District Attorney, Indicted For Bribery, Sees Self as Daniel & ‘Rocky’
WACO, Texas (AP) _ A Bible-quoting district attorney who compares himself to ″Rocky″ and Daniel in the lion’s den remains a popular candidate for re-election in the Baptist heart of Texas despite his indictment on bribery charges.
McLennan County District Attorney Vic Feazell, a part-time preacher who keeps a picture of John Wayne on his office wall, was arrested and handcuffed Sept. 17 in what he calls ″a vulgar display of power.″
His ″Go get ’em Vic 3/8″ bumper stickers, depicting a pair of hands, thumbs up, breaking a pair of handcuffs, are a popular item.
Feazell’s arrest followed a federal indictment charging him with 12 counts of accepting $19,000 in bribes from defense attorneys to influence his handling of criminal cases. Some of those are believed to involve cases of drunken driving.
He denies any wrongdoing, saying he has never accepted influence money and adding: ″Most of the folks around here know it’s a put-up job.″
Feazell gained prominence outside the county through his investigation into a murder confession by Henry Lee Lucas in which a grand jury decided the confession was a lie. Feazell contends the federal charges against him are largely because of the embarrassment he caused law officers.
″Daniel got thrown into the lion’s den, but the lions didn’t eat him,″ Feazell said in an interview.
The 35-year-old district attorney and one-time police cadet also has compared himself to ″Rocky Balboa,″ the movie character made famous by Sylvester Stallone.
In the case of Lucas and the slaying of a Waco woman, the grand jury concluded the confession was untrue. Lucas was at one time believed to be the nation’s biggest mass murderer, but he recanted on all but one of his confessions, and evidence now calls many of his confessions into question.
″Everybody agrees I was right about that (Lucas case),″ he said.
Feazell also boasts of the conviction rate since he took office. According to the Texas Judicial Council’s annual report for fiscal 1985, there were convictions in 75 percent of the 498 felony cases disposed of in the county. All but 27 of those cases were guilty pleas, said Sonja Flora, trial court specialist for the council in Austin.
County Republican Chairman Allan Horton predicts a close race between Feazell, a Democrat, and GOP opponent Paul Gartner, with the indictment just the edge Gartner needs to win.
Gartner, a lawyer, was defeated handily by Feazell four years ago.
″On the other hand, Vic Feazell is a pretty good actor and is really good at playing on emotions of (his) being persecuted,″ Horton said. ″The fact that this is a strong Baptist community and he’s been a part-time Baptist preacher gets him a lot of sympathy.″
At Fatz Brick Pit, a popular downtown restaurant, Baylor University film instructor Michael Korpi said he and many other citizens believe ″a lot of unethical things″ have occurred in the district attorney’s office.
Korpi said he doesn’t plan to vote for Feazell but predicts he’ll be re- elected to a second term.
″He’s a very smart politician. He plays to every major constituency in the county. He’s done a real good job of pulling the evangelical community. They think he’s just being picked on.″
The Rev. R.L. Whitworth, pastor of the Calvary Assembly of God, said he believes 99 percent of his 1,000-member congregation is for Feazell.
″I don’t think that man needs those kind of payoffs from some DWI drinker. I think (the charges) are nothing but political smears.″
John Ben Sutter, Feazell’s top aide who has worked for other politicians, argues that it would have been ″downright stupid″ for Feazell to threaten his political future by accepting only $19,000 in bribes.
The case continues to be perhaps the hottest topic of conversation this fall, along with the usual football fever over the Baylor Bears.
A restaurant owner who asked not to be identified said he’s heard both sides of the argument on Feazell’s guilt or innocence.
″It’s damn near split 50-50,″ he said. ″The lawyers and leading citizens, they think he’s guilty. But to the average working guy on the street, he’s the people’s hero.″