Charges dropped against John Furlow in sign-stealing case

Published on Friday, 11 March 2016 17:34 - Written by ROY MAYNARD, rmaynard@tylerpaper.co

All charges against John Furlow have been dropped in a sign-stealing case stemming from the 2014 Smith County judge race. Furlow, a retired general, was tried in December on a felony theft charge, but a hung jury resulted in a mistrial.

“We’ve gotten confirmation the state will be dismissing those charges against my client,” said attorney Scott Ellis, who represented Furlow. “We’re very pleased with this outcome.”

Furlow faced a Class B misdemeanor charge for filing a false report with a peace officer, effectively lying to police investigators, according to special prosecutor Anthony Lyons, of Dallas.

And he faced a felony theft charge in December for his role in the theft of 22 campaign signs belonging to Smith County Judge Joel Baker.

The criminal trial ended with a hung jury after five of 12 jurors indicated further deliberation would not lead to a unanimous decision.

Ellis has said the case was a form of retaliation pushed initially by Baker against his client after a nasty political race for county judge.

“In my opinion, this should never have gotten this far,” he said on Friday.

To date, Smith County has paid Lyons $20,910 and fellow prosecutor Demarcus Ward $22,137.50 for their services related to the first trial, according to the Smith County Auditor s Office.

The trial’s key witness was the person who actually stole the signs.

Prosecutors spent much of their time trying to establish that Furlow had directed Michael Konieczny, 36, of Tyler, to steal the signs.

The signs were stolen from several locations on March 3, 2014, a day before primary election day. Baker filed a police report with an investigator he knew at Tyler Police Department, Dennis Mathews.

In November 2014, Mathews was called by Baker again after several of the signs were found in a dumpster outside a business. Other material in the dumpster directed the investigators to Konieczny.

In his testimony, Konieczny, a military veteran, said Furlow only insinuated during several in-person and phone conversations he should take the signs. Furlow never said the words, “Go take those signs,” Konieczny said.

Konieczny has not faced charges for stealing the signs.

For his part, Furlow is glad the matter is resolved, Ellis said. It’s tax season, and Furlow, a CPA can now focus his attention on his business.

“He’s pleased we can now have some closure and he can move on,” Ellis said.

Staff writer Adam Russell contributed to this report.