by Ty Clevenger
A disgraced former Hearne Police Department sergeant is wearing a badge and gun again, according to records that I received today from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and it is only one example of a much larger problem.
Stephen Yohner, known on this blog as “Sgt. Tallywacker,” left Hearne PD last year amid accusations that he texted a photo of his gonads to a female officer. He was also accused of taking money and drugs from crime scenes without properly accounting for the evidence, and he is named as a defendant in an ongoing civil rights lawsuit. Nonetheless, he was commissioned on May 15, 2018 as a reserve officer by the police department in tiny Hico, Texas (home of the Billy the Kid Museum, as it happens).
I emailed City Administrator Adam Niolet and Police Chief Ronnie Ashmore a couple of my blog posts about Sgt. Tallywacker and asked if they knew about his history. I received this response from Mr. Niolet:
I’ve got a feeling somebody will get called into the principal’s office on Monday morning. It’s not like Sgt. Tallywacker’s reputation was a secret. If you Google “Stephen Yohner,” a list of news articles and blog posts explains the circumstances of his departure from Hearne PD, and all of that should have shown up in any background investigation.
So how did he get hired? Did the chief not conduct a background investigation, or did he just ignore what he found? As you can see from my July 6, 2017 blog post, Sgt. Tallywacker had a shady history even before he was hired by Hearne.
I’ve filed an open records request for Sgt. Tallywacker’s application to Hico PD, as well as for all of the documents and materials gathered by Hico PD during its background “investigation.” That should make for some interesting reading.
PASSING THE HOT POTATO
Several months ago I spoke with Kim Vickers, director of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, about how bad officers get passed around from one small department to another. Chief Vickers said the turd officer (my terminology, not his) gets caught with his pants down (sometimes literally), but offers to waive any legal claims against the department if the chief lets him resign in good standing.
Most small municipalities are scared of being sued, so they take the deal: the officer resigns before any investigation is finalized, and the chief gives him an honorable discharge. Since TCOLE can only report what the chief submits in the discharge papers, the turd gets passed to the next small department that can’t afford to pay a decent salary or conduct a thorough investigation.
That’s a lousy way to do business, and the Texas Legislature needs to figure out a way to stop it.
Last Years Article 6/2017
The City of Hearne released records this evening that include complaints, X-rated texts and sexual misconduct allegations against former police Sgt. Stephen Yohner, a.k.a. “Sgt. Tallywacker,” and the complaints describe an atmosphere of sleaze, corruption, and incompetence throughout the police department.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered the city to release the documents on June 28, 2017 after the city unsuccessfully appealed my April 7, 2017 open records request. As I reported back on April 22, 2017, Sgt. Tallywacker was placed on administrative leave after a female employee accused him of sending her a photo of his gonads.
It turns out the photo was only the tip of the iceberg. If half of the allegations against Chief Thomas Williams and his command staff are true, the department should be abolished and police services should be contracted out to the sheriff’s department.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to blog, so I’ll just direct you to the documents as they were produced to me in
Part 1, <- click
Part 2, <-
Part 3 <-
(Fair warning: the last two are NSFW). KAGS will have more information tonight during its 10 pm broadcast, and feel free to post your own highlights and analysis in the comments section below.
That said, I’ll mention a couple of things that you won’t find in the records. First, I’ve been contacted by a couple of women who said they knew Sgt. Tallywacker and were terrified of him. According to these women, the sergeant had a history of sexual misconduct allegations at other small departments, but each department allowed him to quietly resign if he agreed not to sue the respective cities. Judging from the documents in Part 1, it looks like the same thing has happened in Hearne.
That reminds me of a conversation I had recently with Kim Vickers, director of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Chief Vickers said dirty cops often get passed from one small department to another because the small departments would rather keep things quiet to avoid litigation. He said current law does not require local departments to report such misconduct to his agency (or any other agency) unless there is a conviction, so the dirty cops keep getting passed from one unsuspecting community to the next.
On a side note, City Manager John “Boy Wonder” Naron previously said all records concerning Sgt. Tallywacker’s misconduct had been turned over to the Texas Rangers, therefore he could not release them to me. I never bought that argument, because the city obviously had copies that it submitted to the AG’s office in support of its appeal. More telling is the fact that, according to the AG letter, the Texas Rangers never objected to the release of the documents. In other words, Boy Wonder was using the Rangers as an excuse to cover up Sgt. Tallywacker’s misconduct (no surprise there).
I doubt Sgt. Tallywacker will be charged with anything, and I know nothing will be reported to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. But any background investigator who Googles his name will be able to find this blog post and the records that I obtained from the city. Consider it a public service.
LawFlog is the blog of Ty Clevenger, a Texas attorney who lives in Brooklyn. Posts are irregular at best (and Dulcolax doesn’t seem to help). You can reach Ty at tyclevenger at gmail dot com, you can follow Lawflog on Facebook or Twitter (@Ty_Clevenger), or you can leave a voice message at 979-985-5289.