ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – The District Attorney who sentenced an Abilene man to probation for a charge connected to one murder is offering an explanation for his decision after the same man was arrested for another murder last week.
In May of 2016, Taylor County District Attorney James Hicks offered Wesley Dale Mason a plea deal for a Tampering with Evidence charge connected to the death of Carey Rod Tate who was beaten-to-death with a wrench inside his north Abilene apartment in December of 2014.
Mason is accused of supplying a dog crate and a dolly that were used to transport Tate’s body from the crime scene to a shallow grave on private property in Jones County.
Hicks told KTAB there are several reasons why he chose to extend the plea agreement to Mason, including the fact that Mason testified against the man accused of killing Tate, John Patrick Gutierrez.
Gutierrez pleaded guilty in connection to Tate’s murder and was sentenced to life in September of 2016 due in part to Mason’s testimony, which describes the events following Tate’s murder the night of December 27, 2014.
Hicks says Mason’s testimony played such a big role in Gutierrez’s conviction because, “he was the only solid witness because he’s a cohort. He’s a Bandido [biker club member] and they normally don’t testify.”
Mason also appeared to be an ideal candidate for probation on paper. He had never been convicted of a violent crime, and when he was arrested on the Tampering with Evidence charge, Mason had no criminal history in Taylor County aside an Aggravated Assault charge connected to a stabbing at Logan’s Roadhouse in 2013 – a charge that was dropped as part of Mason’s plea deal because the victims were offering little testimony and his codefendant, Bandido Biker Club leader Curtis Jack Lewis, had already been found not guilty for his part in the crime.
“Believing that someone is a violent criminal and being able to prove it to a jury are two completely different things,” Hicks stated during an interview with KTAB. He later stated, “I believe Mr. Mason may have had some very questionable character, [but] unfortunately, I was not able to prove that on paper.”
However, Hicks wasn’t going to settle for normal probation on Mason’s case. He wanted to make sure Mason would face the maximum sentence possible if he ever violated the conditions of his probation, so he drafted a deferred adjudication agreement.
Hicks says that, “even though his conviction rate didn’t show he had any criminal history, my gut told me I was not willing to give up a possible 20 year range punishment.”
Hicks also said he believed there wasn’t enough evidence to connect Mason to Tate’s murder.
During the interview, Hicks said “I think I made the right decision based on the evidence I had.”
Mason is now accused of shooting and killing Dusty Childress on CR 341 in Jones County last week, one of eleven probation violations he’s accrued since his plea deal in May.
The violations are detailed in a “Motion to Revoke” probation order Hicks issued a few days after Mason was arrested for Childress’ murder.
Hicks does plan to seek the maximum punishment of 20 years for the probation violation.