Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall, whose son is the godson of Atlanta attorney Claud “Tex” McIver, tipped the lawyer off that police were issuing warrants for his arrest, McIver’s friend and spokesman man, Bill Crane testified Monday.
Crane, who ran interference for McIver with the news media in the days immediately after McIver shot and killed his wife, Diane, said he and McIver were having lunch on Dec. 19, 2016, when the judge called McIver on his cellphone.
“[McIver] said, ‘Thanks, Judge Schwall,’” Crane recalled. “He hangs up. He looks very sad. He said he had been informed that the Atlanta Police Department is swearing out warrants.”
McIver also said he needed to call his lawyer, Stephen Maples, Schwall added.
Two days later, on Dec. 21, 2016, McIver turned himself in at the Fulton County Jail after police charged him with felony involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct. He posted bond the next day.
But before he turned himself in, Crane said he advised McIver to call his law firm, Fisher & Phillips and accept a severance package they had extended to him and retire before news of the warrants became public. McIver took that advice, and his retirement was effective Dec. 31, 2016.
In a statement issued in response to Monday’s testimony, Schwall said he urged McIver to turn himself in.
“The fact of the matter is that Detective Darrin Smith called then-McIver attorney Steve Maples to urge his client to turn himself in immediately or a fugitive warrant would be issued,” Schwall said through a spokesman. “Smith became frustrated when the attorney wanted to delay that decision. So Smith had fellow detective Kevin Leonpacher phone me to ask if I would urge McIver to turn himself in immediately. I did that. I made that call as an officer of the court to another officer of the court, and strongly urged McIver to immediately turn himself in. And he did.”
Atlanta homicide detective Darrin Smith’s final report shows he obtained arrest warrants for McIver on Dec. 20, 2016—a day after Schwall’s called McIver. The report said Smith contacted Maples that same day and requested that McIver turn himself in to the Fulton County Jail by 8 p.m. on Dec. 21, 2016. Maples, according to the report, “did not have an objection at that time.”
The incident report has one anomaly—it lists the date of the warrant as Sept. 20, 2016, and the date McIver surrendered as Sept. 21, 2016. On the witness stand, Smith testified that he had inadvertently listed the incorrect month. It was December, not September.
There was no mention in his report of any call to Schwall or Leonpacher.
Crane’s testimony Monday afternoon was not the first reference to the Fulton County judge at McIver’s ongoing murder trial over the shooting death of his wife. On April 27, 2016, a county grand jury elevated the charges against McIver from involuntary manslaughter to malice and felony murder and added three counts of influencing witnesses, including Crane.
On Monday, jurors heard a recorded telephone conversation McIver had with Anne Schwall, his godson’s mother and Judge Schwall’s ex-wife, the day he was indicted. By then, McIver had been jailed and his $200,000 bond revoked for violating conditions barring him from having a gun.
In several calls from the jail on April 27, 2017, McIver sought help from friends and family to pressure his attorneys to work “24/7” to win his release.
In his conversation with Anne Schwall, McIver cautioned her, “These are recorded calls, so I don’t want to use any names.” Then, he continued, “You call the father of my godson [Craig Schwall] and indicate that it appears the other side is dragging their feet, which is going to result in my staying here much longer.”
“All we need is the signal from somebody that will get the process going here, and I will get out,” he said.
Anne Schwall then assured McIver, “I will definitely get on the phone and get that worked out for you right now.”
By then, McIver had told Anne Schwall that he had changed his will to leave the 85-acre ranch he had shared with his wife to Austin Schwall.
Anne Schwall testified in March that, after McIver shot his wife, McIver confided that both he and Diane wanted Austin to inherit their estates but that “they didn’t get around to it” because of her death.
Tex McIver’s new will designated Anne Schwall as his successor executor. With the exception of a single $500,000 bequest to his youngest son from a $750,000 life insurance policy, McIver’s new will left the remainder of his estate to Austin, including the ranch. The will also included a trust to provide for Austin’s education, health support and maintenance.
There has been no testimony or other indication that Judge Schwall did anything to help McIver secure a new bond. Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Robert McBurney, who is presiding over McIver’s trial denied McIver bond last April and did not relent until McIver’s trial, originally scheduled to begin last October, was postponed until March.
But during McIver’s bond hearing last year, Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker contended that McIver attempted to use his political influence to secure his release. McIver was a member of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Judicial Nominating Commission that recommended Schwall be appointed to the Fulton County Superior Court bench in 2005.
After McIver’s bond was revoked, Schwall visited him in jail and told the lawyer in a recorded conversation, “Hey, man, I’m with you 1,000 percent.”
At that bond hearing, McBurney made clear that Schwall never attempted to influence him.
“Judge Schwall has never contacted me about this case,” McBurney said at the time. “We are friends. We are colleagues. … He has maintained an appropriate professional distance throughout the proceedings. He has not reached out to me in any way, shape or form about this case or Mr. McIver or Austin. He appreciates the need to keep that distance.”