Ex-Wife of Sweetwater Attorney Recants Forgery Tale
SAN ANGELO, TX — Katie Hartman has another story to tell. And she wants so much to tell her story that she contacted the Texas Rangers to share it. Meanwhile, John Young’s defense attorneys, Dan Hurley and Frank Sellers, vehemently deny just about everything you are about to read.
A little background. John Stacy Young was convicted of forgery, theft and money laundering in November 2017 in the case of John Sullivan’s will (see complete timeline). Ray Zapata was found guilty of forging the will of Sullivan, an old man who had been arrested and charged with online solicitation of a minor and possession of child pornography. Young was Sullivan’s attorney and Zapata was his bail bondsman. Chris Hartman was an attorney from Sweetwater hired by Young to probate Sullivan’s will when he was suddenly found dead. According to the forged, handwritten will, Sullivan left his $8 million estate solely to his criminal defense attorney, John Young.
Today, Young is serving his 11-year sentence in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Ray Zapata, sentenced to 180 days in jail, is currently out on bond awaiting his appeal.
After Young was found guilty, his attorneys filed a motion for a hearing for a new trial based mostly on a signed affidavit from Katie Hartman, Chris Hartman’s ex-wife. That affidavit, which Katie Hartman now disputes, said she watched her ex-husband forge Sullivan’s will in the back of a book that looked like a Bible that was the center of the trials of Zapata and Young.
Young’s motion for a new trial was denied by Judge Brock Jones.
Yesterday, Katie Hartman wanted to recant her testimony about witnessing her ex-husband forging the will, as she originally alleged in her signed affidavit that is now part of the court’s evidence, as it was originally heard during Young’s motion for a new trial.
These are the words of Katie Hartman in her new statement taken by Texas Ranger Nick Hanna:
“I am signing the following statement of my own volition and initiative. I contacted Ranger Hanna in regards to this matter and it is not the result of additional investigation started by him. I have traveled to the Texas Ranger office in San Angelo and met with Ranger Hanna and asked him to take this statement for me as I feel I have been taken advantage of and a statement presented to he by me in the matter of John Young was not actually my statement.
“During the trial of John Young, I felt bad for Mr. Young and his family as my ex-husband, Chris Hartman and I were close friends of the Young family. John and I are both recovering addicts so I feel close to him in that way. As the trial progressed, I called. I was looking for Ranger Hanna but I never talked to him nor did I ever tell anyone I thought it was him. I talked to an Officer from the Texas Attorney General’s Office over the phone. Ranger Hanna played the recording for me and I told the investigator of my concerns about the case because at the time I felt if one person was in trouble then they should all be in trouble. I regret making that call and I feel terrible. He told me the trial was ending and it was too late, but he would forward my information to someone at the trial.
“That same day, I received a call from another OAG investigator who was at the trial. I told the investigator I had overheard a conversation between John Young and my ex-husband Chris Hartman in which Mr. Young made comments to the extent he did not want any of the money from the estate to be distributed to Otis, who was associated with this matter as a potential heir or a person who would have claim to money resulting from the estate. I witnessed this conversation on a trip to Midland with John Young, Traci Young, and Chris where John purchased a new BMW. He sold us his old BMW for $15,000 and I subsequently wrecked it.
Above: Katie Hartman's statement 2/18/2018 page one
“After I called, I contacted Traci Young on FB messenger and told her of my concerns and what I said was that I was sorry about John’s situation and I didn’t really know what the truth was but I felt the wrong person was in jail. Traci never responded directly to me, but I guess she assumed I was talking about Chris Hartman as the guilty party but I was speaking of Ray Zapata.
“Immediately after I got a call from Dan Hurley. It wasn’t a long conversation but I had a few days later a private investigator, Hal Humphries came and spoke to me. I was honest with him and he took a statement from me on his computer at the house I was staying at. After he took the statement, he drove me to the bank to get the statement notarized, but they could not notarize the statement so he and I went to the courthouse. We went into Amy Word’s office, Hal presented the statement to me with my statement concealed and only the signature line visible which I signed. I did not read the statement and I should have, as it was covered when I signed it. I thought he was trying to be respectful of my privacy.
“I did not actually read the statement at the time I signed the statement. I trusted him, I trusted Dan Hurley and I trusted Frank Sellers, and now I think they took advantage of me - 100%.
“When Ranger Hanna came to talk to me, I intended on talking to him. I called Dan Hurley and Frank Sellers ad they told me not to talk to Ranger Hanna. They scared me and made me think I would be in trouble with the law so I avoided talking to Ranger Hanna. At this time, I had not read the statement and I had no reason to believe it was not true.
“A few days before the motion for a new trial in San Angelo, Dan Hurley’s office emailed me the statement so for the first time, I read the statement. The statement was not what I said on many accounts. I called Dan and expressed my concern to him and he told me to say on the stand that what was in the statement is “what I thought was right” - even though, I knew it was not right. I also told Frank Sellers, before I testified, that the statement was wrong and not what I said. Frank made it sound to me like since my name was already signed on the statement, to just go into the court and - well, they tried to tell me what to say - and I wanted to listen to them but I most certainly wanted the statement changed because it was not true and both Dan and Frank said I could not change it which was pretty hurtful.
“I am giving this statement today with the understanding that it could get me in trouble, but I feel it is important to set the record straight. I want to state that I have no evidence of Chris Hartman’s involvement with the forgery of the will of John Sullivan. I did not witness Chris or Ray in possession of a book that looked like a bible or Catholic Missal, that did not happen.
“I did go the funeral of John Sullivan with Chris, John Young and Traci Young. I was also at John Sullivan’s house when John Young, Chris, and Ray Zapata were cleaning the house. They were looking for cash but to my knowledge, the did not find any.
“I do state the above to be true and correct to the best of my knowledge. Nothing Follows.”
Signed Nick Hanna and Katie Hartman. 2/19/2018 5:34 p.m.
Above: Katie Hartman's statement 2/19/2018 page 2
Young’s lead defense attorney Dan Hurley quickly responded after we presented Katie Hartman’s statement typed on “Texas Department of Public Safety – Texas Ranger Division” letterhead.
“If this weren’t so serious, it would be comical. Unfortunately for Mrs. Hartman she signed two almost identical statements. After repeated, recorded warnings to only tell the truth, she can be heard signing the first statement (a sworn declaration without a notary) in the background of one recording. Then when she signed the second (an affidavit), she can be heard asking Investigator Humphreys whether the notary—a former employee of Chris Hartman—would need to see the contents of the affidavit. We have the recordings. We have transcripts. In addition, we have text messages from Chris Hartman to Katie showing he was threatening her to recant her motion-for-new-trial testimony as recently as 2½ weeks ago. Katie’s latest story is absolutely false. We are ready, willing, and able to prove it if we need,” he said.
Hurley provided screenshots of Katie Hartman’s text messages to him.
Katie Hartman: “Hey Dan. Chris has been sending me messages telling me the Ranger is trying to get me for perjury is this true?”
Dan Hurley: “Don’t listen to Chris. Send me screenshots of his texts.”
Katie sent the screenshots.
In almost 10 pages of text messages, Katie and her estranged husband bicker back and forth. Katie has Chris Hartman saved in her phone under the name, “D-Bag.”
Chris Hartman: “I hope they get you for perjury.”
Katie Hartman: “Just earlier you were pretending to care about me. I told them in the court room I didn’t see you sign his name.”
Chris: “You and Chance can be housed by the state.”
Katie: “You sure flip a 180 real quick.”
Chris: “You told them you saw me write the damn thing.”
Chris: “I care but heard [sic] to get over that. *hard”
Katie: “You don’t care. You just made that pretty clear.”
Chris: “You don’t care.”
Katie: “Yeah I do actually. I told them I didn’t want you going to jail when they asked me. Read the transcript.”
Chris: “But you told the I wrote it. That’s what u dint get.”
Chris: “And I told the rangers that you don’t need to go to jail either. That you needed help.”
Katie: “You want me going to jail with chance I don’t even care about him that’s been way way over before you and I were talking again.”
Katie: “You just said you hope I go to jail.”
Katie: “All because I asked if you knew Cara was mad at me.”
Chris: “Y’all started this mess. Not me. I am in financial ruin and it makes you happy.”
Katie: “And I wasn’t playing a game I just wondered since you acted like you card earlier. Cared*”
Chris: “Ok. You lied. Not me. I’m not the one being looked at. Just you”
Katie: “So I don’t know where you get that from. But it doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
Chris: “Because we all know you lied.”
Katie: “I didn’t lie”
Chris: “You did. I didn’t write anything. I have the statement u filed”
Katie: “I saw what I saw and I admitted I didn’t see you sign your name and idk who you’re even talking about is looking at me”
Chris: “You and ray were not in my office. It’s just the ranger (looking at you). You are delusional.”
Katie: “He’s the one that should be concerned. No I’m not Chris. Idk why you wish all these bad things then pretend to care. That doesn’t even make sense. Sounds like you’re the one playing a game.”
Chris: “You call and see. Not my deal. Good luck. Glad things are going well for u now. I will bounce back or move and bounce back there. I will not let you ruin me”
Katie: “I don’t want to”
Chris: “I have to support our kids. I had to contact the attorney general to file for child support and insurance. That’s how bad it is”
Hurley and his co-counsel Frank Sellers hired a private investigator to obtain the original statement from Katie Hartman. One statement was a signed declaration. The second is the same declaration notarized and submitted as an affidavit to the court. Sellers explained he removed some wording from the original declaration that wasn’t pertinent to the case in the final affidavit. Both documents are records of the court.
Sellers and Hurley said they possess several audio recordings documenting Katie’s original statement where Katie claimed she witnessed Chris Hartman signing the Sullivan will and that it was in a book that appeared to be a Bible. “Several times we reviewed her statement,” Sellers said.
“The investigator reviewed the statement on screen, in person with Katie in Sweetwater,” Sellers explained. “She thanked me.”
Sellers reiterated that his team went over the statement again and again with Katie in person. “I wanted to make sure it was 100 percent honest.”
“These are very serious allegations,” Hurley said in a phone interview. “We’re going to make sure the truth prevails. It is very sad that Katie is going through all of this. I understand she can be intimidated. But if we have to litigate this thing, we will. The truth will come out.”
Stay tuned. This ain’t over yet.
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