The least populated Texas county’s judge was arrested Friday and charged with — believe it or not — cattle rustling. According to the 2020 census, just 64 people populated the 671 square miles of Loving County, Texas. Time Magazine called Loving “The Richest Little County” because it reportedly has the highest per capita income of all U.S. counties, at $89,471. The Time report features photos of County Judge Skeet Jones inspecting one of his oil wells and at his office.
Jones, 71, was arrested, with three others, by agents of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). Jones and Cody Williams, 31, were both charged with three counts of theft of livestock worth less than $150,000 and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity. Jonathan Alvarado, 23, was charged with one count of theft of livestock worth less than $150,000 and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity. Leroy Medlin, 35, was charged with one count of engaging in organized criminal activity, according to a NewsWest9 report.
The four men allegedly gathered estray cattle and sold them without following Texas agricultural procedures outlined in Chapter 142. Estray refers to stray livestock, according to the statute, which contains a requirement that people finding estray animals must notify the county sheriff. Rather than notify the sheriff, who is tasked with reuniting livestock with their rightful owners, the men allegedly sold the livestock.
TSCRA Special Ranger Kenny Murchison said stolen cattle usually fetch a few hundred dollars at the auction barn. It is hard to understand why a judge would risk his career for a few thousand dollars during the one-year investigation that ended with his arrest. County records indicate the judge’s 2022 salary was increasing to $108,000.
This is not the first time Judge Jones ran afoul of Texas authorities, according to a Twitter post from NewsWest9 reporter Tatum Guinn.
“In 2014, I did a story about how he was helping CDL drivers,” Guinn remarked. “He was taking speeding tickets and turning them into illegal parking tickets. The driver would pay a higher fine and keep a clean driving record. You can’t do that.”
A Sunday telephone call for comment from Special Ranger Marty Baker, whose territory includes Loving County, was not immediately returned.
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