Ellis County judge on suspicion of segregation-era ‘niggers’ sign vandalism in court

The controversy that recently arose over a historic sign from the segregation era in the basement of the Ellis County Courthouse has taken an unusual turn following an act of vandalism.

Ellis County Judge Todd Little is a suspect with another man in the degradation panel, which says “niggers,” court records show. The criminal investigation was assigned to Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot after Ellis County prosecutors requested a recusal order, according to records.

No one has been charged and he is still under investigation. Little could not be reached on Thursday for comment.

Someone last month spray-painted the sign, which hung above where a water fountain once stood and has been preserved as a reminder of past mistakes. The ensign has become the center of a controversy involving Constable Curtis Polk Jr., the only black person to hold an elected office at the county level, after Polk opposed in mid-November the transfer of his office to the basement of the courthouse and the obligation to see the sign. everyday.

After Polk’s story sparked a wave of negative publicity, Little offered the Constable a private office in the Waxahachie courthouse to resolve the issue. Then a YouTube video surfaced which apparently shows Little urging another man, Ernest Henry Walker, to spray paint on the panel, according to Ellis County Court records.

Patrick M. Wilson, the outgoing district attorney for Ellis County, wrote in a court file asking for disqualification that the act of vandalism, recorded by Walker and posted online, occurred on or about November 17. dated. The graffiti was an “attempt to erase historic signage from the era of segregation,” Wilson said in the document.

Little is “heard and seen” in the video, and he “encourages and directs” his alleged accomplice in the act of vandalism, the file says. When Walker finished degrading the sign, Little told nearby Ellis County Sheriff’s assistants to “step back and do nothing,” Wilson said on the file.

“Few could also be considered a person with a legal duty to prevent vandalism and who failed to make a reasonable effort to prevent the act from being committed,” Wilson wrote in the court record.

Ellis County Judge Todd Little talks about the move of the Ellis County office and the Segregation Era 'Negroes' sign on November 17, 2020 at the Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas.  Little is the subject of a criminal investigation for vandalism after authorities said he ordered an acquaintance to spray paint on the sign.
Ellis County Judge Todd Little talks about the move of the Ellis County office and the Segregation Era ‘Negroes’ sign on November 17, 2020 at the Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas. Little is the subject of a criminal investigation for vandalism after authorities said he ordered an acquaintance to spray paint on the sign.

And that could lead to criminal liability against the county judge, the DA added.

Little and Walker have a “long-standing pre-existing relationship”, the nature of which is unclear, Wilson wrote. Walker could not be reached for comment.

Ellis County DA said preliminary estimates indicate it will cost $ 750 to repair the damage, meaning vandalism charges could apply. The county sheriff has investigated the matter, and potential charges could include criminal mischief; reckless damage or destruction; or graffiti involving a public monument, according to court records.

Wilson said in his motion that an outside prosecutor should look into the matter to determine whether criminal charges are warranted because Little has authority over his office’s budget.

Creuzot was out of town and unavailable for comment. An official in his office said he had just received the court order appointing him but had not seen the file.

Lane Grayson, an Ellis County commissioner, said Thursday that vandalism was not the solution.

“Any damage to government property is an absolute insult,” he said. “This sign was left as a historical reminder of a place we should never go back to again.”

Grayson said the sign would be restored to its original condition and deserved to stay in the courthouse.

Ellis County Judge Todd Little, left, listens to Constable Curtis Polk of Ellis County District 3 talk about the cover-up of the Segregation-Era Negroes sign during a Facebook Live on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at the Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie Texas.  (Photo courtesy Ellis County.)
Ellis County Judge Todd Little, left, listens to Constable Curtis Polk of Ellis County Ward 3 talk about the cover-up of the Segregation Era ‘Negroes’ sign during a Facebook Live on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at the Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas. (Photo courtesy Ellis County.)

“I am very sad that this has happened and the circumstances in which it has happened,” he said. “What they did was okay to preserve that.”

The sign, which stood outside Polk’s office in a stairwell he used for storage, was discovered during renovations to the courthouse nearly 20 years ago. The peeled black and gold letters have been preserved and designated with a sign below, explaining that the sign once designated separate facilities for blacks.

At one point it had been covered with white paper and duct tape.

The Dallas County Records Building had a similar sign above a water fountain in the downtown Dallas building that said “Whites Only”. County officials hired an artist to make a video installation several years ago. The fountain shows video clips of civil rights protests on a special screen before releasing water.

Polk, 42, who has served as the Ellis County Ward 3 Constable since January 2019, said he decided to discuss his move to the basement because he had to ‘take a stand for me’ .

Little, an insurance industry businessman who had served as a county judge since January 2019, said in a public video statement at the time that he believed the former Ellis County officials had retained the sign ‘ so the evil of requiring people of another color to drink from another water fountain would never happen again.

Little also said that if the sign was “too painful for us to see in the future, we’re ready to change it.” Few said he had known Polk for years and that the commissioners’ decision to move offices to make room for a new court in the building was not intended to offend the constable. He also said there was no political or racial motivation behind the decision.

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