Judge hears recording of Lufkin radio personality coaching girlfriend prior to assault trial

Stephen Yates (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Stephen Yates (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Yates told Judge David Wilson that he was remorseful for what he has done (Source: KTRE Staff)
Yates told Judge David Wilson that he was remorseful for what he has done (Source: KTRE Staff)
Stephen Yates showing his version of the alleged assault with his girlfriend (Source: KTRE Staff)
Stephen Yates showing his version of the alleged assault with his girlfriend (Source: KTRE Staff)

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - During the continuation of a probation revocation hearing for a Lufkin radio personality Wednesday, a Polk County judge heard recordings of expletive-laced jail house conversations between Stephen Yates and his girlfriend and an associate.

In the recordings of the jail house conversations, Yates and Savannah Marberry could be heard talking about how she should avoid being served with a summons to testify at the trial for the two assault charges that were pending against Yates at that time. He also told her what to say if she wound up having to testify in court.

Yates is currently serving a 10-year probation sentence for a felony driving while intoxicated offense that occurred in Polk County back in 2007.

On Oct. 30, 2013, Yates was arrested after Lufkin police said he threw Marberry to the ground, pushed her, and grabbed her throat. He was released later that day after posting a $1,500 bail.

According to the Lufkin police report, on March 11, an officer saw a BMW M6 traveling southbound on South Timberland Drive at the intersection of Chestnut Street at 7:32 p.m. Once the officer stopped Yates, he learned about the Polk County warrant for his arrest.

The warrant was issued after the Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon learned of the assault charge.

Yates was found not guilty of the assault charge after Judge Derek Flournoy said the state did not maintain its threshold burden in regard to evidence presented in the case.

Despite the ruling by Flournoy, Joe Martin, an assistant district attorney for Polk County, said that Yates still was in violation of his probation because of the alleged assault on his girlfriend as well as an assault on a man that tried to serve legal papers to Yates.

Martin also said the incident with Yates driving goes against his probation since his car was not equipped with a device to sense alcohol. Yates' attorneys argued that is a technical issue because Yates was at the time wearing an ankle bracelet that would go off if alcohol was in his system.

The day started with Judge David Wilson hearing jail house recording between Yates and his girlfriend.

An undercover Lufkin Police officer told prosecuting attorney Joe Martin that he served Savannah Marberry papers to testify at Wednesday's hearing, but she had still not shown up by the beginning of the hearing.

The first recording listened to in court was one done on March 11, the day Yates was arrested for speeding and the revocation warrant from Polk County was issued.

"Were you speeding?" Marberry asked in the recording.

"Yes, I got a ticket for going 55 in a 35," Yates said.

"I can't believe you did that with so much at stake," Marberry said.

"I can't believe he did it," Yates said. "I said, 'you're giving me a [expletive] ticket when you have a warrant. I can't believe they gave me a Mickey Mouse ticket."

In a conversation from two days later, Yates and Marberry talked about the two assault charges that were pending at the time.

"If they find you and serve you for the hearing, you have to take the blame on that one," Yates said. "On the second one, you say he got out of the car, and I thought he was going to hit me. … There's no Mexicans in our neighborhood, and there was one at my front door, and I didn't know what he would do."

Yates then moved on to Marberry being served.

"I just don't want you to be around up here, and they be able to serve you," Yates said.

The next recorded phone call was between Mike Koenig and Yates on March 24, which was the day before the trial for the alleged assault on Marberry.

Yates and Koenig first talked about only giving his daughter $100 a week. Martin asked the officer to explain, and he told the court that Yates's daughter received a monthly check from Social Security after her mom died. The officer explained that the $100 a week was well short of what she actually received.

In the recording, Yates also told Koenig that his daughter will probably be called to testify in the assault trial against Marberry and that she just needs to keep to her story and say Savannah was the aggressor.

"Make sure that she tells them that Savannah [Marberry] was the aggressor in the incident," Yates said. "We are going to make these cops look like a bunch of [expletive] buffoons."

Several tapes from March 25 were played. March 25 was the day of the assault trial in which Yates was found not guilty of assault against Marberry by Angelina County Court-At-Law 2 Judge Derek Flournoy.

In a call with Marberry, Yates described the events of the trial.

"We [expletive] destroyed them," Yates said. "We made them look like fools."

Yates told Marberry that as soon as the trial started the state asked for a continuance because they could not produce a viable witness from the assault.

"That's awesome," Marberry said.

"They said you are free to go, and I said, 'Oh boy, they are about to [expletive] up,' but when we got to the jail they said, 'No he has to go to Polk County," Yates said.

After the tapes finished Martin asked the officer who he thinks Yates tampered with.

"His daughter," the officer replied. "By withholding money, they got her to do what he wanted."

After lunch, Martin would question officer Brad Baker from of the Lufkin Police Department.

Baker told Martin about the events surrounding the night of Oct. 30, 2013, when an alleged altercation took place between Yates and Marberry.

"She was on the corner of the street," Baker said. "She was very afraid when I was talking with her."

Baker said he first asked what has gone on inside the house. Baker told the defense that he didn't think she was in danger from anyone at that time.

Martin then played a patrol video from the night of the incident.

In the video Marberry can be seen telling officers that Yates and her got in an altercation.

"He threw me down by my neck," she said.  "He picked me up and wouldn't let me go."

Marberry would also tell baker that she wanted to get in the car because she was scared she might get shot.

"He was supposed to love me," Marberry said.

Later on in the tape, we here Yates telling a version of his story.

Yates said he was in the bathtub trying to relax.

"She was hungry and I said I had food, but she didn't want that and she took off."

Yates said she went and got $30 worth of barbeque and came back.

"That didn't go over too well," Yates said.

Yates continued and said he went to bed and then she came in the room and started going through stuff and then she started hitting him.

Yates is told since he is the primary aggressor that he had to be arrested.

"I totally disagree with that," Yates said. "I am on felony probation. I am not lying."

Yates went on and said he was not in a position to do anything like that.

Martin then shows Baker pictures taken from the night of the assault.

Baker said the marks on Yates and Marberry were consistent with what happened according to Marberry.

Baker also said that based on Yates' story of what happened the pictures do not back up his side.

The defense asked Baker if he remembered being told that there were bite marks on Yates. Baker said did not remember that coming up in the conversation.

Baker also told the defense that it was hard to tell which way the hands were moving on the back of Yates.

After the state finished questioning, the defense team called up Yates' daughter.

She told defense attorney Don Duran that she has since moved out, but gets about $1,500 a month from social security.

She said that the arrangement on expenses changed once she moved out.

Yates daughter also said that she has never been promised money or gifts to testify.

"I think it is a pretty ridiculous assumption to make," she said.

The focus then shifted to Oct.30 and the argument between Yates and Marberry.

Yates daughter remembered going with Yates to pick up Marberry earlier in the night.

"She was acting intoxicated," she said. "I don't know what she was on but it seemed that she was on something to be acting that way."

Yates' daughter said that she did not see her take anything or drink anything that day.

Yates daughter said later in the night, the two of them were getting loud, so she went down stairs to tell them to be quiet since she had school the next day.

She continued and told Durran that it continued.

"Savanna [Marberry] was in his face," she said. "She had her hands on his chest."

Yates's daughter said she left when the arguing didn't stop and left for about 45 minutes.

"I came back and my dad wasn't there and there were officers in my yard," she said.

She continued answering saying that she was never questioned by the officers.

Yates' daughter told martin that it was unusual to see Yates and Marberry arguing like the way they were.

Martin asked if it was true that Marberry was the aggressor.

"She was in his face and had her hands on his chest," she said. "I think that would constitute her being the aggressor."

Yates would then take the stand and answer questions from his team.

"She wanted to get some Halloween costumes and I got a call from a police officer that they pulled her over and she could go if we picked her up," Yates said. "I hadn't observed her drinking, but I asked if she had taken anything and she said 'yes.' She was lethargic."

Yates said he told her he was disappointed that she left in that shape.

"She just basically argued with me and talked back to me saying I'm not going to listen to you," Yates said.

Yates said he was not sure of the time but he thought the incident happened around midnight.

"I asked her if she would please get in bed, at that point she started cursing and biting and slashing me," Yates said.

Yates continued and said that he did not slam Marberry down.

"I raised my arm when she was coming to me to protect myself," Yates said.

Yates said the whole altercation lasted no more than a minute and a half.

Yates said the next day when he was released from jail he came home and Marberry was outside and acted like nothing happened. Yates said he grabbed a bag of stuff she had and it was full of his personal stuff.

Questioning then moved to the incident where Yates allegedly assaulted a process server

"He was pulling into my driveway," Yates said. "I didn't recognize him."

Yates said he did not see the process server until he was baking out of my driveway.

"To keep from running over him, I stopped." He came barreling up into my yard. As I approached the car I saw him reach down in his floor board and I got scared."

Yates said the server did not tell him who he was. Yates said he never hit him or slapped him.

"He said he was a process server and I said okay, so you have some papers to serve me," Yates said. "He gave me the papers and I walked away."

Yates said when he got inside he told Marberry that he had gotten served papers and then she left.

Yates then said it was true that he was driving when he wasn't supposed to be on March 11 when he was arrested.

"I was driving to turn myself in," Yates said. "I knew I had a warrant in Polk County so I was turning myself in."

Yates then told Durran that prior to the Oct.30 incident that Marberry did have access to Yates' credit cards.

Yates told Durran that he rented an apartment in the Woodlands under his company name for tax purposes.

"We had talked about relocating for a while now," Yates said. "Marberry has a child in the area and we felt it was a good move."

Yates then told Durran that the jail stay affected him drastically over the 72 days he has been in.

Yates said he has not been able to make several annual business appearances that he usually makes every year in the community.

Yates also said he did limit some of the money he gave his daughter once she moved out. saying he keeps about half to pay for stuff in his name.

Yates also talked about his involvement in the community as the former president of the Downtown Lufkin Merchants Association, little league, a member of FIrst United Methodist Church, Click it or ticket campaigns, work with the Lufkin Alumni Association scholarships, former board member for Texas Association of Broadcasters.

Yates also talked about difficulties he has had while on probation.

"I have never met any of my probation officers in Polk County," Yates said. "I have met six Angelina officers and each have their own way of how I should do things. I have tried very hard to be cooperative and abide by all of my conditions. I have passed all blood test and urine test. I have paid all of my dues on time. I have reported every time on time. It's my intention to comply with everything I have been asked to do."

Martin is then able to cross examine Yates.

Martin asked if Yates about the visitation call between Yates and Marberry if he has a need to control relationships when he said, "When you listen to me, you will be better off. Yates agreed with the statement.

Martin asked Yates why he said he would not hurt Marberry.

"I try not to make it a habit to hurt a female," Yates said.

Martin asked if it was true that he had hurt other woman earlier including his late wife. Yates denied that statement.

Yates admitted told Martin that he did violate part of his probation by making contact with Marberry. Yates said  he did but that it was not a lot of times.

Yates continued answering questions from Martin saying that when he was driving on March 11 he thought the speed limit was still 50 where he was driving. Yates told Martin that he did not call the police or sheriff department when he went to turn himself in.

"I discussed it with my attorney," Yates said.

Martin asked if we were to believe that he was actually turning himself in.

"Yes, I am very credible," Yates said.

Martin brought up his comment to Marberry about the Mexican comment he made.

"There had been numerous robberies in my neighborhood and that car was unfamiliar," Yates said.

Martin asked about the conversation where he told Marberry that she had to take the blame for the assault on the server. Martin asked if he was telling her what to do and Yates said yes.

Yates said he did this as a way to keep her calm and not nervous.

Martin asked Yates about his conversation with Koenig where he told him to tell his daughter to tell the state she can't recall if she got nervous. Martin said that Yates told Koenig to get her to lie and Yates said that is not true.

Martin asked if Yates is remorseful, did that the part where he used expletives to describe police in the case. Yates said it did not.

Yates then was asked about the assault between him and Marberry.

Martin asked if it made Yates mad when Marberry allegedly went through stuff belonging to his wife that died in 2010.

"It did not make me mad," Yates said. "I was upset at the whole night."

Yates said he cannot remember what he said to her, but Martin said he told her just leave that stuff alone and then body slammed her.

Yates denied that allegation.

The next witness to take the stand for the defense is Yana Ogletree.

Ogletree said that she has known Yates since they both worked together in the 80s.

Ogletree said that Yates has seen changes.

"Over the last eight years he has gone through changes," Ogletree said. "Since he started out this process I have seen a big change. Out socially he did not drink. I have been around him once a week and I did not notice any odd behavior."

Ogletree said she has not noticed any substance abuse by him while on probation.

"I haven't given up on him," Ogletree said. "He has had a lot of challenges and he has handled them very well."

On May 13, Wilson heard testimony from one of the assault victims, a process server named Gilberto Tinajero, who recalled Yates hitting him in the head when he tried to serve him legal papers in March.

"He came at me like a crazed bat. He never gave me time to say anything," Tinajero said.

Wilson also heard testimony from multiple Lufkin Police officers who testified about the March 11 incident where Yates was pulled over for speeding in a car not equipped with a device to sense alcohol.

Officer Brad Baker said Yates was driving erratic.

"[Going] 25 over is erratic in my mind," Davis said.

Despite saying Yates was erratic, Baker also admitted that Yates was not swerving around and was able to maintain his lane.

Martin called a recorded tape of samples from 44 jail house phone calls his biggest piece of evidence. In opening statements, Martin said the tapes would allegedly show Yates talking with an associate and telling them to get a witness to lay low until the case against him was over.

Judge Wilson said before he allows the six-minute tape into court, he would have to first listen to the entire two-hour recording before making a decision on Wednesday.

If probation is revoked, Yates will have to serve the remainder of his 10-year probation sentence in prison.

Judge Wilson said he will examine all of the evidence presented and will make a decision next Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

Copyright 2014 KTRE. All rights reserved.