During 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.”