A Great Injustice, But Who is the Real Victim?

TRANDuring the past week, a terrible injustice occurred in Precinct 1 of Montgomery County, gaining attention from news media across the nation and even beyond U.S. borders. It began with a student’s habitual truancy and overzealous liberal Houston reporter who saw an opportunity for a major story with a classic underdog victimized by a powerful villain in a suburban to rural county where she later made it obvious she had preconceived notions that helped hold her blinders in place. The reporter wanted the story to fit the mold that had her salivating so badly, she refused to be swayed by facts or distracted with considering input from those with other knowledge and points of view, gleaned through extensive experience with the same issue.

As a result, a good man, whose life has been spent in public service, came under attack on television, the internet, and in print. Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Lanny Moriarty, who spent 31 years in law enforcement and now almost a decade in his current position, has been well-liked and well-respected throughout his career. He has a reputation for caring about people and trying to help them, particularly when they are young and seem to be drifting in a direction that may be detrimental to their future. Such is often the situation with failure to attend school cases, like that of 17-year-old Willis High School junior Diane Tran, who Moriarty sentenced to one day in jail for contempt of court after she ignored his orders to have no more unexcused absences.

Typically, after school officials have repeatedly dealt with a student’s issues, be they behavior, attendance, or both, the school district police issue citations. Those citations require the student to appear before the Justice of the Peace in their precinct. When the issue is truancy, the JP usually court orders the child to attend school. Therefore, when the child is truant again, they are in violation of a court order and may be held in contempt of court which is punishable by a fine and / or jail time of up to three days, depending upon their age. Jail is always the last resort and is an attempt to give the student a very small taste of what life might be like if they continue to disregard rules and laws in the hopes of finally getting that student’s attention and causing them to reconsider their actions and contemplate their future.

Not everyone agrees with the system, but it has been tried and tested repeatedly, particularly in East Montgomery County. Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts has sent over 20 students in one day to the Montgomery County Jail for a 72 hour stay. This method and his pioneering of the AIM Program in his precinct, which includes New Caney I.S.D., Splendora I.S.D. and part of Conroe I.S.D., have reduced truancy filings by about one-third. Judge Metts has received accolades not only from school districts and parents, but even the students themselves who have written him letters and in some cases, returned to show him diplomas and thank him in person for showing them “tough love,” and pushing them to live up to their potential. Judge Metts was surprised to learn Judge Moriarty was under attack.

Diane (or Diana – her name appears with one spelling on some documents and the other on others) Tran’s image appeared in a news report where she stood tearfully holding a puppy. The reporter, through question and commentary, conveyed that Tran was an honor student, supposedly working two jobs to help support herself and two siblings (one of whom is in college) since her parents divorced and moved away. The report went on to explain that she was often too tired to get up and go to school in the morning, with a friend chiming in that Tran studies until 7 a.m. The dramatic tale went viral, quickly spreading across every form of news and social media. A website was created by a Louisiana based group to raise money to help Tran so she would not have to work so much. Soon the brutal criticism of Judge Moriarty began.

The Houston reporter smelled blood and she returned to Montgomery County for more ammunition. She heard Judge Metts was even more apt to place habitually truant students behind bars for a reality check, so she wanted to include him in her report. The reporter called Metts’ office saying she wanted to provide her audience with “the other side” of the story. The judge assembled for her representatives from two school districts and one member of a district police department that deals with truant students so she could have a variety of input from people directly involved with the issue.

The African American female reporter walked into the Judge’s chambers with her photographer, snidely looked around at the country Judge and the others gathered to assist her in gathering facts, and said, “Well, look, it’s the whole Heehaw Gang.” Still, no one was hostile toward her. They tried to provide her with as much information and insight as possible and interviews were recorded with the Judge, an Officer and a Principal. Unfortunately, almost none of the footage recorded in Judge Metts’ chambers was shown on the news. Those present suspect it was because the reporter was unable to evoke the responses she sought to complete her report and the “whole Heehaw Gang” may have been more insightful and articulate than she had hoped. Whatever the case, the demonization of Judge Moriarty continues, despite some glaring inconsistencies that political correctness seems to be preventing major media outlets from investigating or mentioning.

For example, some of the reports stated Ms. Tran is living with a friend’s family in the Willis area. However, the address she gave when processed by the county returns to the Skytop Apartments on North Frazier in Conroe. Public Data shows her Texas Driver’s License as 14817 Hillside in Willis – a home listed by the Montgomery County Appraisal District as a waterfront property currently valued at over $364,000. MCAD shows it was owned by someone named Tran, but has since been purchased by another family.

Public Data and Facebook yield a wealth of information that paints an entirely different picture of Ms. Tran and her family, and may explain why her attorney issued a statement earlier this week saying she had no control over the organization that has raised $100,000 and plans to give any money received to someone less fortunate. LESS FORTUNATE. Something does not add up. Due to the constraints of time, we were unable to dig further into this matter, but we encourage anyone who genuinely cares about the truth to take the initiative and check things out for themselves before condemning someone whose entire life has been devoted to serving his community.

On Wednesday, Judge Moriarty responded to the situation with the following written statement:

“Since I was elected Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace in 2003, I have remained focused on serving the public to the best of my ability, listening to each case before me with an open mind and making an informed, just, and legal decision.

As a father and someone with over three decades experience in law enforcement, I came into this office with not only a love for young people, but an acute awareness of the dangers they face in society and a genuine determination to provide whatever guidance or assistance might be necessary to guide them on the path toward a successful future.

While I will not address the specifics of Ms. Tran’s case, I will say that my intent is and has always been to make sure the students in my precinct take full advantage of their opportunity to earn a high school diploma. According to state law, regardless of how high a student’s grades may be, if they have too many unexcused absences they will not receive credit for their classes. When a student who has already been to court and been court ordered to attend school each day continues to have unexcused absences, additional steps must be taken to enforce the law that is meant to ensure they complete their high school education.

I want the best quality of life possible for all residents of Precinct 1, and I want our children to have the brightest futures they are capable of achieving. I will continue to hold students, and sometimes parents, accountable for unexcused absences as we work to reduce truancy, lower the dropout rate, and instill in tomorrow’s leaders the belief that rules and laws must be followed by all for society to properly function.”

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  1. missdiva96

    First off, Scott Engle, you’re a COWARD for not using the reporter’s name. Her name is Sherry Williams and she is by far-THE NICEST, NON RACIST, person I have ever had the pleasure to meet! She has a true heart of gold. A real angel. How dare you sprew the story to YOUR favor. Why don’t you tell all these lovely people that YOU STALKED this student for days for your own selfish payout from some eager network. If you’re SO AGAINST this story, why did you take this payout to cover it? Hypocrite! Hee Haw? Really? Does not sound like the Sherry I know. Where you there? Did you hear her say that? You better watch it. It’s not wise to bite the hand that feeds you!

    1. Scott Engle


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  2. nikki6

    Love the comments on this news story. I think Jamie says what everyone is too afraid to say, or perhaps has said and was edited. There is a HUGE difference between jail and prison, lets not get that twisted, since so much about this story is twisted and misconstrued in peoples commments already. One of the first things I noticed was the news story said-“african american reporter”. Nice… That is all for now…

  3. Jamie Nash

    Brett Ligon is a great man who has made a real positive difference in Montgomery County.
    In fact, if I were going to have another child, I would name it Brett…

  4. montgomerycobeauty

    Wow… So some reporter who knows nothing about our community makes assumptions. Thank you Judge Moriarty for everything you do! You did the right thing!

  5. badboy

    Grinch,How do you figure Judge Moriarty is wrong in this case…….Its a state law and it is up to his court to enforce it or he will be in jail…..know your facts or keep your mouth closed……………..

  6. Jamie Nash

    When someone makes a racist remark, the news agency always points out the race. Or are you one of those liberals who thinks black people can’t make racist remarks?

  7. grinch

    Gee, the press is bias in their coverage. Wow, what a revelation. Glad you finally woke up. I have a funny feeling that BOTH the judge and the student were wrong in this case.

  8. texaswc

    I agree with you Jamie .. though I use texaswc, I’ve been using that nickname for 10+ years online, and not afraid to give my real name when necessary (being that it is Robert in case one wants to know) .. as for this case, I only know a small bit about it, and I am not going to judge either party without knowing the facts of the case .. I ignore 90% of the media because it IS biased, it IS corrupt .. I live in Willis and never heard of problems with the JP here, regarding ANY issue .. it would, though, be nice to finally get some real details, the truth, about this case, makes it easier to correct those that have no clue when they speak up and show their ignorance….

  9. copeland

    Something is just not truthful about Tran’s stories, can’t pin down the parents, correct address, the real story-because she is lying! And the comment that the “whole Hee-Haw Gang was present”, well that is typical of someone who is racist, and has hatred in their heart towards another race! May God help this reporter to grow past her negative attitudes and become the best in her field, with an open-minded, non-judgemental, non-racist, integrity-based, fair-minded, more professional approach to doing her job as a reporter. I don’t know where she received her degree, and if this is the way they instruct their students to research a story and conduct themselves, or what her grades were… But this reporter needs to re-adjust her methods, from negative to positive, and re-think the racism she so obviously is consumed by, to advance in her field! Has she forgotten we are all human beings and we all bleed red? AND about all the money that has been sent to this young girl, it needs to be accounted for…people whose heart-strings have been pulled by this story have given a great deal of money to a questionable cause! Better that this money go to an organization to help other high school students having issues getting their diplomas, an At Risk program in the county or school district could use this funding for many students, instead of one that could be lying through her teeth, living in a lake-front home, and attending school when she feels like it!

  10. isis

    Even if Ms Tran’s entire story was a lie there is no justification for locking any child in prison for missing a few days of school. The child was not even given a legal representative before she was hauled off. Your legal system stands condemned.
    Also, the entire school education system in Texas needs a review. It is no wonder that Ms Tran found it easy.
    Oh and why did the African American reporter you refer to not have a name?

    1. Jamie Nash

      No child was locked in prison. There’s a HUGE difference between prison and jail – especially the one in Montgomery County – and the jailers watch out for the youngsters who are getting a reality check. It was one night to think about obeying the rules and it followed NUMEROUS warnings.

  11. Jamie Nash

    You’re wrong WhyPhi (Why not use your real name?)
    Judge Metts heard it, along with 2 SISD officials, 1 NCISD official, the Pct. 4 Communications Coordinator and a juvenile case manager.
    That’s an absurd remark to pull from thin air, don’t you think? Never mind – forgot who I was addressing.

  12. badboy

    If the truth was known maybe this young lady has a major drinking problem and stays up all night drinking(not working and homework) hmmmmmmmm

  13. [email protected]

    This is so true in so many cases, the media does some good to, but Im so dissappointed to see the press go after our judges that do good for our community. I backed Judge Moriarty all the way. Our young people dont have the same morals that we had ,I know different times now, but some things never change to make a better person. I dont believe it should be put on their record to follow them around for life, use this as a teaching tool. Save the blemishes on their records for our real real criminals.

  14. bigstan

    What needs to be addressed is where in the hell was her parents in all this just because they divorced does not include leaving your children behind to fend and take care of themselves if reporters want to bash and belittle someone they need to go after the correct people in this case the parents !!

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