- Craig Schneider The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Is Claud “Tex” McIver trying to influence the murder case against him from behind bars?
Fulton County prosecutors say yes. As evidence, they point to three jailhouse phone calls and a videotaped visit showing McIver reaching out to influential people and a potential witness. But McIver’s defense attorneys say prosecutors are misrepresenting the discussions, and that McIver is doing no such thing.
Now you can decide for yourself. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has obtained exclusive audio recordings of the conversations. They played a role in Judge Robert McBurney’s decision to deny bond to the 74-year-old attorney, who is charged with murder in the shooting death of his wife, Diane, last September. The tapes were provided by defense attorney William Hill at the request of the AJC.
Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker said McIver called his sister, Dixie McIver, and asked her to contact James Hugh, who had worked for the McIvers washing their cars and buying groceries. In court, Rucker said McIver said he wanted to provide Hugh with a jaguar car that belonged to his wife, Diane McIver.
Pointing out that Hugh knew the McIvers well and might be called to testify at trial, Rucker added during the June 6 bond hearing, “That was very, very disturbing to hear.”
Defense attorney William Hill told the AJC that McIver was only trying to fulfill a promise to Hugh to sell him an old black limousine, so he could use it to make a living.
In the recording of the phone call, McIver tells his sister: “I promised to sell him Diane’s black car. That’s all I want to say. … He’s going to use that car for income generation.”
Rucker had also paraphrased McIver’s description of Hugh during the call. “Mr. Hugh is like a little bird and you have to feed him things from time to time to get him to kind of do what you want him to do.”
Hill, the defense attorney, countered that is inaccurate, and that McIver was saying that Hugh lives on a low income and has to work daily to get by.
On the tape, McIver says: “He’s like a bird. If he’s not looking for food and eating everyday, it’s not good. And here’s a guy with a bad back who has to work every day to keep things going.”
Rucker, the prosecutor, told the court that McIver called Anne Schwall, the mother of his godson and the former wife of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall. He said McIver asked her to contact Judge Schwall and ask him to make a phone call to help get him out of jail on bond.
Hill, for his part, said McIver made the call in his early days in the Fulton County jail and that he was in shock and under pressure, and that “he was exercising bad judgment.”
On the tape, McIver says: “These are recorded calls so I don’t want to use any names. But could you call the father of my godson and indicate that the other side is dragging its feet…. If there’s anything he knows to do. He’ll understand that. But if there’s anything he can do it would be appreciated. All we need is a signature of somebody and that will get the process going over here and I’m out.”
Judge Schwall is not involved in the McIver case. Judge McBurney, the presiding judge, noted from the bench that Judge Schwall had not contacted him regarding McIver.
Anne Schwall told the AJC Thursday that McIver was only requesting that Judge Schwall check on the status of his bond case. She said that the prosecution took the incident “out of context to make something out of nothing.”
Rucker pointed to a visit McIver received in jail from Dr. Kennth Hoose, Judge Schwall, Anne Schwall and their son, Austin, who is McIver’s godson. The parties were separated by a wall and used video-cameras to see each other and phones to speak. The judge comes on the line and says to McIver that he is behind him a thousand percent, Rucker said.
Hill told the AJC that this was just a friendly visit with no untoward intentions. Schwall is a close friend of the McIvers and was just expressing general support, he said.
On the videotape, McIver spends most of the 29-minute visit speaking to the boy Austin. Toward the end, Judge Schwall briefly gets on the line and says, “I support you a thousand percent, OK? I’m with you.”
McIver responds: “I know you are. I can use it. I’m ready to come home, sir.”
Schwall says: “Hang in there. We care, OK?”
Anne Schwall told the AJC Thursday the prosecution blew the jail visit “out of proportion.”
Rucker pointed to this call from McIver to his sister, Dixie McIver, saying that McIver was inquiring about Richard Hyde’s role with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Hyde is working for the McIver legal team as an investigator.
Rucker said that if the prosecutors wanted to file a complaint in the case, it would go before the JQC, which investigates complaints of ethical misconduct by judges.
“It’s just the way it appears judge. It’s just how it looks,” Rucker said during the bond hearing. “It’s just bad.”
Hill said that neither Hyde nor the JQC is mentioned on the call. He believes that McIver was referring to the state party chair of the Republican Party.
“It was an incredible misrepresentation,” Hill said.
McIver says, “When you’re talking to (Dr. Kenneth) Hoose, ask him who is the new state party chair. They had a meeting last weekend. I had a horse in the race.”
McIver remains in jail. His next court date is in August.