A Texas attorney associated with self-described “Western chauvinist” group Proud Boys, who was suspended and fined by the state’s disciplinary board last week for threatening a bar complainant, headed off a criminal trial this week by pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report.
On Friday, Jason Lee Van Dyke of Crossroads, Texas—who is also licensed to practice in Georgia, Colorado and Washington, D.C.—agreed to a consent judgment with the Texas Disciplinary Commission resulting in a one-year suspension of his law license, although he will only be suspended from active practice for three months.
The remaining nine months will be probationary, contingent upon his compliance with terms including that he seek mental health treatment and pay $7,500 in fees and expenses.
Van Dyke was already under a six-month suspension that the commission ordered in December after finding he “threatened to present criminal or disciplinary charges solely to gain an advantage in connection with the civil matter” he was handling.
Van Dyke was supposed to go on trial this Friday on the false police report charge over statements he made to Oak Point police officers in September concerning some guns he reported stolen but which had apparently never been missing.
But on Tuesday he entered a plea of no contest in Denton County Criminal Court, was sentenced to 24 months on probation, ordered to perform 60 hours of community service and assessed $889 in court costs and fees.
Van Dyke was sentenced under Texas’ deferred adjudication statute, which means if he completes the probationary period without violating its terms, the sentence will not be counted as a conviction, and he can later ask that the record be sealed.
Van Dyke’s recent disciplinary action stems from a nasty dispute with Tom Retzlaff, a Phoenix retiree who is the defendant in a $100 million defamation lawsuit Van Dyke filed in federal court.
Retzlaff, who describes himself as lifelong Republican and avid supporter of President Donald Trump, got crossways with Van Dyke when he contacted the Victoria County District Attorney’s Office in 2017 to express concerns about Van Dyke’s employment and his connections with Proud Boys.
Proud Boys, the male-only organization founded by Canadian Gavin McInnes, has been accused of advocating violence in pursuit of its political and social activism. According to a report from a Washington state sheriff’s department last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation “characterizes the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism.”
A former Proud Boys member, Jason Kessler, was involved in organizing the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 that ended in the death of Heather Heyer, a legal assistant at the Miller Law Group. Heyer was among a group of people protesting the rally.
Proud Boys is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“I was concerned because I didn’t think it was a good idea to have somebody active in a violent white supremacist organization working as a prosecutor in a state with the largest death-penalty rate in the country,” Retzlaff said.
“I actually believe in about 80 percent of what the Proud Boys believe,” he said. “But I don’t believe political and racial violence have any place in this country.”
Retzlaff filed a bar complaint against Van Dyke—whom he describes as a “Nazi and white supremacist”—and notified the Victoria County district attorney about Van Dyke’s activities. Van Dyke lost his job as a prosecutor in 2017.
Van Dyke accused Retzlaff of notifying his employers at a real estate title firm about Van Dyke’s Proud Boys affiliation and getting him fired in 2018, which Retzlaff denies.
Last year, Van Dyke sued Retzlaff in federal court in Texas’ Eastern District; Retzlaff filed a motion to dismiss under Texas’ anti-SLAPP law. The judge ruled that such a motion was not viable in federal court, a ruling that is on appeal to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Last March, Van Dyke emailed Retzlaff and threatened to kill him. Those threats were the subject of last week’s disciplinary order.
In an email Monday, Van Dyke said the bar order “had nothing to do with my representation of a client” and “was brought by an extraordinary sick and demented individuals (sic) who has stalked me relentlessly for the past two years. The fact that it ever saw the light of day demonstrates the moral fiber, or lack thereof, of the State Bar of Texas and the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel.”
“As for the criminal case,” he said, “my only comment is that I absolutely did not commit the offense for which I am charged and have already passed a polygraph. However, the rulings made in the case thus far and the ongoing reporting of that case have demonstrated to me that I have no likelihood of receive a fair trial despite the fact that I am innocent of this charge. I have instructed my attorneys to proceed accordingly.”
After entering his plea Tuesday morning, Van Dyke reiterated his innocence.
“I did not commit this offense,” Van Dyke said. “The plea was based solely upon my opinion that I was treated inappropriately by the district attorney’s office and media coverage of the case made it impossible for me to receive a fair trial.
“My conscience is clear,” he said. “I doubt the arresting officers or district attorneys involved can honestly say the same.”
Van Dyke is also under investigation for obstruction relating to emails he sent Retzlaff in December concerning the bar complaint. According to an arrest warrant, Van Dyke said, “I promise you this motherfucker: If my law career dies, you die with it.”
Another said, “You have destroyed my life, and for that offense, you will pay with your own. That’s not a threat. That’s a PROMISE motherfucker.”
The Plano, Texas police department is investigating those messages, Retzlaff said.
Retzlaff said he has also filed bar complaints against Van Dyke in Georgia, Colorado and D.C.