groundless. Green filed his suit in district court, presided over by Judge C. V. Millburn, who sued the American himself in 1961 after the paper editorialized against Millburn and another judge for causing a court docket logjam by going on vacation at the same time. Millburn dropped the libel action in 1963, but is still on strained terms with the paper. Both Ashley and Sliney are former grand jurors themselves. After the grand jury report, Ashley wrote, “All too often in this country, grand juries have been victimized and used as a powerful weapon by ruthless and unconscionable prosecutors to punish their enemies and favor their friends.” The bribery indictment came as a surprise. If any bill was to be returned against Sliney, observers had expected one related to allegations of bookmaking. Green had stated publicly that Sliney had booked bets on sports events from his desk at the American and that the DA himself had placed a couple with Sliney. \(Green said, however, that his bets weren’t illegal because he didn’t pay “juice”a fee that goes to the bookie for the advice of Warren Burnett, his friend and attorney. Green, dressed in an open-necked blue shirt, slacks and cowboy boots, began an interview with this reporter by saying, “It’s a question of misuse of the press, whether one man [DeBolt] should control its views. It doesn’t believe in public schools, public roads, public officials. There is never a good article about a public official. It’s one man and one view. It’s irresponsible yellow-newspapering. It’s one-man control in the hands of a rich boy.” Green wouldn’t discuss the evidence he says he has in his files to support accusations against the newspaper and its staff. Asked if he objected to Ashley’s pursuit of the Midland inmate’s bribe story, Green said, “Newsmen should check a story out. The difference is irresponsibility, and that’s what was shown here.” He said he wrote to DeBolt “to give him an opportunity to clear his business up,” adding that it was common for him to alert parties when his office was conducting an investigation involving them. `All too often in this country, grand juries have been victimized and used as a powerful weapon by ruthless and unconscionable prosecutors.’
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.