Harrison County District Attorney Mishandled Child Pornography Evidence in Case, Claims Defense Attorney Mark Lassiter

Coke Solomon

District Attorney Coke Solomon

Dallas criminal defense attorney, Mark T. Lassiter, is representing former Hallsville ISD track coach, Dean McDaniel, in a case involving improper teacher-student relationship accusations. McDaniel was accused of engaging in sexual contact with a 15-year-old student. In planning for the case, Lassiter requested to see all evidence in possession of the prosecution. District Attorney Coke Solomon, mailed Lassiter a disc containing over 80,000 text messages listed as evidence. The messages came from the phone of the prosecution witness, a 17-year-old male high school student.

Upon reviewing the messages in the course of his case review, Lassiter discovered multiple nude photos of young women, solicited by the witness, one of which is the victim of the charge brought against McDaniel. Appalled by what he was seeing, Lassiter immediately stopped viewing the messages and arranged a time to turn the disk over to the Longview Police Detective, Audrey Wright. As stated by Lassiter, “the Harrison County district attorney is not allowed to distribute child pornography to me by mailing me the disc.” Lassiter blames the District Attorney for mishandling the evidence and not following proper protocol for the kind of evidence that was found.

As outlined in Texas statute, when evidence contains child pornography, the DA is supposed to keep the evidence locked up, and arrangements have to be made to view it. In this case, the DA, Coke Solomon, did not take the time to review the evidence before mailing it to the defense, disregarding the possibility of sensitive material, and increasing the risk of it being exposed the others. Solomon, potentially unaware of the statutes regarding evidence containing child pornography, incorrectly said that he and Lassiter have the right to view all evidence in criminal cases, which could contain child pornography. In regards to why he did not go through the messages, Solomon stated that he was required to turn the evidence over to the defense “as soon as possible,” according to the Michael Morton Act. When pressed further, Solomon admitted that he did not know the specific time limits in the act.

On May 23, 2017, Lassiter filed a motion notifying the court of improper evidence and accusing Solomon of improperly distributing child pornography. Longview police currently have possession of the disc. They will review the evidence and determine what should be done moving forward. In a final statement about the shocking images, Lassiter says, “this is child pornography and solicitation of a minor. I have made the DA aware of a crime, and he’s unwilling to do anything about it. The ball is in their court to do what is right.”

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