Texas

Former ‘Proud Boy’s’ trial canceled after witness disappears

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Editor’s note: This story has been edited regarding characterizations of the Proud Boys.

The trial of the former lawyer for the Proud Boys - whose members and leaders use white nationalist memes, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center - has been postponed in Denton because a witness in his case cannot be found.

Jason Lee Van Dyke, 38, of Cross Roads, who is charged with making a false report to police officers, was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday. Van Dyke is a former member of the Proud Boys and has also served as the group’s lawyer.

The trial was canceled to give Van Dyke’s defense team time to consider the judge’s order Monday allowing written statements from the missing witness to be used during the trial, according to Jamie Beck, spokeswoman for the Denton County district attorney’s office.

On Monday, the court agreed with prosecutors that Van Dyke gave up his right to confront the missing witness or to object to the use of the witness’s statements because Van Dyke tried to prevent the witness from testifying, according to a motion filed by prosecutors.

Prosecutors presented evidence during a hearing Monday that Van Dyke encouraged the witness not to answer the door and to make himself scarce, an official with the Denton County district attorney’s office said.

“We don’t believe any foul play took place, we just can’t find him,” Beck said. “We can’t find him to serve him with a subpoena to let him know he’s supposed to testify.”

Van Dyke has been identified in the past as the lawyer for the Proud Boys. He has also been accused of threatening to kill a man he sued for defamation related to the Proud Boys, Tom Retzlaff, according to federal court records, and of threatening Denton City Councilwoman Deb Armintor, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Law enforcement officials are investigating and Van Dyke could possibly face more charges, Beck said.

While the Proud Boys disavow bigotry and anti-semitism on its website, the Southern Poverty Law Center says its members and leaders regularly use white nationalist memes, maintain affiliations with extremist and hate groups and are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.

In the arrest affidavit for Van Dyke in the false report case, the missing witness and Van Dyke described two different scenarios to police concerning a theft of firearms that supposedly happened on Sept. 13.

Van Dyke told a police officer that he saw someone in his truck after the alarm in it went off but that they had driven away by the time he got outside, the affidavit said. Missing were a shotgun and two handguns that belonged to Van Dyke and camera equipment that belonged to the witness.

The witness told police that Van Dyke told him earlier on Sept. 13 that he could not find one of his pistols, according to the affidavit. Van Dyke and the witness looked for the weapon and discovered that another handgun was missing. During the search, the witness said he realized his camera equipment was also missing.

When police questioned Van Dyke about the witness’s version of events, Van Dyke said that the weapons had been found and that he put them back in his truck. The witness said the weapons were never located.

Neither Van Dyke nor his attorney of record, Dominick J. Marsala, could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Van Dyke is licensed and eligible to practice law in Texas but lists his status as retired on the State Bar of Texas webpage.

Van Dyke has been placed on probation by the State Bar until May 14 for misconduct relating to a lawsuit filed in 2017. As long as Van Dyke complies with the conditions of his probation he remains eligible to practice law.

One of the conditions of his probation is that he to get a psychological evaluation and counseling and comply with the recommendations of his mental health provider.

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