A McLennan County misdemeanor prosecutor resigned last week after he participated in a law enforcement training program that required him to drink alcohol and then lied about driving home afterward.
Michael Sheetz, a misdemeanor prosecutor in District Attorney Abel Reyna’s office since June 2016, declined comment Tuesday about his Sept. 18 resignation, which he was allowed to submit in lieu of being fired, multiple courthouse sources said.
Members of the district attorney’s office for years have cooperated with officials at the McLennan Community College Law Enforcement Academy in a training exercise for academy cadets involving administering tests to suspected drunken drivers.
Sheetz, along with other prosecutors, consumed alcohol and then allowed the cadets to administer portable breath tests and standard field-sobriety tests to gauge their level of impairment.
The program not only helps educate the young trainees in proper law enforcement procedures and recognizing the effects of alcohol on suspects, but it also is beneficial to young prosecutors, who take the results of police work into court to try to win convictions.
Before the exercise started Sept. 14, Sheetz and other volunteers who were drinking as part of the program signed a pledge that they would not drive and would find another way home, the sources said.
As the program progressed, volunteers drank two alcoholic drinks and submitted to a portable breath test, sources familiar with the training exercise said.
The volunteers drank two more drinks and then took another portable breath test, administered by the cadets. Then, the volunteer prosecutors underwent field-sobriety tests, including walking a line, a one-leg stand and a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the sources said.
After the exercise ended, the tipsy volunteers gathered in the parking lot before they found rides home, the source said. Someone asked where Sheetz was and they noticed his car was no longer in the parking lot, the sources said.
When Sheetz was confronted by his supervisors, he said an Uber driver took him home, the sources said. Unconvinced, his supervisors asked that he provide a copy of the Uber receipt, and Sheetz admitted he lied and said he drove himself home.
Sheetz’s breath tests showed that his blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit of 0.08 percent, a source said. However, he was forced to resign because he lied to supervisors and drove home after signing the pledge to get a ride.
Neither Reyna nor his first assistant, Michael Jarrett, returned phone calls Tuesday.
MCC Law Enforcement Academy Coordinator Dennis Stapleton returned a phone call Tuesday but said in a message he would not be available later.
County records show Sheetz, a May 2015 graduate of the Southern Methodist University Law School who also got an undergraduate degree in political science from SMU, received an “unsatisfactory” employee rating from his immediate supervisor, Evan O’Donnell, in March.
“I am encouraged that you have shown improvement over your time here in the office, but am still concerned about your desire to do this job at a high level,” O’Donnell wrote. “While you possess the basic skills to carry out court duties, your trial skills and desire to improve your trial skills remain a concern. I am hopeful that this next year will be a big stepping stone toward your development as a prosecutor, but that will have to be predicated upon increased desire and commitment to your craft. The effort that has been present since you have been here will not get you to the next level.”