Visiting judge finds Polk County tax assessor-collector guilty of hit and run

Visiting judge finds Polk County tax assessor-collector guilty of hit and run

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - A visiting judge found the Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector guilty of hit and run Friday in connection to allegations that she left a Livingston street, hit a parked vehicle and ran over a mail box before she left the scene back in April.

After the judge entered the guilty verdict, Leslie Jones Burks agreed to a sentence of 12 months of probation.

According to a press release from Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon, visiting Judge Mary Ann Turner of Montgomery presided over the case.

When Burks was arrested in April, she was originally charged with two misdemeanors.

"The investigation by the Livingston Police Department showed that following the initial collision, Burks drove away on the wrong side of the road causing an oncoming vehicle to take evasive action," Hon said. "Nearly two hours later, Burks reportedly returned to the scene and informed the owners of the damaged vehicle and the mailbox that the accident was caused in part by medication she had taken. However, law enforcement authorities say she later told them that that she had become distracted."

Hon said the incident was captured on surveillance, and there was at least one eyewitness.

"Polk County Assistant District Attorney Tommy L. Coleman, who prosecuted the case, had previously filed a motion with the judge to modify the conditions of Burks' bond after Burks was involved in another motor vehicle accident on July 22, 2017," Hon said.

Investigators said the July 22 incident was the also the result of Burks' vehicle leaving the road, Hon said. In that incident, she left was U.S. Highway 59.

"The vehicle rolled before coming to a stop, trapping Burks and a thirteen-year-old passenger inside,' Hon said. "First responders used extrication equipment to cut Burks out of the vehicle. The passenger was flown to a Houston hospital by air ambulance."

After a hearing, Turner modified Burks' bail conditions to prevent her from driving until the cases were resolved.

"Prior to trial, the prosecution provided Burks' counsel with notice that during the punishment phase of the trial, evidence would be presented of a number of prior motor vehicle accidents involving Burks, including an accident occurring on January 25, 2016 in which a vehicle driven by Burks reportedly left the roadway (US-146), crossed through oncoming traffic, struck an embankment, went airborne and rolled," Hon said. "Following that accident, extrication equipment was used to cut Burks out of the vehicle before she was transported to a local hospital."

Hon said the notice also detailed another wreck that Burks was involved in on May 20, 2003. Investigators said her vehicle left State Highway 190 and traveled through a ditch before striking some trees, Hon said. He added Burks told investigators she passed out.

"These multiple accidents Burks has had over the last few months and years give rise to a serious concern that Burks is a danger to herself and others if she continues to drive," Coleman said.

Hon said after Turner entered the guilty verdict for Burks, the defense and the prosecution agreed on the punishment of 12 months of probation. As part of the conditions of her probation, Burks will be required to do 48 hours of community service, pay a fine of $1,250, and refrain from operating a motor vehicle.

Burks originally faced a misdemeanor punishment of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 "with probation eligibility" for each charge, Hon said.

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