John Helms Attorney Case Results in The State of Texas Courts and  Federal Criminal Defense Courts  

Last updated:  10-06-21

Federal Criminal Defense Courts Case Results

Federal Criminal Defense {Crime-Tax Evasion}

1/15/20:  United States v. M.S., United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.

Jury trial in tax evasion case.  Judge granted judgment of acquittal on all counts after the conclusion of all evidence. 

>> Learn more: Federal Criminal Defense {Crime-Tax Evasion}

This was a complicated tax evasion case in which the Government claimed that a husband, his wife, and a lawyer were involved in attempting to avoid paying taxes by taking the husband’s income in American Eagle gold coins issued by the United States Treasury Department.  These coins have face values (the amount stated on the coin) of, for example, $10.00, but their market value is much higher, depending on the price of gold.  So, for example, if the husband received $1 million worth of gold coins, based on their market value, the total face value would be much lower.  If the husband and wife declared income based on the face value of the coins, rather than their market value, they would have a much lower income and would owe much less in income tax.  The case also involved depositing the coins in the lawyer’s trust account, which the Government said was designed to make the gold coins difficult to find. 

The case went to trial against all three defendants.  I represented the wife.  Her defense was that she did not willfully evade tax, because, when she signed joint returns, she relied on her husband, who was being advised by the lawyer, to declare and pay the right amount of tax.  In order to be criminal, tax evasion must be “willful.”  In Cheek v. United States, 498 U.S. 192, 202-03 (1991), the United States Supreme Court held that there is not willful tax evasion if the defendant had a good faith belief that the defendant was not violating the law.  So, my client’s defense was that she relied, in good faith, on her husband, and she did not believe he, or she, had done anything wrong.

After the Government rested its case, my client testified in her own defense.  She was, of course, extremely nervous, but we had spent many hours preparing for her testimony so that it would be clear, accurate, and positive, and so that she would not be tricked by any questions from an aggressive federal prosecutor.  That preparation made her feel a lot better, and she did a great job. 

 After all of the evidence was presented, the judge granted my motion for acquittal on all counts, without having the jury decide guilt or innocence.  A judgment of acquittal like this is extremely rare in federal courts.  It means that the judge concluded that there was not enough evidence of guilt for any reasonable jury to find my client guilty.  As a result, my client was completely cleared.  

Federal Criminal Defense {Crime-Methamphetamine Distribution} 

9/11/20:  United States v. F.L.F., United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, Amarillo Division.   

-Methamphetamine distribution case.  Prosecutor dismissed all charges.

>> Learn more below: Federal Criminal Defense {Crime-Methamphetamine Distribution}  

This case resulted from a traffic stop along an interstate highway just east of Amarillo.  As a result of the stop, the police searched my client’s car and found a case of what appeared to be red wine made in Mexico.  The police claimed that my client’s answers to their questions were inconsistent, and they field tested the liquid inside one of the bottles, which they said was positive for methamphetamine.  They therefore accused my client of driving liquid methamphetamine from California to the east coast and arrested him.

The prosecutor wanted my client to plead guilty and to cooperate with the government against anyone else involved with the wine bottles.  We refused to do that, and I obtained documents showing that the bottles were purchased from a store in California.  The government then sent the liquid for lab testing, which is far more accurate than field tests.  The lab tests showed that the liquid was not, in fact, methamphetamine, and the government was forced to dismiss the case.    

Federal Criminal Defense {Crime-Methamphetamine Distribution}  

9/21/21:  United States v. J.B., United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Plano Division.

Sentencing hearing after guilty plea in a methamphetamine distribution case.  Client sentenced to 5 years of probation without a Government motion for downward departure based on cooperation.

>> Learn more below: Federal Criminal Defense {Crime-Methamphetamine Distribution}  

This was a guilty plea to methamphetamine distribution.  The Federal Sentencing Guidelines called for a sentence of 87-108 months (7.25-9 years) in prison.  The judge sentenced my client to 5 years of probation, without a motion for downward departure for cooperation with the government.  She was able to go home to her family. 

This extraordinary result was achieved by a combination of factors, including:  (1) showing that the defendant’s conduct was truly aberrational, after she had lived a productive life; (2) the fact that her significant other and his family pulled her into the illegal activity; (3) the fact that she had done substantial good works for her community over a long period of time; and (4) numerous letters of support from persons with whom she had worked, who were not relatives, that attested to her selfless and generous character.

This case shows how important it can be to work hard on sentencing hearings.  

Federal Criminal Defense {Crime-Gun Possession By Felon} 

10/1/20:  United States v. B.R.C., United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.

Judge granted motion to suppress client’s post-custody statements based on Miranda.  Rather than proceed to trial, the Government has appealed.

>> Learn more below: Federal Criminal Defense {Crime-Gun Possession By Felon}

This case involved a convicted felon who was charged with possessing a handgun.  It is a federal crime for a person who has been convicted of a felony, in either state or federal court, to possess a firearm, as long as the firearm has crossed a state line at some point in time.  Just about every handgun in Texas has crossed a state line, because they are not manufactured in Texas, so they must have crossed a state line, at some point, to get here.  However, in order to prove someone guilty, the person must have known that he or she was in possession of the firearm.

My client was pulled over by a police officer in the early morning hours near his parents’ house.  He was driving a van that belonged to his employer.  The officer pulled him over because the van had an expired registration, but he claimed that he suspected that the van might have been involved in burglaries in the area. 

The officer initially questioned my client in front of his police car.  He then put my client in handcuffs, told him he would tase him if he tried to leave, and announced that he was going to search the van.  He did, and he found a handgun inside a backpack. 

While he was in handcuffs, and before the search, the officer continued to question my client.  I filed a motion to suppress all of the statements my client made after he was in handcuffs.  My argument was that my client was “in custody” when he was in handcuffs, but he had not been given his Miranda rights by the officer, so none of his statements after being handcuffed should be admissible at trial, under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966).  The judge agreed and ruled that the statements could not be used at trial.  Notably, the lawyer who represented my client before me had filed an unsuccessful motion to suppress the results of the search of the van, but that lawyer had not done anything about the statements. 

The government characterized those statements as critical to its case and has now appealed the judge’s ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  I filed the appeal brief in that case. 

The State of Texas Courts Case Results

State Criminal Defense {Crime-Capital Murder Case} 

2/12/20:  State of Texas v. R.M., Dallas County, Texas. 

Capital murder case.  Grand jury refused to indict the client.

>> Learn more below: State Criminal Defense {Crime-Capital Murder Case}  

This case involved a shooting when a drug deal went wrong.  A young man had arranged to sell drugs in a parking lot.  He was in a car with two other people.  Three men approached the car as if they were going to buy the drugs.  They took the drugs, however, and one of them shot the young man who had arranged the sale.  He later died. 

After news of the shooting spread, the other two people in the car started receiving messages on social media, allegedly about the persons involved in the robbery.  From photos people sent them, they claimed to have identified my client “without any doubt” as one of the three robbers.  There was also a security camera video of someone in a hoody that was thought to be my client.  As a result, my client was arrested for capital murder.

After being hired, my investigator and I quickly began interviewing everyone who had seen my client that night and retracing his steps.  I also contacted that Dallas Police detective in charge of the case and began working with him.  After a long investigation, and despite the identification by the two witnesses, the grand jury determined that the evidence was insufficient to link my client to the robbery, and he was cleared. 

State Criminal Defense {Crime-Continous Sexual Abuse} 

3/30/21:  State of Texas v. G.M.G., Collin County, Texas.

Jury trial in continuous sexual abuse of a minor case.  Jury found the client not guilty on all counts.

>> Learn more below: State Criminal Defense {Crime-Continous Sexual Abuse} 

My client was accused of continuous sexual assault of a minor.  If he had been found guilty, he would have been sentenced to prison for a minimum of twenty-five years without the possibility of parole.  The minor who accused him was his step-daughter.  At the time of trial, she was in her late teens.  She testified that he had sexually abused her on four occasions when she was younger.  My client adamantly denied that he had ever sexually abused her.

It might surprise some people to learn that a person can be found guilty of sexual assault based on little more than the testimony of the accuser, but that actually happens all the time.  In fact, these cases are notoriously difficult for a defense lawyer to win at trial, because jurors want to believe the alleged victim.

In order to win this trial, I had to convince the jury that the accuser was not credible.  To do that, I had to avoid simply attacking her personally, which juries hate, and I had to explain why she had a motive to accuse my client falsely.  During my cross-examination of her, I showed the jury why they should not believe her, and I brought out her motivation to accuse my client falsely.

Whether to have a client testify at trial is always a crucial decision.  In sexual assault cases, though, my experience shows that it is normally necessary for the accused to testify in order to win at trial.  After all, it is not really a “he-said-she-said” situation unless “he” actually “says.”  And no matter how many times a judge instructs the jury that they are not allowed to consider the fact that the defendant did not testify, most jurors are still probably thinking, “If I were accused of something so horrible, you could not keep me from testifying.” 

For this trial, my client testified.  Preparing him to testify was more difficult than usual, though, because he spoke no English.  But we spent hours with a translator going over all of the facts and evidence so that he would not be surprised or tricked by an aggressive prosecutor.  We also practiced answering cross-examination questions so that he would be more comfortable and prepared. 

In the end, the jury found him not guilty of all charges, and he was able to be a free man again.  I have also written a separate blog on this website about the lessons for trying sexual assault of a minor cases from this trial. 

State Criminal Defense {Crime-Ethics Violation} 

5/18/21:  In the Matter of Ethics Complaint Filed by B.J., City of Dallas Ethics Advisory Commission.

Represented Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on an ethics complaint filed by a citizen.  After briefing and a hearing, the City of Dallas Ethics Advisory Commission dismissed the complaint. 

>> Learn more below: State Criminal Defense {Crime-Ethics Violation}  

This matter involved an ethics complaint by a citizen, who happened to be a lawyer, against Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.  We believe the citizen/lawyer supports a political opponent of Mayor Johnson.  The complaint had to do with the retweet of a tweet of a news article about an endorsement of a political candidate.

I filed a brief with the City of Dallas Ethics Advisory Commission requesting dismissal of the complaint at the earliest stage.  This involved submitting evidence and writing a detailed analysis of the relevant portions of the Dallas City Ethics Code.  I concluded that the complaint was baseless.

The Ethics Advisory Commission held a hearing at which the complainant/lawyer argued his position, and I represented Mayor Johnson.  The panel agreed with my argument and voted to dismiss the complaint, ending the issue. 

State Criminal Defense {Crime-Child Endangerment} 

9/3/21:  State of Texas v. W.N Rockwall County, Texas.

Child endangerment case.  Prosecutor dismissed all charges two weeks before trial.

>> Learn more below: State Criminal Defense{Crime-Child Endangerment} 

This was one of the more unusual cases I have handled.  It involved a person who was camping in a popup camping trailer attached to a pickup truck in an open field at night with his young children next to an unpaved county road.  A couple in a development across from the field called the police because they thought it was “weird” that my client and his children were there, and they asked the police to do a welfare check on the kids.  The police arrived in the middle of the night with no warning, without their police lights, and with one officer pointing a rifle at my client.  My client grabbed one of his children’s colored flashlights, pointed it in the direction of the police and asked who they were.  The officer with the rifle told him to drop the “laser,” to which my client replied, “It’s not a laser.  It’s a flashlight.”  He then dropped it.  The officer with the rifle then screamed at him to walk toward him, which he did.  The officer then commanded him to get on his knees, to which my client responded, “I have children here!  You are scaring them!  What do you want?”  They then handcuffed him and put him in a squad car. 

After this, the officers discussed what crime they might charge him with so that they could arrest him.  They decided on child endangerment, based on the theory that (1) something he did could have caused the officers to start shooting wildly in his direction, and they could have accidentally shot his children in the camper; and (2) he did not have food and water for his children.  The first theory was as preposterous as it sounds.  The second theory was disproven by photos taken by child protective services of a jug of water in the pickup truck and an ice chest with food, the fact that they were literally an eight-minute drive from a convenience store that was open until 10:00 p.m., and the fact that they had eaten dinner earlier in the evening. 

After a long fight, the State finally gave up and dismissed the case two weeks before trial.  It would have been a fun trial. 

State Criminal Defense {Crime-Sexual Assaul} 

9/7/21:  State of Texas v. T.N., Denton County, Texas.

Alleged sexual assault of a minor case.  Grand jury refused to indict the client.

>> Learn more below:  State Criminal Defense {Crime-Sexual Assault} 

This was an alleged sexual assault of a younger relative.  The defense was that the alleged sexual assault did not happen and was made up by the accuser for family-related reasons.  The grand jury did not believe there was probable cause to charge my client.