By Ronnie Yeates
From The Defender – Vol 1, 2022
Dedicated to all Veterans including:
Virgil Poe, WWII U.S. Army Ted Poe, U.S. Air Force
Joe Pelton, U.S. Army Robert C. Pelton, U.S. Army
Jack Zimmermann, U.S. Marines Larry Moody, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army
Frankl Dunlevy, U.S. Army
And presently serving:
Sam Pelton, U.S. Army Terri Zimmermann, U.S. Marines
Ft. Campbell, Kentucky
In memory of:
Mike McSpadden, U.S. Marines Robert Paul Robbins, Jr., U.S. Army
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic: that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
Voting is not a privilege, it is a right, and many paid dearly for it. Remember this when you say “my vote won’t count” or “I’m too busy” or “I don’t care”– American men and women in uniform have served, or are currently serving, in the military to protect and preserve our democracy and YOUR right to vote. Many have died[i] or suffered permanent disabilities fighting for our freedoms.
Voting is our most fundamental right as Americans–many sacrifices have made it possible for our citizenry to be able to vote– from military actions to civil rights movements.
African-Americans won the right to vote in 1870 when the 15th Amendment[ii] ended the practice of denying the right to vote based on race, skin color, or prior servitude. This was the third of the Reconstruction amendments[iii]. Fifty years later, after a long struggle known as the Women’s Suffrage Movement, women earned the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th Amendment[iv].
Many black citizens were threatened or killed trying to exercise their right to vote. There were other voting obstacles as well. A “poll” or “head” tax had to be paid in person at the time of voting. It was imposed on all adults equally, regardless of income or property ownership. The poll tax was used in the South during and after Reconstruction as a means of circumventing the 14th Amendment[v] and denying voting rights to African-Americans.
The tax also created a burden on poor white Americans. This form of taxation gradually fell out of favor in the South in the mid-20th century, but it was not until the adoption of the 24th Amendment[vi] in 1962 that poll taxes were finally abolished as a prerequisite for voting in federal elections. They were later eliminated in all elections. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to enforce the already existing rights in a handful of Southern states.
Don’t take our freedoms for granted. Too many have sacrificed for our rights. Be smart in your voting decisions. Politics can be dirty business–false information is everywhere–so look at the source of these allegations. Remind others to vote. You can send out emails to people on your list and encourage them to vote. Since you as a lawyer may know more about many of the candidates, you can do a service for your contacts by giving them your choice of who is the best candidate.
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About the Author:
Robert Pelton is a Criminal Defense Lawyer with offices in Houston and Abilene, Texas. Mr. Pelton was awarded the State Bar of Texas Presidents Award 2020. Mr. Pelton has been named “Top Lawyer for the People” and one of Marvin Zindler’s “Marvin’s Angels” by H-Texas Magazine (2007). He was the personal lawyer for Marvin Zindler for 31 years. He was also rated by Super Lawyers (2014-18). Mr. Pelton is a Past President of HCCLA (1985-86), Founder and Chairman of HCCLA and TCDLA Ethics Committees (since 2011), a recipient of the Jim Bowmer Award for Professionalism from the Texas Bar College (2012); HCCLA Richard “Racehorse” Haynes Lifetime Achievement Award (2016); TCDLA President’s Awards (2011-18); and a United States Congress Proclamation from Congressman Ted Poe for his Zeal and Tenacious Defense of his Clients (2016). In the 1980s, Robert Pelton and Allen Isbell created Docket Call, now known as The Defender. Veteran of U S Army and Texas Army National Guard 36th Infantry Division.
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[i] Deaths in American Wars: Revolution (4,435); War of 1812 (2,260); Mexican War (13,283); Civil War (618,000); Spanish-American War (2,446), World War I (116,516), World War II (405,399), Korea (36,574), Vietnam (58,220), Gulf War (383), Iraq/Afghanistan (6,607). The American Prospect (May 26, 2014).
[ii] Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.
[iii] 13th Amendment abolished slavery. Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865. 14th Amendment provided citizenship rights, due process and equal protections. Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.
[iv] Passed by Congress June 4, 1919. Ratified August 18, 1920.
[v] Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.
[vi] Passed by Congress August 22, 1962. Ratified January 23, 1964.
By Evan Mintz
I’m looking for stories of Houstonians who have been charged with misdemeanors and directly benefitted from the recent pretrial reforms.
In 2016, Harris County was sued for using an unconstitutional cash bail system in its misdemeanor courts. In 2019, Local Rule 9 was implemented, setting out new regulations around misdemeanor pretrial systems. Under these rules, most people charged with a low-level crime in Harris County are released without a secured money bond — with exceptions for domestic violence, new crimes while on release or supervision, second DWI charges, and a few other circumstances.
So far the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Researchers have found a decline in repeat offending rates, decline in re-arrest rates, reduction in misdemeanor filings, and a decrease in the length of pretrial detention.
But while we have lots of data, we don’t have the stories about how these changes have impacted individual Houstonians. Under the old cash bail system, legally innocent mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, would remain stuck in jail simply because they didn’t have enough money. Even a few days in jail can inflict serious harm on an individual, causing them to lose their job, their home, or even their family.
In fact, we know that dozens Houstonians actually pleaded guilty to crimes they didn’t commit simply to get out of jail on a “time-served” punishment.
The misdemeanor reforms are supposed to put an end to these unjust and undeserved harms inflicted by cash bail. But the best way to tell that story is from the perspective of Houstonians who got to go home to their jobs, families and communities rather than stay stuck in behind bars.
The ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance worked with Brave New Films to tell the story about how bail reform in New Jersey helped people get back to their lives rather than suffer needlessly before trial.
It is time for Houston to tell our story.
Please reach out to me if you have anyone who would be interested in talking about their time in the Harris County criminal justice System and was materially aided by a PR release under Rule 9.
Houston, Texas – July 1, 2021 – In celebration of Independence Day, the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA) is holding its 12th Annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence on Friday, July 2 at 12:00 pm outside the courthouse in person at 1115 Congress Street, Houston, Texas.
Members of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA) will also be holding readings in front of courtrooms across the state. “We are proud to emphasize the patriotism associated with Independence Day,” said TCDLA President Grant Scheiner of Houston. “TCDLA recognizes the Declaration of Independence as a bedrock document that not only liberated the colonies but eventually led to the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the American rule of law—concepts criminal defense lawyers use every day to protect individual liberties in courthouses across the land.”
HCCLA President Joe Vinas said, “HCCLA is honored to continue, for the 12th consecutive year, its annual reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Harris County courthouse. It serves as a reminder to all about the sacred rights our founders fought and died for when establishing this great nation. Because of HCCLA leaders like Robb Fickman, this honored tradition has spread to all 254 counties in Texas, across the nation, and in some foreign countries around the world.”
The Reading of the Declaration of Independence by criminal defense lawyers is an annual tradition started by past president Robert Fickman. “We read the Declaration annually as a reminder that the fight against tyranny is a never-ending battle. We must always fight those who would rob us of our liberty,” said Fickman.
The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of the United States, and contains within its text the fundamental truths and unalienable rights that typify and embody the American way of life: …that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Please join us in honoring our nation’s most sacred document in the spirit of independence:
When: Friday, July 2, 2021
Where: Harris County Family Law Center
1115 Congress Street, Houston, Texas 77002
(southwest lawn of the courthouse)
Time: 12:00 PM
The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association is the largest local criminal defense bar in the United States with more than 700 active members.
This article is dedicated to the families and friends of all soldiers, sailors and Marines who did not survive war and those who did survive but suffered with battle fatigue Shell Shock, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
As a teenager, Virgil Poe, a 95 year old WWII veteran served in 3rd Army and 4th Army in Field Artillery Units in Europe (France, Belgium Luxemburg, and Germany). He recently was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his WWII service. Authorized by the President of France, it is the highest Military Medal in France. After the war in Germany concluded, he was sent to Fort Hood Texas to be reequipped for the invasion of Japan. But Japan surrendered before he was shipped to the Pacific. He still calls Houston home.
My Uncle Ernest Lowell Pelton was there with Virgil during the battle serving as a Medic in Tank Battalion led by General Gorge Patton. During the battle he was wounded while tending to 2 fellow soldiers. When found they were both dead and Lowell was thought dead but still barely alive. He ended up in a hospital in France where he recovered over an 8-month period. He then asked to go back to war which he did. Lowell was offered a battlefield commission, but declined saying, I do not want to lead men into death. In Anson Texas he was called Major since all the small-town residents had heard of his heroism. He suffered greatly after the war mentally and physically and ended dying in Anson Texas at age 52, living with my Grand Mother Pelton. She received a letter from President Lyndon Johnson in recognition of Lowell’s service to our country.
Robert Paul Robbins and Frank Dunlevy were 2 friends of mine who were both in 101st Airborne during Viet Nam. They both served in Tiger Force which was an elite group of soldiers. Robbie received 2 bronze stars and several purple hearts and was greatly affected by what he had seen and done Robbie recently died partly as a result of the
war. Frank is still going strong and a Vice President at Cowen and Co. The war affected them differently.
When my family members joined the army in WWII, they signed up for the duration of the war, not for two years or three years. They went over the pond as my uncle used to say and did not come back for over four years. When Lawyer Richard “Racehorse” Haynes was dodging bullets on Iwo Jima he was just trying to stay alive. My Abilene
friend William Ervin Sims, who recently died at age 92, carried a BAR, a browning automatic rifle, weighing 16 pounds up the hills of Iwo Jima. Those two men and many others fought 35 days without rest and managed to survive.
Memorial Day has traditionally been a day of observance for the men and women who died in the sacrifice of the cause they were fighting for. This day is different from Veterans Day in that Veteran’s Day is set aside to honor all Veterans. Since many in the WWII and Korean War generation are growing older, I felt it incumbent on me to honor
all Veterans by putting forth a short statement honoring those both living and dead who have served this great country. The soldiers mentioned here had war time wounds that indirectly led to their deaths.
John Saur is another Houston lawyer who froze for months when in Korea serving his country. John Saur was in the middle of the fighting and came back, finished college and law school and was a lawyer over 50 years. John recently passed away holding his 1st Cavalry hat in his lap.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday originally enacted to honor fallen Union soldiers after the Civil War. It was originally known as Decoration Day. Decorating the graves of their fallen soldiers was commonplace by Confederates even before the Civil War had ended, by southern ladies of Richmond and southern schoolchildren. The catastrophic
number of dead soldiers from North and South alike meant that burial and memorialization was very important after the war. Townspeople, mostly the women, buried the dead and decorated graves during the war. The oldest national cemetery was created in 1862. After Abraham Lincoln’s death, many events to commemorate the war began. The first such event was in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1, 1865. Union soldiers who died there were buried in unmarked graves. Freed slaves knew of this and decided to honor these soldiers. They cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground. On that day, nearly 10,000 people gathered to honor the dead and 3,000 school children and others brought flowers to lie on the burial field. Historians said this was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston. Black Americans, freed from slavery brought flowers and sang songs about the war.
Speeches on Memorial Day were a time for veterans, politicians, and ministers to commemorate the war. People of all religious beliefs joined together, and the point was made that immigrant soldiers had become true Americans because they had shed so much blood in battle. By 1870, much of the anger was gone and speeches praised the
brave soldiers of blue and gray. By 1950, the theme of Memorial Day was to uphold freedom in the world. Today, Memorial Day extends to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.
Tennessee was a divided state during the Civil War. Some of the families that served in the Union Army had family members joining the Confederates. My maternal great-grandfather Abraham George Washington Cox and great-great-grandfather Abraham Cox enlisted with the Confederate Army on the same day. Abraham George
Washington Cox was 15 and his father Abraham was 51. They served in the Tennessee Calvary. After the war, Abraham George Washington Cox rode a mule from Tennessee to Cooke County, Texas, got married, and had 12 children and named them after Confederate heroes. My grandfather was named Robert E. Lee Cox. Abraham George
Washington established the Mt. Zion School, Church, and Cemetery. Each year in May, our family meets there to attend “Graveyard Working” like the old customs that started Memorial Day. My paternal great-great-grandfather Joseph Washington Mathis fought with the 1st Alabama Infantry. He was captured at Island Tennessee on 4/8/1862,
escaped capture at Port Hudson, Louisiana on 7/9/1863 and was captured again in Nashville, Tennessee on 12/16/1864. He was held prisoner until the end of war. His children came to Jones County, Texas in 1899.
My son, who coincidentally was born on July 4, called me from the recruiting station when he turned 17. He said the recruiter would not let him join without my permission and would not let him be a military police officer. I got the recruiter on the phone and he laughed and said you will have to get permission from the Pentagon. I was in Ted Poe’s
court that morning and told him. He, himself a Veteran, made some phone calls and at 4pm that day a major at the recruiting station said, “Please don’t make any more phone calls, meet me here at 5pm and your son will be sworn in.” My son went to the US Army and was trained at Fort Anniston, Alabama as a military police officer. He served there and got out but was recalled after 9/11. He served again and left the Army as an E-5 with an Honorable Discharge.
My Brother Joe Pelton was a graduate of U S ARMY officer candidate school and was commissioned a second Lieutenant at age 20..My grandson Sam Pelton turned 18 in April and joined Army in June. He is now in training at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona and has been selected to go to Air Assault school and train and be a member of the 160th
Infantry NIGHT STALKERS. Ron McCoy’s grandson, Blue McCoy just finished jump school and now serving with 101st Airborne unit.
Remembering, Robbie Robbins and Frank Dunlevy and their service during the Viet Nam War 1966-68. Both Volunteered for Military Service and the Airborne, both served in the 1st Brigade , 1st/327th Battalion ,101st Airborne, made Famous as “The Band Of Brothers” and Commanded by Col David Hackworth (America’s most decorated Soldier of the Viet Nam War).
Robbie was awarded 2 Purple Hearts, and the Bronze Star and Frank was also wounded 3 times. Robby served in the Battalion Recon Platoon (The Tiger Force) this single Platoon had two members awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, an Army Unit record that stands to this day. Frank served in C Company, and the Cobra Recon Team, first as the RTO and then as the Team Leader. Their two units worked in close proximity to each other on multiple operations and were both involved in the Raid on the “Tuy Hoa Prison Compound” in late 1966, that freed 15 South Vietnamese Government and Military Officials from an NVA Prison Camp, with both Units being Awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for this action. Frank later served with the 82nd Airborne.
In June of this year, Frank will be Honored as “A Distinguished Member of the Regiment” in a ceremony being held at Ft Campbell Ky (Home of the 101st Air Assault Division) for his service in Viet Nam and his more recent Service in the Last Administration at the Department of State as Chief Banking Officer and Senior Advisor. He intends to specifically recall his High School Classmate “Robbie Robbins” in his acceptance speech.
From my friend Frank Dunlevy after talking with Kathleen Robbins, Robbie’s wife:
“Your comments on Robbie and his Bravery are so true. In addition, as the 101st Airborne, and the Tiger Force especially, were full of Brave Men, his courage and steadfastness stood out even within that small Fraternity.”
I am glad you still have his many medals as they reflect an extraordinary Military Career of heroism and service. One that you will probably find is the “Combat Infantry Badge” (That is the Silver Rifle, on the Blue rectangle Background, surrounded by the Silver Wreath) , this is the most highly coveted Award of all , as it is reserved only for Men who Served in a real Combat Unit and engaged directly with the Enemy.
On each Memorial Day, I read to my family the names of the 51 men in my Unit who did not return, and I always include Robbie’s name along with several others that I served with. In addition I read this short Poem by a Helicopter Pilot named MAJ Michael O’Donnell:
If you are able
save them a place inside you,
and save one backward glance when you are leaving
for the places they can no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say you loved them,
though you may not have always.
Take what they have left, and what they have taught you
with their dying, and keep it as your own.
And in that time when men decide, and feel safe, to call the war
Insane, take one moment to embrace these gentle heroes
You left behind.
Three months after penning this Poem, MAJ O’Donnell was killed attempting to rescue a LRRP Team that was under attack along the Cambodian Border.
Gentle Heroes All. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Robbie’s family this Memorial Day weekend.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields — John McCrae
…We cherish too, the poppy red That grows on fields where valor led, It seems to signal
to the skies That blood of heroes never dies… – Moina Michael
We all complain about high taxes, traffic, bad government, bad judges, bad prosecutors, bad presidents, and bad everything. The list is long on things we complain about. In America we have the right to complain. Try that in some foreign country and your life will be ended. We live in a free country where opportunity exists for all people. People from all over the world want to come to the United States of America.
Members of TCDLA and HCCLA and their family members who have served, or are serving, will be listed at the end of this article. They all need to be recognized for their sacrifices, be it large or small. Some of us were in the military reserve and some were in the middle of battle and saw their comrades dying around them.
Some were brave men who did extraordinary things in battle to fight for our country. One member at a recent seminar in Plano said, “I was only in the Naval Reserve.” I reminded him of the phrase by John Milton, “Those also serve who stand and wait.” Even those who were, or are standing in wait, are serving. As we have seen from recent
history, many of those who were standing and waiting were called to active duty and sent to foreign lands to serve and fight if needed. Many of those who were standing and waiting went overseas and never came back.
The problems facing Veterans have gained some attention and in many counties there is now a Veteran’s Court. They recognize that Veterans have special needs. Too many times, when representing a Veteran, I try to point out to the prosecutor that this person served our country and may have suffered some disability or some change that affected
the Veteran’s behavior. Too often I have heard the prosecutor say, “Well, everybody has some kind of excuse.” No, I point out everybody did not go through what the Veteran did. This attitude prevails in every court room across the state. Most of these people never served in anything, not even Cub Scouts. Few judges in the Harris County courts were in the military. The exceptions were Judge Mike McSpadden and Judge Ted Poe.
As lawyers representing Veterans, we need to get the military records and prepare a mitigation motion or motion to dismiss the case. We need to be vigilant in our fight for the Veteran client. If there is a Veteran’s Court, try to get the case transferred there. If there is no Veteran’s Court then try to get other Veterans to help you do your best for
the client. Get all the people from the VFW or American Legion to come to court and see what happens. Even bring the members of the Veteran’s motorcycle clubs, the Patriot Guard, and Rolling Thunder. Go to military.com to get a list of Veteran groups. If the Veteran has alcohol or dug problem, bring the AA or NA group too. It has proven to
be very effective.
Famous wartime quotes:
A good battle plan that you can act on today can be better than a perfect one tomorrow.
-General George Patton
Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.
Never trust a private with a loaded weapon, or an officer with a map and compass.
-A Murphy’s Law of Combat
You don’t win a war by dying for your country. You win a war by making the other son-of-a-bitch die for his.
-General George Patton
Richard Grenier said, as George Orwell pointed out:
“PEOPLE SLEEP PEACEABLY IN THEIR BEDS AT NIGHT ONLY BECAUSE ROUGH MEN STAND READY TO DO VIOLENCE ON THEIR BEHALF.”
The following members of TCDLA or HCCLA (or their family members or investigators) served in the military and we honor them all:
*Reiffert Riley Evans
Richard “Racehorse” Haynes
Robert Scardino, Sr.
G. Wesley Urquhart
Herman “Hymie” Trichter
Abraham George Washington Cox
Ernest L. Pelton
Wilmer M. Pelton
Joe L. Pelton
Robert C. Pelton
Robert O. Pelton
Joseph Washington Mathis
Robert W. Kelly
Rod Schuh, Jr.
Dr. Phillip Lewis
Dorsie Ray Green
James Matthew Ratekin
Matthew Brent Ratekin
John Hunter Smith
John David Leggington
Charles W. Tessmer
George Miner Jr.
Lorton E. Trent
Arthur Leslie Kagan
James Story Sr.
James Story II
John Patrick Callahan
David Patrick Callahan
Don BaileyJohn Hunter Smith
George E. Renneburg
John M. Economidy
Byron G, Economidy
John “Bud” Ritenour
Jeusu JD Garza
Benjamin Thomas Hudson Jr.
Dr. William Flynn
Herman “Hank” Lankford
Robert Harold Jackson
Arlan J Broussard
Ralph L. Gonzalez
Charles W. Lanehart
Theodore A. (Tip) Hargrove, III
Travis E. Kitchens
Zachary A. Garcia
Thomas Kelton Kennedy
David G. Ritchie, Jr.
Anne K. Ritchie
The following are friends who served in the U S Military:
Ronald Joe McCoy
Robert Paul Robbins
J. T. Hatteway
Butch Peterson (Killed in Action)
My Grandson Private Sam Pelton, serving in the U S Army. Private Pelton is now at Drone School at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. In August he will be going to Fort Campbell, Kentucky for more training. Sam has been selected to be in the 160th infantry NIGHT STALKERS.
HOUSTON, TEXAS – May 17, 2021 – The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA) began its 51st year on May 13, 2021. New officers and directors were inducted.
Please direct all future media inquiries to:
Joseph Vinas, HCCLA President
Vinas & Graham, PLLC
1210 W. Clay, Suite 12
Houston, TX 77019