GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — A Williamson County judge arrived with his attorneys at the federal courthouse in Austin to begin the booking process Wednesday morning, turning himself in after being indicted on nine federal charges.
After a 2 p.m. appearance in front of Judge Mark Lane, Wright walked out of the courthouse on a $25,000 bond. Wright had to surrender his passport, concealed handgun license, any firearms that were not originally seized and his travel is restricted to Travis, Hays and Williamson County (unless the court authorizes outside travel). However, his attorney indicated he intends to remain on the bench, returning as soon as Thursday.
“The position right now is he is going to stay on the bench because he is innocent. Ultimately the Judicial Conduct Commission will make some adjustments or offer its input,” said attorney Jeff Senter.
A Williamson County spokesperson said the county and its commissioners do not have the authority to remove the judge from the bench or keep him from hearing cases. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct could potentially have a say on Wright’s status, but phone calls to the commission were not answered on Wednesday. Wright’s next appearance will be an arraignment setting before federal Judge Mark Lane on April 15th.
According to court documents, County Court at Law Judge Tim Wright knowingly sold seven firearms to the same convicted felon on three separate occasions in February of this year. From June 2014 through March 2015, federal investigators say Wright also helped smuggle multiple weapons out of the U.S. without the proper license.
According to ATF Special Agent in Charge Robert Elder, “This firearms trafficking investigation, which involves multiple firearms destined for Mexico, is another example of ATF’s relentless pursuit of individuals who attempt to utilize any means available to illegally appropriate and divert firearms for criminal purposes.”
Wright, 70, is also accused of falsifying information when he purchased firearms from gun stores in Georgetown and Copperas Cove. In the indictment, it says Wright filled out paperwork indicating he was the buyer of the firearms, but he was actually buying the firearms on behalf of another person. The document goes on to say Wright lied to ATF agents about when sales took place and to whom. It does not indicate if any of the weapons were used in commission of another crime. He does own a Federal Firearm License which allows him to sell guns as a dealer and Senter said Wright did not know he was selling guns illegally or they were bound for Mexico.
“Judge Wright is a bright man. He understands documents, he is a judge, and he did the best he could do to comply with the law,” said Senter.
Due to the ongoing investigation, Wright will have to surrender all his firearms. The court document lists 51 firearms in his possession.
Last month, ATF agents raided Wright’s home in Georgetown. As of Tuesday, Wright was still conducting regular duties in his courtroom.
If convicted, Wright faces up to 10 years of imprisonment on each firearm charge and up to five years of imprisonment on each count alleging false statements to a government agent.
Wright was unopposed in the November 2014 election. Williamson County declared Wright and other unopposed candidates elected, so his candidacy did not go before voters in the last election. Voters originally elected Wright in 2002, and Wright has presided over a county court of law in Georgetown that handles misdemeanor drug and alcohol cases. It’s unclear how this will affect his current cases and past rulings.
Tune into KXAN News at 5 p.m. to find out what is next for Judge Tim Wright.