A Longview attorney representing Henderson ISD Trustee Jon Best said his client denies paying two teenagers to damage the pickup of election challenger Adam Duey and steal Duey’s campaign signs.
In a statement issued Friday, lawyer Daryll Bennett said a phone call made by Adam Roberson, an associate of Best, to the trustee and recorded by the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office also proves Best did not know in advance that the teens would remove Duey’s signs. When Roberson asked Best if he wanted the boys to take more signs, Best said “no,” according to Bennett.
Best, 59, was arrested Sept. 27 on a felony charge of criminal mischief of between $2,500 and $30,000 in damage. He was released on $10,000 bond from the Rusk County Jail.
Duey is challenging Best in the Nov. 5 election for the District 5 seat Best has held since 2004.
Bennett said Roberson “quickly” resigned from his job with Best, a financial adviser, and moved out of Best’s parents’ home after Best confronted him about the phone call.
“Jon knows he did not ask these boys to do any of the mischief for him, nor did he pay them to remove any signs or damage any vehicle,” Bennett said in the statement.
Bennett said he sought this week under the state’s open records laws to receive the audio recordings and photos from a game camera.
However, he said Sheriff Jeff Price and District Attorney Micheal Jimerson decided instead to refer the request to the Texas Attorney General’s Office to inquire whether the evidence may be withheld until after the school board election.
“If there is nothing to hide, then why not give the evidence to Jon (Best) and the voters?” Bennett said in the statement.
Price confirmed that his office received an open records request and referred the matter to the state attorney general’s office.
He declined to comment further, saying he had had not seen Bennett’s statement, adding, “I just defer judgment on that. That case is an ongoing investigation.”
Jimerson said Friday that he wrote a letter supporting Price’s action, adding that in the event that a grand jury were to indict Best, all information would be turned over to his defense attorney.
However, he said the Best case has not been turned over to his office, adding, “It is always our policy (that) we do not comment on ongoing cases.”
Best was arrested seven days after Duey told the sheriff’s office that the tires of his pickup were slashed, according to a criminal complaint. Duey also reported his engine died shortly after he repaired his tires.
Duey said the damage occurred after he introduced himself to Best, with Best saying, “I will destroy you,” according to Duey.
Duey also reported his campaign signs being stolen and believed the sign thefts and damage to his pickup were “politically connected.”
A series of game camera photos taken Sept. 25 showed a pickup owned by Roberson was involved in stealing a campaign sign, the complaint said. The photos also showed a teenage boy getting out of the passenger door of the pickup and collecting the sign.
Roberson told authorities that the 17-year-old who stole the sign is a friend of his 16-year-old son, who drove the pickup without his father’s permission, the complaint said.
Contacted by authorities, the teens confessed to accepting $40 in cash from Best to steal Duey’s signs, the complaint said. The 16-year-old admitted to accepting $100 after Best gave him Duey’s address and asked him to slash Duey’s truck tires and put “a handful” of sugar in the gas tank.
The 16-year-old also said Best told him to “sabotage” Duey, and a third-party phone call between Roberson and Best corroborated the allegations.
Best has not made a statement since his arrest “for good reason,” Bennett said. “Only the truth should be told to the public. Not lies, not innuendos, and not partial conversations.”
Bennett was unavailable for comment Friday.