An Erath County jury found a 35-year-old man guilty Monday of making terroristic threats against Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Shawnee Bass and the county.
District Attorney John Terrill presented a letter that James Lange sent to the judge’s office on Nov. 16, 2006, while he was incarcerated in the Erath County Jail.
Written on yellow notepaper, Lange stated in the letter that releasing him from jail would be “a very bad thing,” for the community.
“I will terrorize this county like you have never seen,” the letter read in part.
Judge Bass testified she took the letter “very seriously” and turned it over to authorities immediately.
Texas Ranger Joe Hutson testified that he interviewed Lange in jail and that the defendant admitted the handwriting in the letter was his, but said he did not remember writing it.
During the taped interview played in open court, Lange told Hutson that at times he experiences blackouts and “does really crazy things.”
He also told Hutson that if he is released from jail he is “100 percent certain” something “bad” would happen.
“I scare myself,” Lange said.
During the interview, Lange gave Hutson a satanic drawing he kept in his jail cell depicting the destruction of the Erath County Courthouse. Lange’s drawing, he told Hutson, “scared him.”
Lange’s court-appointed attorney Heath Allen argued that his client is mentally ill and said the letter was a “cry for help” rather than an overt threat against the judge or the county.
“He’s not good at making friends,” Allen said. “People can look at him and not like him.”
During the punishment phase, the state presented a letter written in May by Lange to Assistant District Attorney Jason Cashon.
In it, the letter asked Cashon to give him the maximum sentence possible.
“I am a very bad person and I can’t be trusted to return to society,” the letter stated. “There is very little to stop me from doing very bad things.”
The jury will decide Lange’s punishment today.
Sara Vanden Berge covers courts, law enforcement, and business and political issues for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com. Her work number is 968-2379, ext. 240.