The ongoing saga of bogus DUI charges that prematurely ended the career of Dallas firefighter Thomas C. continues to get more bizarre. In a futile attempt to restart the case, the agency that initiated the charges now admits they tried to submit evidence after the statute of limitations had expired.
The revelations are the latest twist in a case that includes questionable statements by the Denton County Sheriff’s Office regarding body-worn cameras, a cursory internal affairs investigation by the Dallas Fire Department that led to the abrupt dismissal of the lifelong first responder, and stonewalling from a variety of Texas law enforcement agencies on why the case was mishandled from the beginning.
A Police Accountability Report investigative report initially revealed the story of the series of law enforcement miscues that led to the wrongful dismissal. Our investigation showed officers on body cameras concluding Thomas, a lifelong first responder, was not drunk when they pulled him over in April of 2021.
Despite that admission, a group of Denton County sheriffs swore out charges of driving under the influence against him. To justify the allegations, they wrote Thomas “walked slowly” and was “thick-tongued” during a field sobriety test. Officers also included his use of a legally prescribed medication, Adderall, in the statement of probable cause.
The charges led to an internal investigation by the Dallas Fire Department, which forced Thomas into early retirement in 2022 despite a blood test proving he was not drunk.
But when The Police Accountability Report asked The Denton County Prosecutor’s Office for comment on the status of the case, the agency that handles all criminal proceedings within the jurisdiction made a startling admission: they had no record of it.
“We did not receive any documentation from the DCSO (Denton County Sheriff’s Office) regarding this case,” Kim Geuter, an administrator with the Denton prosecutor’s office, told PAR in an email. “We would have no way of keeping track. The only reason I knew this was not submitted to us is because I looked it up specifically. Police agencies do not notify us when they have not submitted a report to us,” she added. This led to PAR asking the Denton County Sheriff’s Office why the case was missing. The department responded with a timeline that revealed they tried to restart the case even though the statute of limitations had expired.
The timeline shows the Denton County Sheriff’s Office tried to submit evidence nearly a month past the two-year deadline within which a misdemeanor DUI case can be prosecuted. This apparent overreach came to light after we asked DCSO for comment on the nonexistent criminal file.
A spokesman for the department blamed another agency, the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab. In a written statement to PAR, DCSO Captain Orlando Hinojosa cited lagging turnaround times for the narcotic blood tests as the primary reason for the belated effort to press forward with the charges. “Due to a backlog at the Texas DPS Crime Laboratory it took almost two years to receive the results of the drug analysis.”
Oddly, the alcohol blood test, which was negative, was completed in less than a month, however it was sent to a different lab than the drug sample. The Texas Department of Public Safety, which runs the crime lab in question, did not return multiple emails and calls for comment on why it took two years to process the blood test. However, earlier this year, the Austin American-Statesman reported that the average wait time for drug-related blood tests was 533 days.
Meanwhile, in an apparent bending of transparency laws, DCSO refuses to release the results of either blood test, citing laws meant to protect suspects whose charges have been dropped. “DCSO will not release the DPS lab report due to its practice of consistently protecting information,” Hinojosa said.
DCSO and the Department of Public Safety are not the only government entities currently stonewalling about their role in the dubious charges that had life-altering consequences for Thomas. The Dallas Fire Department, which initiated an internal affairs investigation against him after his arrest, has also declined to comment despite several requests from PAR.
We sought comment after notes obtained by PAR show DFD internal affairs investigators relied solely on the sworn affidavit of the Denton County Sheriff to sustain the allegations against Thomas of conduct “unbecoming” of a firefighter. The notes also reveal that the department was aware that the test for alcohol was negative but still forced him to retire early.
A spokesperson for the fire department did not return comment by the time of publication when asked to explain why they found Thomas guilty without conducting a separate investigation.
The lack of information leaves Thomas with unanswered questions. At the top of that list is why he was told the case was still pending if it hadn’t been formally filed with prosecutors—especially given the severe consequences. “I was told the case was still active; I didn’t know the prosecutors didn’t have the case,” he said.
The charge against Thomas was a class B misdemeanor, and Texas law requires a formal arraignment before a judge to determine if the allegations are sufficient to proceed for charges in that category. But Thomas says he never had a chance to dispute the charges or present evidence before a judge. Instead, the DFD forced him to retire early, and his lawyer told him to take a course on the perils of alcohol consumption to help his case, despite the fact he has not had a drink in nearly 30 years.
The handling of the case has been a bitter pill for Thomas to swallow. In numerous conversations with PAR he recalled how, during his career as a first responder, he never failed to try to help people in dire, life-threatening circumstances. Now he wonders why the community he served treated him with such apparent indifference.
“These people are doing whatever they want to people and harming them with no consequences,” he said. “I think that it would be hard to live with myself if I was fraudulently jailing innocent people.”