By HANK MURPHY
Former Quitman police Capt. Terry Bevill has filed a federal civil suit alleging that he “became the target of a vindictive campaign of retaliation and punishment” over an affidavit he signed in June 2017, a violation of his First Amendment rights.
Named as defendants are the City of Quitman, Quitman Police Department, Sheriff Tom Castloo, former Quitman Mayor and current Mayor Pro Tem David Dobbs, former District Attorney Jim Wheeler, 402nd District Judge Jeff Fletcher and Wood County. The lawsuit, filed June 3 at the U.S. District Courthouse in Plano, seeks compensatory and punitive damages for “severe emotional distress, personal humiliation, mental pain and suffering, embarrassment, lost income and damage to reputation.”
Fletcher, Dobbs and Wheeler did not respond to messages seeking comment. Castloo said he could not comment on the matter.
Bevill alleges he was fired from his job with the Quitman Police Department and subject to arrest and aggravated perjury charges in retaliation for signing an affidavit in support of a motion for a change of venue sought by former Wood County Jail Administrator David McGee. At the time, McGee stood accused of tampering with a governmental document by changing the release date of a female inmate who he eventually took to Las Vegas. The affidavit, which had been prepared by McGee’s lawyer and signed by Bevill, claimed McGee could not receive a fair trial in Wood County due to pre-trial publicity and because of a “close personal relationship” among Fletcher, Castloo and Wheeler. Fletcher denied the change of venue motion. A Wood County jury convicted McGee on June 28, 2017, and sentenced him to two years in prison.
At the conclusion of McGee’s trial, Fletcher signed a warrant for Bevill’s arrest. The judge asserted that in signing the affidavit, Bevill had essentially lied under oath. Bevill had offered an opinion with no basis in fact, Fletcher stated in June 2017. “For Mr. Bevill to make a statement that we have close relationships that are somehow detrimental to somebody getting a fair trial, that’s just a blatant misstatement and a plain lie,” Fletcher stated in 2017.
The lawsuit claims that Bevill signed the affidavit believing it to be true.
In his lawsuit, Bevill also alleges that Castloo, Wheeler and Fletcher pressured former Quitman Mayor Dobbs and Police Chief Kelly Cole to terminate his employment. The suit claims that Castloo, Wheeler and Fletcher threatened retaliation against the city by withholding resources unless the police department fired Bevill.
Castloo addressed the Quitman City Council on June 22, 2017, the day after Bevill was fired. The sheriff expressed disappointment in the city’s lack of a public response to Bevill’s affidavit, according to the lawsuit. Castloo stated that he believed the Quitman City Council should have refuted Bevill’s statements and done more to support the sheriff’s office, the district attorney and the district judge, according to the lawsuit.
On Oct. 31, 2018, 16 months after he was charged and approximately 10 days after Wheeler had left the district attorney’s office while under investigation by the Texas Rangers, a Wood County grand jury found insufficient evidence to indict Bevill.
Bevill seeks a jury trial and is represented by attorneys Laura Benitez Geisler, Sean J. McCaffity and Jody Rodenberg of Dallas.