Convicted sex offender hired as youth minister
and impregnates teen


12:00 AM CST on Tuesday, December 5, 2006

By ROBERT THARP / The Dallas Morning News

A Dallas judge has postponed the sex-assault trial of a former employee of newly elected District Attorney Craig Watkins until after Mr. Watkins takes office, prompting the man's attorney to ask that a special prosecutor be appointed on the case.

Steven King's trial had been set to start Monday, but District Judge Becky Gregory granted a request for a delay after his attorneys said new developments in the case required that they hire an expert witness.

With no chance that the case will be resolved before Mr. Watkins takes office in January, attorney Scottie Allen, a close friend of Mr. Watkins', said Mr. Watkins should distance himself from Mr. King's case because of his previous working relationship with Mr. King.

"I think the fact that there was some relationship between Mr. King and our newly elected district attorney, it's probably in the best interest of justice that there is someone totally isolated to it to assess it," Mr. Allen said.

Mr. Watkins did not return calls for comment Monday.

The stakes are high for Mr. King because a conviction under the state's repeat sex offender laws could bring an automatic life sentence.

Mr. King, 54, was convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in the early 1980s. He initially was given probation for the offense, but it was revoked after five months when another girl accused him of the same offense. He eventually served about three years in prison.

He was working for Mr. Watkins' bail bond company and for his law firm in 2004 when he was accused of impregnating a 17-year-old whom he met through his work as a part-time youth minister, according to a youth minister. In May 2005, a 26-year-old door-to-door saleswoman accused him of sexually assaulting her.

Mr. King's attorneys say that Mr. King does not deny having sex with the two but maintains that the sex was consensual. In a recorded telephone conversation with the 17-year-old girl after she had the baby, Mr. King used a racial epithet and hung up on her when she contacted him to talk about the baby, according to court records.

Mr. Watkins has said that Mr. King was an efficient employee who passed a county background screening to work for his bail bond company.

County rules do not prevent felons or sex offenders from working in the bail bond industry. County records show that Mr. King worked for Mr. Watkins until July 2005.

Prosecutor Taly Haffar said he hopes to remain involved in the case because he has developed close relationships with the victims and fears that they may rethink their decision to come forward and testify with a new prosecutor.

"I'm going to make every effort to stay on it," he said.

SMU law professor Fred Moss said Mr. Watkins' office might be able to keep the case provided that Mr. Watkins vows to stay out of loop on it, but he should hire a special prosecutor to avoid any appearance of favoritism.

"That's a conflict of interest," he said. "Regardless of how Watkins feels about the guy, it would create the appearance of impropriety if the guy got a special deal. The cleanest thing to do would be to appoint a special prosecutor."