Attorneys in Mineola swingers case discuss victim’s recent alleg -, GA News Weather & Sports

Attorneys in Mineola swingers case discuss victim’s recent allegations


A nearly decade old sexual assault case is being broughtback into the spotlight. This time, the foster parents of the victims areaccused of physical and emotional abuse.

Margaret and John Cantrell took three children into theircare in 2008. Those children were involved in the case known throughout EastTexas as the "Mineola Swingers Club" case.

That case ended in six plea agreements and one jury conviction.Now, a defense attorney of one of the seven defendants says Tuesday's hearingabout the foster parents' alleged abuse could clear his client's name.

"I have personally seen the affidavit that has been filed byCPS in this case. This affidavit is dramatic and damning and unlike the garbagethat was put before the court in Smith County," says Thad Davidson, a triallawyer who represented Patrick "Booger Red" Kelly during the Mineola Swinger'sClub case.

Seven adults in the Mineola Swingers Case were accused offorcing four children to participate in sex acts in a Wood County shack knownas "The Swingers Club."

Those adults were convicted of their crimes but thoseconvictions were later overturned—not because the court didn't have enoughevidence, but because a court of appeals did not like the way the prosecutionhandled the case.

Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham says he waspreparing to retry the defendants but six of the seven suspects took a pleaagreement instead.

"We've had 48 different juries convict these defendants butmost importantly the defendants came in later and pled guilty," Bingham says.

The suspects pleaded guilty to third degree felony injury toa child and were released from jail shortly after, having already served theirrequired time.

"It is my opinion along with many others in this case thatthis was a political move by the DA's office in Smith County to get rid of thecases, avoid having retrials, and avoid more controversy and spending money onsomething that should not have happened to begin with," Davidson says.

"If there is something the defense lawyers want to putforward that leads to the filing to a writ saying there's new evidence, we'lltake a look at it. We are happy to take a look at it. But, at this point what Ihave are six defendants pleading guilty, waiving all rights to appeal, andtelling the judge under oath that they did in fact do what they're charged withdoing," Bingham says.

Bingham says his plea agreement offer was about helping thechildren not the defendants, "By offering the defendants this plea bargain, the cases wereconcluded, the cases were over with and these children went back and could tryto be kids."

Davidson says the new allegations against the victims' fosterparents will show the seven defendants were not the actual abusers, "The roadto hopefully actual innocent writs to get these people and their records clear,and by that I mean the defendants, has begun."

Dennis Pittman, the defendant who did not accept a plea agreement,was retried and sentenced to life in prison. Pittman tried to appeal his caseseveral times but was not successful.

Tuesday's hearing in Wood County for the Cantrell's resulted inCPS taking custody of the family's four foster children. CPS says thosechildren will be placed together in a new home.

The Cantrell's will be back in court in December, where witnessesare expected to testify about the abuse allegations the Cantrell's are facing.

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