Former court coordinator accused of tampering with records appears in hearing closed to spectators, media
Hearing closed due to motion referring to sealed email correspondences
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A former Smith County district court coordinator appeared in a hearing closed to spectators and the media Thursday afternoon.
Toni Patterson White, a former court coordinator for the 7th District Court, is accused of intentionally concealing or removing approximately 4,532 governmental records from the 7th District Court’s online system with the intent to harm or defraud District Judge Kerry Russell, according to an April 2022 indictment. White is accused of removing the documents without legal authorization.
In May 2023, Judge Austin Reeve Jackson declared a mistrial in the case and recused himself. On Thursday, a visiting judge heard the case in a sealed hearing due to a motion filed that referred to emails previously sealed by Judge Jackson. The email correspondences reportedly involved Judge Russell, his court coordinator, and the special prosecutor assigned to the White case. Defense attorney Thad Davidson previously said the emails showed Judge Russell tried to obstruct justice and steer the outcome of the case.
In part, Thursday’s hearing centered around a motion filed by White’s defense team to dismiss the indictment against her. The motion referred to the sealed emails, according to Davidson.
“Because they (emails) were sealed but because I referred to them in the motion to dismiss the indictment, we felt we needed to file it as a sealed motion,” Davidson said. “So, the new judge sealed the hearing today because we had filed the sealed motion. However, when the hearing started the first thing the defense team did was ask for to the sealed part to be lifted. We asked for the press to come in and watch, and anyone who wanted to come in and watch. However, the judge denied that.”
Davidson said the judge did say future hearings would be open as long as they didn’t include sealed information. The judge’s decision on unsealing the email correspondences is expected to come at a later date.
According to Davidson, there are approximately 200 emails, while special prosecutor Elizabeth Severn said there are approximately 41.
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