U. Texas police officer's trial now set for May 28

By: Wes Ferguson
Daily Texan
May 2, 2003, Friday

The criminal case against a University of Texas-Austin police officer accused of sexually assaulting a student on campus has hit many snags in the two years since his arrest.

Sellers Bailey has seen the pretrial hearings for his case rescheduled 11 times, and the jury trial rescheduled five times. Bailey was fired from the UT Police Department after allegedly forcing a student to perform oral sex on him after he responded to the scene of her one-car accident.

The 2-year-old case has still not gone to trial.

Derek Howard, who is representing the alleged victim in a civil suit against Bailey and the University, said he could not understand how the case could have been postponed so many times.

"A good attorney can usually delay the trial for about a year," said Derek Howard, a local attorney. "Two years is a sign of a problem."

But the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Gail Van Winkle, said the case has been rescheduled because the courts had trouble flying in a witness from Canada, and the defense attorney had "some medical issues."

"It's not as uncommon as you would think," she said. "Our dockets are pretty heavy."

She also cited District Judge Mike Lynch's busy schedule.

Lynch presided over the trial against Michael Scott, found guilty last year of the 1991 murders of four teenage girls at a TCBY yogurt shop in Austin.

He was in the middle of that trial when he was assigned the case against Bailey. Since then he has ruled that a Travis County grand jury can investigate the Texas Association of Business and has been assigned new murder cases.

Bailey's next trial date has been set for May 28.

"Unless there's something I can't predict today involving witnesses, it should go that week," Van Winkle said.

Howard said the presence of DNA evidence linking Bailey to the alleged assault makes it even harder to understand why the case has been delayed.

"They know cases get old," he said. "Cases get stale, and it gets very hard to round up witnesses."

Christopher Vaughn, a coordinator for Men's Voices Against Violence, said that usually in high-profile cases, "there's a lot of public pressure to get things taken care of quickly."

"I think it's pretty sad that we haven't done anything about this guy for such a long time, especially since we knew about it immediately," he said, adding that the criminal justice system "should do whatever it can do to protect the world from such an overt offender."

But he said that sexual assault is widespread on college campuses, and many of them go underreported.

"These types of situations, even though the police officer was in a position of power and that seems like a radical abuse of his authority, I think it's symptomatic of a larger problem," he said.