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Visiting judge to hear commissioner’s animal cruelty case

Billy Wall animal cruelty case

Burnet County Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall (left) with attorney Austin Shell listens in the Precinct 2 justice of the peace courtroom on Sept. 16 as attorney Eddie Shell and Assistant Williamson County Attorney Carson Walters discuss procedure with Mason County Justice of the Peace Treg Hudson. Attorneys for both sides in Wall's animal cruelty civil case wanted to move it to the Precinct 3 justice of the peace courtroom. Hudson finally agreed. The case is now going before the Burnet County Court at Law. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

A visiting judge from Williamson County will preside over a Burnet County Court at Law pre-trial hearing in the animal cruelty case against Burnet County Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall. Retired Williamson County Court at Law #1 Judge Kevin Henderson will conduct the hearing over Zoom. 

Set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, the hearing can be viewed on the Court at Law’s YouTube channel. Burnet County Court at Law Judge Linda Bayless, who is retiring at the end of the year, recused herself. 

Burnet County law enforcement seized 79 head of cattle from Wall’s ranch on Sept. 8 after investigating complaints that the animals were malnourished. The county commissioner is facing civil charges, although Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd said he will likely file misdemeanor criminal charges after the civil case is done. 

An assistant Williamson County attorney will serve as prosecutor as Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo also recused himself from the case. 

Walls’ attorney, Eddie Shell, filed motions for both mediation and a jury trial, which is standard procedure in a county court-at-law case, he told DailyTrib.com.

“Nearly all civil cases go through this,” he said. “We filed a motion asking that the case be sent to mediation. There’s a possibility to settle it again, I don’t know. A settlement is possible.” 

Shell also filed a motion asking for a jury trial and paid the $41 required  jury fee in case mediation fails or the parties don’t settle informally. 

“That leaves open the option of going to a jury trial,” he continued. “You have to make the demand for a jury trial and pay the jury fee just in case.” 

At the pre-trial hearing, Judge Henderson will likely ask about the chance for a settlement, Shell said. If it looks like the case will go before a jury, the judge will consult his calendar and set a date. 

The case was settled once already in the Precinct 3 justice of the peace courtroom. That settlement was abandoned and appealed to Burnet County Court at Law 11 days later. The settlement called for the county to sell the cows, which are being kept at the Burnet County fairgrounds, within 10 days. The money from the sale would go to reimburse the county for its expenses in seizing and caring for the animals. Any remaining funds would go to Wall. 

“What ruined the settlement was the sheriff’s comments,” Shell said. “He said he had no intention of selling the cattle within 10 days, which was a requirement of the agreement. It was obvious the agreement was not going to be complied with.”

Shell also said the sheriff was out of line with his comments about filing criminal charges. 

“He should not have made those statements,” he said. 

The cows were in no condition to be moved to market within 10 days of the settlement, Boyd told DailyTrib.com. He has been waiting for the go-ahead from the large animal veterinarian caring for the herd. 

No sale can happen now that the case has been moved to the county Court at Law, since it negates the earlier agreement, Boyd said. The case is back at square one.

suzanne@thepicayune.com