Change of Venue, Media Restrictions Requested in Sex Assault Case PDF  ICON_SEP Print ICON_SEP  E-mail
Written by Mary McDonald   

Numerous motions were filed on November 19, 2012, by Attorney David Moore of Limestone County on behalf of La’Donna Brackens, who has been charged with two counts of Indecency with a Child, and one count of Sexual Assault of a child in Freestone County, Texas.

In a motion for a change of venue, Ms. Brackens is asking that her case be transferred to Limestone County, Texas, citing adverse publicity from the media.

"…the pretrial publicity generated as a result of this case has been so great that it has produced so much prejudice in the community that the likelihood of the Defendant receiving a fair and impartial trial is doubtful," reads the motion.

The motion indicates that media attention in the case is "pervasive, prejudicial, and inflammatory" and "has permeated the community to such an extent that the veniremembers’ initial opinion, if any, could not be set aside."

The record also charges that, "Because La’Donna worked for the school district and because the co-defendant is a member of the clergy, this case has generated so much media attention in Freestone County that it is doubtful La’Donna Brackens will be able to receive a fair and impartial trial in Freestone County."

(The co-defendant is Anthony Thibodeaux, pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in Fairfield)

Acheera-Hortensia Muñoz and Tami Small have entered affidavits supporting Brackens claim.

Muñoz claims that the Freestone County Times, Teague Chronicle, Waco Tribune, Corsicana Daily Sun, KXXV-TV, Channel 10 and the Fairfield Recorder all carried stories about the arrest.

Muñoz further wrote, "A lot of negative media attention toward La’Donna has resulted in a lot of people knowing more information about this case than they are supposed to know. This information is normally kept confidential, but in this case has been leaked to the press and set up a situation within Freestone County such that trying to get an impartial jury will be impossible, because too many people appear to know too many facts in the case. Most everyone in the community has already made up their minds to convict."

Muñoz indicated that "La’Donna Brackens and Anthony Thibodeaux had a prior history that the Church knew about." The affidavit charged that this was being used to "coerce La’Donna Brackens into saying something happened that didn’t" to get the pastor removed.

Small indicated that at the heart of the situation was that some members of the church had been trying to remove the pastor (Thibodeaux).

Small identified herself as "not a member of the church." She said that she had heard or read reports on TV Channels 10 and 25 and local media.

Small also felt that too much information had been "leaked to the media."

Another motion filed is to restrict publicity.

Brackens is requesting that all pretrial hearings be in chambers outside the presence and hearing of the public and the press as evidence produced by Brackens, according to the motion, might impair the possibility of obtaining a fair and unprejudiced jury.

Brackens seeks to further restrict the media from taking photographs in the courthouse of the defendant, witnesses, or any persons connected with the proceedings including the jury; from photographing, televising, or broadcasting these proceeding in or from the Courtroom or proximity as to disturb the order and decorum of the trial; and not photograph Brackens during or at any time while being transported to the Courtroom.

The motion asks that media be restricted from reporting in detail the evidence obtained by the Court, during pretrial healings, other than reporting that certain persons testified at the hearings.

If the motion passes, no person, police officer, witness, court participants, or counsel will be allowed to comment to the media on any matter concerning this case at any time during the pretrial or trial.

La’Donna Brackens’ affidavit alleges that JoAnne Wilson, sole managing conservator of the alleged victim, and others set about trying to disrupt the church leadership at Fairfield Missionary Church, and she has been caught in the middle of false allegations instigated by the child’s guardian, who is seeking a money settlement from the churches’ insurance company.

As support for this affidavit, a letter dated October 18, 2012 to Insurance Plus and a copy of the petition indicate that JoAnne Wilson intends to file a civil suit against Anthony Thibodeaux, La’Donna Brackens, and Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church, seeking $750,000.

Several other motions filed are requests for various evidences and potential witnesses.

The next court hearing will be a Status Hearing on January 10, 2012 with the trial set for February 4, 2013.