Fort Worth

Woman who settled harassment claim against ex-DA died of ‘mixed drug intoxication’

Sabrina Sabin, who made a sexual harassment complaint against former District Attorney Joe Shannon in 2012, died in February.
Sabrina Sabin, who made a sexual harassment complaint against former District Attorney Joe Shannon in 2012, died in February. Star-Telegram archives.

Editor’s note: This article contains graphic content and language.

FORT WORTH — A woman who received a large settlement from Tarrant County in 2012 over allegations of sexual harassment against former district attorney Joe Shannon died in February of “mixed drug intoxication,” the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled this week.

Sabrina Sabin, 48, died Feb. 22 at her home on Goforth Road in Parker County, southwest of Fort Worth.

The medical examiner’s office ruled her death an accident as a result of mixing hydrocodone, a pain reliever, and cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxer.

In 2012, Sabin, a former assistant district attorney, received a $300,000 no-fault settlement — plus $75,000 for her attorney — from the county after alleging that Shannon, her boss, harassed her from 2008 to 2012, making her life “unbearable,” according to her personal journal.

Shannon, who served as district attorney from 2009 to 2015, denied the allegations.

“There are two sides to this controversy,” he said in a statement at the time. “The claims have been vigorously denied and disputed.”

The county decided to settle the claim for fiscal reasons, County Administrator G.K. Maenius said.

“Neither the county, the district attorney or his office is admitting any fault at all,” Maenius said after the settlement was reached. “We believe we would probably be successful in litigation; however, the cost of that litigation would be much more than the settlement cost.”

Journal’s allegations

Sabin’s journal, which was released to media through an open records request, detailed the allegations.

“Joe would constantly make comments about my breasts and tell me he would like to see them, touch them,” Sabin wrote. “He would say things like, ‘If you ever decide to surprise me and show them to me, no one has to know.’ 

“What the hell was I supposed to say to that?” wrote Sabin, who had been married for 20 years and had two college-age children when the allegations were made. “I knew that if I said anything or made an issue out of being sexually harassed, that I would possibly loose [sic] my job or that he would make my life miserable. I just kept quite [sic] and continued to focus on doing my job well.”

During another meeting in Shannon’s office, Sabin said, she was looking over his shoulder at his computer screen.

“He said, ‘You’re going to get yourself f----- if your [sic] not careful,’ ” Sabin wrote. “I didn’t know what to say. Things are never going to change. This is never going to get better until he is gone.”

Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright called for Shannon’s resignation, but other county officials described the case as “extremely complicated” and “not open-and-shut.”

Shannon stayed in office but decided not to run for re-election in 2014.

Sabin resigned from the district attorney’s office in 2012.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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