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Woman Who Could Have Been Released for $30 Dies After Spending 150 Days in Custody

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Janice Dotson-Stephens, a 61-year old Black woman, died while in custody five months after being arrested for misdemeanor charges, in which she could have been released on bond for only $30. Her family, who didn’t know that she had been in jail until she died, is suing the authorities involved, claiming that Dotson-Stephens could not have been jailed in the first place because she is mentally ill.

Dotson-Stephens was arrested on a criminal trespass charge after consistently telling the police that she wouldn’t leave the Mt. Zion elder community at San Antonio on July 17. According to a police report, she told the officers that the only place she would go is the jail. The officers did so and booked her into the Bexar County Jail.

Her bail was set to $300, and because most bail bond companies would only require at least 10 percent payment to be bailed out, she could have been released for just $30. But she died five months after her arrest. The medical examiner’s office stated that she died of natural causes.

“The question is, ‘What did you do to treat her?” said Les Sachanowicz, the attorney representing the family. “Did you give her the standard of health care that the community would have?”

Dotson-Stephens’ family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Bexar County, Bexar County Pre-trial Services, and the University Health System.

“We’re convinced that their mom was ignored to death, and what I mean by that is there is a culture of deliberate indifference for her and other inmates in the pre-trial system and at the Bexar County Jail,” Sachanowicz said.

Brigette Lott, Dotson-Stephens daughter, said her mother suffered from a long history of mental illness including severe mood disorder and schizophrenia. She argued that her mother could have been brought to a mental health institution rather than the jail after the arrest.

“It was absolutely normal that my mom would just leave and we might not hear from her for a long time,” Lott told San Antonio Express-News. “That was normal for us. We were under the assumption that it was a regular cycle. She’ll get in trouble, then she’ll get better, then we’ll start the cycle all over again.”

Meanwhile, Bexar County officials claim that they weren’t informed of the mental health issues of Dotson-Stephens and said she was given proper care during her imprisonment.

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Former Longhorn Benson dies

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AUSTIN, Texas — Former NFL and Texas Longhorns running back Cedric Benson, one of the most prolific rushers in NCAA history, has died in a motorcycle crash in Texas. He was 36.

Benson’s attorney, Sam Bassett, said Austin law enforcement told him that Benson was killed in the wreck Saturday night. Bassett said he did not have details about what happened.

“Cedric was not just a client, he was my friend,” Bassett said. “He was immensely talented and fierce on the football field, yet most have no idea the difficulties he overcame to achieve what he did. Though imperfect in some respects, once Cedric was your friend you understood how kind, sensitive and loyal he was as a man.”

Benson was one of the top high school recruits out of the West Texas town of Midland. According to Texas Football magazine, he is eighth on the career rushing list for Texas high schools. He led Midland Lee to three straight state championships, the only three in school history, from 1998 to 2000.

He then went on to be a key player in the Longhorns’ resurgence under coach Mack Brown. Benson played at Texas from 2001 to ’04, and his 5,540 yards ranks second at the university behind Ricky Williams’ total and ninth in NCAA history. He scored 64 career touchdowns with the Longhorns and won the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, in 2004.

He was the only player in school history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in four seasons and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Honor in 2014.

Brown and Williams took to social media to pay tribute to Benson after learning of his death.

Tom Herman, the current coach at Texas, also expressed his condolences.

“It’s an unbelievably sad day with the news of the passing of Cedric Benson,” Herman said in a statement. “We lost a true Longhorn Legend, one of the best running backs in college football history and a really special man. He was far too young, and my heart aches for his family, friends and the entire Longhorn community. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.”

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S.A.’s First African American Federal Judge

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Courtesy of U.S. District Court (WD Texas) and Whitehouse Judicial Nominees websites.

Judge Jason Pulliam, TSU Thurgood Marshall Alum – First African American to Serve on U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Published on August 11, 2019

Jason K. Pulliam, a class of 2000 graduate of Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, made history August 9, 2019, when he was sworn in by Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia as the First African American to serve on U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, since it was established by Congress on February 21, 1857. It is one of ninety-four U.S. District Courtsthat presides over general trials in the United States federal courts. The court convenes in San Antonio but has divisions in Austin, Del Rio, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, and Waco.

Tom Reel, Staff / Staff photographer/SA Express-News

U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) recommended Judge Pulliam to President Donald Trump as a candidate to the fill a vacancy on the Western District of Texas Court. OnMarch 5, 2019, President Donald Trump (R) nominated Judge Pulliam and on April 3, 2019, the U.S. Senate voted 51-48 in favor of a change to chamber precedent lowering the maximum time allowed for debate on executive nominees to district court judgeships. Judge Pulliam was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy on July 31, 2019, by a vote of 54-36. He received his commission on August 5, 2019.

Federal Judge Nominee, Jason Pulliam at Senate Judiciary Committee Nomination Hearing

 Judge Pulliam’s legal career began immediately after graduating from law school. He honorably served as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Marines, as a Staff Judge Advocate from 2000-2004. Following his military service, Judge Pulliam worked as an attorney for William “Bill” Ford at the law firms of Ball & Weed, P.C. and Ford & Massey, P.C. His distinguished judicial career began in 2011, as Judge for the Bexar County Court at Law No. 5 (San Antonio), until 2015. In January 2015, former Governor Rick Perry appointed Judge Pulliam as the First African American man to serve as a Justice on the Texas Fourth District Court of Appeals (San Antonio), from 2015 to 2016. Most recently, he was Of Counsel with Prichard Young PLLC, a product liability and business/commercial litigation firm, from 2017 to 2019. He has represented clients before various Texas courts, U.S. District Court for Western District of Texas, Eastern District of Texas, and Southern District of Texas.

Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law (founder in 1946)

 Judge Pulliam earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from City University of New York and a Juris Doctor degree from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He holds active memberships in various legal, civic, and professional organizations. Congratulations Judge Pulliam on your lifetime appointment to the federal bench.

Information provided in this article was compiled from San Antonio Express-News, Ballotpedia, U.S. District Court (WD Texas), and Whitehouse Judicial Nominees websites.

Dr. Reginal D. Harris, a Law Clerk for the Law Offices of Bell & White, PLLC, in San Antonio, Texas. He is a 2018 graduate (honors) of Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Dr. Harris completed two judicial externships at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas under Senior Federal Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt; an externship with the Innocence Project at the Earl Carl Institute of Legal & Social Policy Inc.; a criminal and civil clerkship at Roberts Markland PLLC law firm; and an public service internship at Lone Star Legal Aid of Houston Inc. (Military and Veterans Unit).

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Reginal D. Harris, JD, PharmD, RPh, CPh, cMTM

Reginal D. Harris, JD, PharmD, RPh, CPh, cMTM

“Education is the greatest equalizer to attaining success.” -My Grandma, Mrs. Judie A. Belvin

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Jason K. Pulliam, a class of 2000 graduate of Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, made history August 9, 2019, when he was sworn in by Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia as the First African American to serve on U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, since it was established by Congress on February 21, 1857.

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Not Angry, Empowered

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The Black Women’s Leadership Alliance (BWLA) held an exciting breakfast and discussion themed “Not Angry, Empowered” featuring prominent San Antonio Business Women.  The panel participants were Dr. Belinda Richardson, Licensed Marriage and Family therapist who has been practicing since 1999 and in 2011 established her own private practice, Grace For Life Counseling and Consulting Associates; Lynnette Watkins, M.D.., M.B.A., FACS, FACHE, CPE, Tenet Health Care administrative veteran, fellowship-trained and board certified Ophthalmologist, and Chief Medical Officer for Baptist Health System; Michelle Scarver of Money Management, Ltd., Certified Specialist with over 30 years experience in the financial services industry as a CPA, a big -4 auditor, controller, portfolio manager and wealth advisor; Dyanne Sampson, Vice President of Procurement at VIA Metropolitan Transit and former Director of Procurement at Hampton Roads Transit in Norfolk, Virginia.

The Black Women’s Leadership Alliance (BWLA) was born out of the desire of a small group of women who saw a void in women’s leadership programs that specifically addressed the needs of Black business women who want to advance to higher ranks in corporate America.  BWLA is committed to addressing the needs of Black women by being the catalyst that encourages innovation, collaboration and sisterhood among Black women.  The organization also provides support and resources to Black women in business and professional women who seek to enhance their leadership skills through mentoring, advocacy and professional development

To become a member or learn more about the BWLA please visit www.bwla-texas.org or visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bwlatx/.

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