Grand jury declines to indict ex-Arlington officer

03/19/2014 12:37 PM

03/19/2014 1:01 PM

A former Arlington assistant police chief who was arrested by his own department last year on accusations that he assaulted his wife was no-billed by a Tarrant County grand jury Wednesday, officials said.

James Hawthorne, who retired after the incident, expressed relief.

“I have to really thank God for hearing my prayers,” Hawthorne said. “My faith has helped sustain me through probably one of the most difficult periods in my life. I have maintained from the very beginning that I was not guilty of a crime and that I did not assault my wife, and I’m thankful that the criminal investigation bore that out.”

Hawthorne was arrested on suspicion of assault with bodily injury early Nov. 17 after his wife, Stephanie Hawthorne, called police to their Arlington home.

Though police did not specify the allegations, heavily redacted police reports allege that he used his “hands, fist and feet” in the assault and that his wife suffered “swelling/redness.”

Days after the arrest, Stephanie Hawthorne, a principal at Arlington’s Barnett Junior High School, issued a statement accusing police of misrepresenting what happened and saying she would no longer cooperate in the investigation.

She also tried unsuccessfully to lift an emergency protective order, writing to a judge that she “grossly overreacted” in seeking it.

“The grand jury heard from multiple witnesses before coming to this conclusion,” Melody McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said in a news release. “Because grand jury proceedings are secret, it would be inappropriate to comment further on this matter, which is concluded.”

Stephanie Hawthorne did not respond to a message seeking comment.

James Hawthorne was placed on administrative leave after his arrest.

Although he initially told the Star-Telegram that he wanted to stay on with the department, Hawthorne changed his mind and retired in December after 28 years on the force.

“I just felt like I was in a place where it just made sense,” he said Wednesday. “I didn’t want to drag the city or the Police Department’s name in the mud anymore than it had to be, and there seemed to be a lot of attention and distraction around my incident. It just seemed like it would be a better situation for all involved that I just call it a day.”

Hawthorne said he and his wife remain married but declined to comment further on their relationship.

He hinted that he was not happy with how the department handled his case but would not elaborate.

“I obviously believe that things could have been handled a lot differently than what they were,” he said. “I say that based on my years of experience in law enforcement, but I’m not ready to go into that right now.”

Arlington police officials declined to comment on the case or the grand jury’s decision.

“I really do appreciate the people who have stood behind me through this whole ordeal and have believed in me,” he said. “They know my character and know the kind of person I am. Their support has meant a lot to me personally.”

Join the Discussion

Fort Worth Star-Telegram is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQ | Terms of Service