Full-nelson at Funplex: Did sheriff pull strings?

February 4, 2010 10:45:08 AM PST
An argument over a slice of pizza, where a teenager claims a man put him in full-nelson, has prompted a review by the district attorney's office. According to documents, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia was on the phone himself with one of his deputies at the scene moments after the incident.

What was supposed to be an afternoon of bowling and pizza at a family entertainment complex ended with what Terrance Earthly described as an assault of his co-worker.

"He grabbed him behind his back and put him in a submission move, something like that," said Terrance.

Although the accused, a reserve deputy with the Fort Bend County Precinct 2 Constable's Office, just got a citation and walked away, questions about what happened in the minutes after the alleged assault on January 16 have been swirling for days.

Why did Lewis Jefferson just get a citation and why did Sheriff Adrian Garcia himself get involved?

The incident report just obtained by Eyewitness News sheds some light.

According to the 17-year-old victim, Jefferson pinned him against the counter and demanded pizza. He was there with a group of 200 from The Fountain of Praise Church and apparently the Funplex had run out.

In his statement, Jefferson doesn't deny grabbing the boy but he called it horseplay.

"It didn't look like a playing matter, more like a wrestling move," said Terrance.

As a Harris County sheriff's deputy was trying to sort it all out, a pastor with the church handed him a phone. On the line, according to the report, was Sheriff Garcia asking questions, advising him the deputy he planned to call Jefferson's boss at the constable's office and then telling him to generate a report.

The next phone conversation the deputy had was with an assistant district attorney who refused criminal charges, instead suggesting that he issue a misdemeanor citation.

"He felt like he was assaulted at work," said Terrance.

Over the phone, Harris County Sheriff's Office Spokesman Alan Bernstein told us the sheriff "didn't do anything wrong or unethical."

Bernstein says Garcia called the constable's office as a courtesy and that he only talked to the deputy because the pastor called him. Bernstein went on to say they go "way back," but "as the report indicates, there was no special treatment."

The district attorney's office will decide.

Terrance believed the reserve deputy got off with only a simple assault citation because of his position, but the DA is also reviewing the sheriff's role all of this.

When we called the cell phone number listed on Lewis Jefferson's witness statement, the number he listed himself, a man answered and told us we had the wrong number.