News : Who Made James Myart ‘king of police accountability?’ 

He did (but all the media coverage doesn’t hurt)

An infestation of TV crews were still feeding at last Thursday’s big news event, the showdown on Gembler Road, when Martha Carter arrived. She’d just sent her son care of EMS to the hospital. But the huddling heads were still reporting that no one had been hurt during the SWAT-team incident, sparked by a confrontation between three men and an off-duty Bexar County sheriff’s deputy serving papers at the Willow Springs apartment complex, where Carter’s sister lives.

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Hand James Myart the microphone: the lawyer, at right, with client Musheer Ali.

As soon as Carter showed up, she told reporters that her son, Jonathan Smith, 22, had been a bystander during the standoff, and the SWAT team handcuffed, dragged him, and kicked him in the mouth. Carter says the cops released Smith at the scene and he drove to her house in northeast Bexar County with an alleged boot print on his back. SAPD Internal Affairs is investigating their complaint.

“When I saw my son, and I saw his face, I called EMS,” Carter later told the Current. “His face was swollen, wrists bleeding I told `EMS` that my son had been assaulted, but I didn’t say it was the police that did it because I didn’t want them to be biased.”

When the curious mother made it to the Gembler scene, during live news broadcasts, a TV newscaster gave her a word of caution off-camera. Carter says he told her the station wanted to hear her story, so she should give a call when her son got out of Northeast Baptist Hospital.

Out of the cobalt blue, he added, “By the way, don’t call James Myart.”

“He said, ‘People don’t listen when he gets involved.’ Which is why I called him. ’Cause if they told me not to, they’re scared of him, because people are listening to him,” Carter rationalized. Besides, she’d seen Myart before.

“I saw him on the news, with something to do with MLK.”

Without a doubt, the Eastside lawyer has made scriveners and news hens his playthings the past few weeks. He’s admitted to the Current on several occasions that he’s a grandstander, and he does it for the coverage. You might remember Myart from such primetime reports as “Civil disorder: Lawyer disrupts Martin Luther King III poverty discussion. Led out in handcuffs by assistant chief, while shouting about SAPD coverups. No one remembers much else about the event.” (“I staged that,” he said immediately afterward, smoking a cigarette, grinning, and vexing the Current in Cheshire-Cat style.) Or you might remember him from such unusual and ongoing lawsuits as “Me and my client, death row’s Ronnie Joe Neal, are suing Bexar County jailers for not responding fast enough to the inmate’s pill-swallowing, suicide attempt. Pay him $35 million.”

Then there are Myart’s excessive-force suits, some from 2005, filed against various law-enforcement agencies (one civil-rights complaint against the DA’s office is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice). To date, none of these police-abuse cases have led to indictments or cash settlements.

But Myart’s media star continues to soar, especially after last Wednesday. That’s when he negotiated the handover of a murder suspect at his Eastside law offices, and to the very assistant police chief who had cuffed the lawyer two weeks earlier.

The murder suspect’s family had already retained lawyer Maurice Anthony (also onhand for the showy surrender), but Myart says they recruited the police-accountability advocate as a precaution: “They were concerned about their son’s safety and being arrested on the street.”

So Myart called every news outlet in town to witness the cachet he has with both the community and the public servants he criticizes most often. He claims that Assistant Police Chief Jerry Pittman was “upper management,” there to ensure his client wouldn’t be roughed up (and in the back room Myart assured his client that since Pittman was the force’s leading Black, he’d be cool). At first glance, you might think the media was called in to influence a jury pool by televising an uncommon and choreographed gesture. (Nobody makes an appointment with top cops for an onsite capital-murder arrest, and Cliff Herberg at the DA’s office said he wouldn’t do it. Pittman said there was nothing wrong with accommodating the request, it diffused the situation. And Myart has no special pull with him.). But the event feeds the Myart-made myth that he is indeed the “King of Police Accoutability.”

“You’re having a very busy year, sir,” Fox 29 news personality Sylvia Rincon told Myart, right before taping the spectacle.

Myart’s coverage is more effective than the low-production personal-injury-lawyer ads played inbetween Judge Judy and Texas Justice. (Myart later told the Current that although he had been fined $1,000 earlier that morning for missing court, getting into the news once again was a “sound business investment.”)

And people like Martha Carter, whose son was on Gembler Road, are enlisting his services. Against popular advice. Why?

“I really don’t trust the police,” Carter says. “I feel that they’re overprotective of one another, they’re brothers. There’s a lot of talk basically on the East Side amongst African Americans, that there’s illegal things going on. They’re talking about cleaning up the streets, they need to clean up the force first. It makes me nervous. Back in the day you used to worry about your kids fighting. They’re all driving-age now and I worry about racial profiling and them being bullied by police.”

More by Keli Dailey



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