A former justice of the peace and a string of law enforcement officers paraded to the witness stand Tuesday in the first day of testimony in the trial of suspended Clay County Sheriff Jeffrey Lyde.
Lyde is charged with two counts of official oppression and two counts of tampering with government documents in connection with the jailing of a Henrietta couple in 2021. Clay County deputies arrested the couple following a domestic disturbance. The couple denied they were fighting. The present trial only relates to the man who was arrested, Landon Paul Goad.
The charges allege Lyde held Goad and Sarah Lynn Johnson longer than the law allowed without charges being filed against them.
By Texas law, people suspected of misdemeanors may only be held for 24 hours without being charged and those suspected of felonies may only be held 48 hours. Goad and Johnson were arrested on a Saturday night and were not released until the following Tuesday.
John Swenson was the justice of the peace of Clay County at the time and was magistrate for jail cases, he testified Tuesday he found no probable cause to hold the couple, meaning they should have been released. Lyde is also charged with tampering with a government document for allegedly concealing the affidavit that showed there was no probable cause for the arrests.
Joseph Cohen, a Clay County jailer at the time, testified Lyde had told the jail administrator to hold the couple until the last possible moment, and that Johnson attempted to hang herself with a shower curtain during her incarceration.
Cohen also said he became disturbed about a pattern of misdemeanor suspects being held longer than the 24-hour maximum.
Constable Joshua Ferguson, who was an arresting deputy at the time of the incident, said he was told Lyde had said he could hold suspects in domestic violences cases for a longer period of time. He also said after Lyde took office in 2021, he and Swenson had a falling out and Swenson began magistrating suspects every other day rather than daily.
Jurors listened to a lengthy news conference on YouTube in which Lyde told his side of the story about events related to the indictments filed against him. Special prosecutor Staley Heatly said Lyde told lies during that news conference. In his opening statement, Heatly said the case boils down to Lyde holding someone illegally in jail and concealing the probable cause affidavit that would have freed him.
Lead defense attorney Robert Estrada withheld his opening statement until later in the case.
The charges against Lyde are Class A misdemeanors which carry a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and $4,000 fines if he is convicted. Because he is an employee of the county, Clay County is picking up his legal costs.
The case is being heard by Senior Justice Lee Gabriel in Montague on a change of venue.
Lyde was suspended from office in February on unrelated allegations of sexual harassment of women in the Sheriff’s Office.
This article originally appeared on Wichita Falls Times Record News: Former JP, law officers testify in first day of Jeffrey Lyde trial
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