Austin lawyer charged in murder plot has criminal record

Posted: 5:11 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, 2015

An Austin attorney whom police have accused of being a heroin dealer and offering a man money to kill someone had run-ins with the law years ago, court records show.

James Newton Walker, 62, was jailed Friday and charged with solicitation of murder. According to an arrest affidavit, police say he asked one of his heroin customers to kill someone and that customer then went to the authorities.

Walker’s record over the past 25 years includes charges of drug possession in 2004, DWI in 1996 and theft by check in 1993, according to court documents. He was convicted of the DWI charge but received probation and a reduced sentence, and he received deferred adjudication for the theft by check conviction. The outcome of the drug possession charge was unclear.

DWI and drug possession do not rise to the level of a crime that triggers an automatic disciplinary process for attorneys, said Claire Mock, a spokeswoman for the State Bar of Texas.

Mock could not immediately explain why Walker has no disciplinary history for his theft by check charge, as the bar’s website shows.

If he is convicted of the murder solicitation charge, Walker would probably have to appear before the state’s Board of Disciplinary Appeals, she said. The board can also seek to temporarily suspend his license pending the case’s resolution.

Police recordings of an encounter between Walker and his heroin customer make clear Walker’s request for his customer to kill someone for him, the affidavit says. Police had equipped the customer with a wire before he met with Walker.

“He wanted the intended victim dead because of a dispute,” the affidavit says. But in a news conference Monday, police declined to offer details about the dispute.

Walker agreed to pay the customer $1,000 and wrote down the first and last names of his intended target, the affidavit says. Walker told the man he would provide him not only a gun but also a photo of his target and an address, the affidavit says. Walker also sold the man heroin during the encounter, the affidavit says.

Police have since contacted the intended target, Austin police Lt. Pat Connor said.

Connor said he wasn’t surprised to find out that an Austin attorney who is eligible to practice in Texas had been charged with these crimes.

“Nothing can ever surprise you,” Connor said. “In any and every profession, you’re going to have someone out there breaking the law.”

On Monday, jail records showed that Walker was still in the Travis County Jail with bail set at $100,000.

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