A federal jury in Austin, Tx., found that two top state parole officials violated the constitutional rights of an ex-convict who was denied a required hearing for 576 days, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Jurors held Board of Pardon and Paroles Chairman Rissie Owens liable for $21,250 in damages and awarded Curtis Ray Graham attorney’s fees that are expected to top $100,000.
Graham sued the parole board after he was classified as a sex offender even though he was never convicted of a sex crime. He was arrested on aggravated rape charges in the 1980s, and parole officials used that as a basis for classifying him as a sex offender five years after he had been released on parole. Graham alleged he was never allowed to review evidence against him before the parole board made its decision in December 2007, despite several federal court orders requiring such hearings. It is rare for ex-convicts in Texas to win such legal challenges in state or federal courts. It is almost unheard of for parole officials to be held liable for official omissions.