Jail mugshot of Judson V. Sutherland, a partner in Austin's Hajjar Sutherland & Peters
Jail mugshot of Judson V. Sutherland, a partner in Austin’s Hajjar Sutherland & Peters ()

An Austin attorney who allegedly made an agreement to pay $60 for sex and was arrested and charged with prostitution must appear in court on July 8.

Judson Vanpatten Sutherland allegedly responded on June 19 to an online ad, talked on the phone with an officer and made the $60-for-sex agreement. He then allegedly traveled to a hotel room and again made the agreement with an undercover officer, said the arrest warrant affidavit in State of Texas v. Sutherland.

Sutherland, partner in Hajjar Sutherland & Peters, is a corporate and securities and real estate lawyer. He didn’t return a call or email seeking comment.

His attorney, Peek and Toland partner Stephen Toland of Austin, said, “The first and most important thing we want to get across is: He is charged with a Class B misdemeanor, and his wife, family, friends and colleagues all know Judson’s character and heart, and also know that this accusation is not in holding with what they know from personal experience, through a lifetime of interactions with Judson. We stand by him with knowledge that once the legal process has run its course and we have defended him, Judson will be able to hold his head high, and all those who have stood by him during this time will have had their faith in him strengthened.”

If convicted of the Class B misdemeanor charge, Sutherland could face a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

Undercover Operation

The “warrant of arrest” in the case includes an “affidavit for warrant of arrest and detention” that is signed by Detective K. LaHood. The affidavit states that “affiant” was working on June 19 in an undercover operation.

“The Austin Police Department posted an online advertisement in the escort section of an online website that is commonly used to solicit for prostitution services,” according to the affidavit.

The affidavit alleges, “Sutherland contacted” an officer “in response to our advertisement” and said his name was “Jay.”

“‘Jay’ made an agreement with the undercover officer to exchange $60 for sexual intercourse. He then traveled to the above location on his own free will and again made an agreement for sexual intercourse in exchange for $60,” alleged the affidavit.

When Sutherland “arrived at the hotel door,” he identified himself as “Jay,” which confirmed he was the same person from the phone call, said the affidavit.

It alleges that Sutherland knowingly and willingly offered and agreed “to engage in sexual conduct for a fee.”

Arrest and Release

The warrant and affidavit list the offense date as June 19, but an Austin municipal court magistrate judge signed the arrest warrant on June 21. The Travis County Clerk’s Office file-stamped it on June 23.

Sutherland was released from the Travis County Jail on a $2,000 personal bond. The personal bond shows a date of June 19 at the top, but a magistrate judge signed and dated it on June 23.

Roger Wade, Travis County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said that Sutherland was originally arrested on June 19 and that he spent “a couple of hours” at the jail and was released “on a judge’s order” by “Judge Vigorito.”

Then, on June 23, Wade said that Sutherland did a “walk through,” in which he was booked into jail and then released on a personal bond.

Stephen Vigorito, an Austin municipal court associate judge who also presides over magistrate court, said he confirmed that Sutherland was released initially because there were “insufficient facts in the affidavit for determination of probable cause.”

“What I can tell you is I conferred with the detective who was responsible for filing the cases the next day to let her know what I found was lacking. She was able to fix that. That’s why the warrant was issued a couple of days later,” Vigorito said, noting he couldn’t comment specifically on what he found “lacking.”

Toland explained that, when Sutherland was arrested on June 19, a magistrate judge reviewed the arrest warrant affidavit and found “insufficient probable cause” to hold Sutherland for the alleged crime.

Toland said he could comment on the procedure but not about the evidence.

Toland said in an interview, “The judge ordered his release and declined to accept the probable cause affidavit, then an officer turned in an amended—or different—probable cause affidavit. … That triggered the necessity to turn ourselves in to receive a personal bond.”

Dan Hamrey, director of the trial court division in the Travis County Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes misdemeanors, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

APD senior police officer Veneza Bremner said, “We can’t discuss the case because it’s still open and going through prosecution.”

Kareem Hajjar, partner in Hajjar Sutherland & Peters, wrote in an email that “all of us” at the firm are “deeply concerned” about the recent events involving Sutherland and that “we” are conducting an investigation into the facts and charges.

“We expect our attorneys and staff to comport themselves ethically and with dignity and regard to the best role that lawyers and their staff can serve in their community. It is up to the partners of Hajjar Sutherland & Peters LLP to set the example for how that is done, and to take action within the firm if those expectations are not met,” Hajjar wrote in part.

He noted in the email that the firm includes 12 attorneys and has operated since 2005.

“As always, we will continue to strive to provide the highest-quality legal services to our clients,” wrote Hajjar.