Complaint Against Candidate Filed with VZC District Attorney
A complaint has been filed in the Van Zandt County District Attorney’s Office in regard to VZC District Attorney candidate, Tonda Curry’s use of a representation of the State Seal on a political advertisement on her campaign Facebook page, which was reportedly deleted on February 1. Additionally, it has been discovered that Curry just took her Mandatory Brady Training, pursuant to Texas Government Code 41.111, required of prosecuting attorneys within 180 days of that attorney’s start date.
First things first. Private use of the State Seal of Texas is forbidden, and particularly in advertising for those seeking political office. In fact, it’s in black and white on the Secretary of State’s web site: Additionally, it is a criminal offense for a person other than a political officeholder knowingly to use a representation of the state seal in political advertising. Though the seal has “Van Zandt County” on the bottom of it and is for the County’s use, some would argue that it is a representation of the State Seal, just the same, because of the similarity, and the fact that “The State of Texas” is stamped above the five-pointed star. The seal actually appears on the VZC District Attorney’s page. Ultimately, the Texas Ethics Commission may need to make a determination.
In a telephone interview today with Curry, she explained that she had hired a Tyler, Texas marketing company called TAABS, Inc. which designed her Facebook page. “They took a picture of me and…something with a seal on it…” and created the image that promoted her candidacy on her Facebook campaign page. When VZC Republican Party Chairman Lance Lenz asked her about it, she took it down – on February 1, 2018. Curry pointed out a keyword in the law stated above: knowingly, and then claimed that she did not realize the seal had been used in creation of the page. She said that she had not looked at it, until Lenz contacted her on February 1. Therefore, she did not knowingly use a representation of the state seal.
Of the Mandatory Brady Training, Ms. Curry has been working in the VZC DA’s office since February 21, 2017, serving as Chief Prosecutor, and said this morning when asked specifically about it, that she had just completed the online Brady training and other Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses this month. She explained that the way it worked, was that CLE classes are supposed to be completed within one’s birth month.
However, upon review of the Texas Government Code 41.111, which explains the requirements of Mandatory Brady Training, it is clear that for prosecuting attorneys, Brady Training works differently than regular CLE courses. It must be taken within 180 days of the prosecuting attorney’s start date. So, it appears Curry was late in receiving her training. Though Curry had worked previously in the Smith County DA’s Office, she has been in private practice for several years. The Mandatory Brady Training went into effect January 1, 2014, after her time at the Smith County DA’s Office. Here are the rules for Mandatory Brady Training.
In the July-August 2015, Volume 45, No. 4 issue of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, Rob Kepple, TDCAA Executive Director in Austin wrote in an article titled, “Brady training reminder for new prosecutors”: If you are a relatively new prosecutor who has started the job in the last six months, remember that the law requires that you complete a course on Brady within 180 days of your start date.
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