Draycott's husband, attorney blame grief for downward spiral

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by Rucks Russell / 11 News

khou.com

Posted on August 12, 2010 at 4:32 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 13 at 9:14 AM

HOUSTON — Jane Draycott, the Houston firefighter arrested for shoplifting at Walmart, has been hospitalized for clinical depression and alcohol abuse, according to her attorney.

Draycott first sparked controversy after allegations of sexism and racism within the Houston Fire Department.  She made headlines again Monday after she was arrested and charged with theft at a Spring Walmart on FM 2920.

Court documents acquired by 11 News, state Draycott was arrested by Precinct 4 deputy constables for allegedly stealing a DVD player, some DVDs and a bag of ice.

Draycott’s husband said he was stunned the night a family friend called to inform him his wife was in jail.

"I don’t know how I can describe the feeling I had at that point," said Jason Draycott. "But that’s the lowest point."

Draycott posted a $500 bond around 2:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Her attorney, Rusty Hardin, doesn’t deny the allegations. He said the shoplifting episode followed a disturbing phone call from prosecutors in Arizona. They told Draycott the man responsible for her daughter’s death may only receive probation. 

Draycott’s daughter, Amanda Franklin, was 17 when she was killed in a car accident near Phoenix four years ago. Justin Draper was going 100 mph when he crashed into another car. Two other teens also died.

Draper pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of negligent homicide in a Maricopa County courtroom. Sentencing is set
for Sept. 21. As part of the plea deal he could face anything from probation to up to 11 years in prison.

"The real issue is not whether she did what she’s accused of doing but why," said Hardin. "I don’t think there’s any secret that this lady has gone through a tremendously difficult time."

Draycott and another female firefighter filed a lawsuit claiming harassment and discrimination while employed by the Houston Fire Department.

The harassment investigation began in 2009 when Jane Draycott and the other firefighter said racist and sexist graffiti was scribbled on their lockers at Fire Station 54.

Draycott’s lawsuit claimed she was the victim of repeated unwanted sexual advances from other firefighters at multiple stations where she worked, and after she reported it, she was harassed by her superiors. 

Some firefighters believed Draycott had planted photos of racist scribblings and profanity on photos of her daughter.

"I can tell you all completely that she had nothing to do with the fire department incident," Jason Draycott said.

He said it's been a difficult time for both he and his wife. The couple has twin toddlers.

The pressure on me has been very difficult, very hard," he said.

Houston’s Office of Inspector General looked into Draycott’s allegations of harassment, but its findings were inconclusive. It never released a written report.

Tuesday, Jeff Caynon, the head of the Houston Firefighters Association, said it’s time to make that report public.

"This is a good opportunity and we’re going to take it to, once again, request that the findings of the investigation be released so that we can exonerate those firefighters who can be exonerated by that investigation," Caynon said.

Draycott withdrew her lawsuit against the city, but her attorney says it will be refiled when the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission finishes its investigation.

Draycott’s attorney challenged anyone who might suggest her shoplifting arrest in any way diminishes her allegations of harassment within the fire department. 

"It’s just flat out untrue and it doesn’t really have responsibility," added Hardin.

In January, Draycott returned to Fire Station 54, but left after a captain read a letter during roll call that said she was not to be trusted. Several firefighters from Station 54 were reassigned due to the controversy. Draycott returned to work again a week later, where she is a current employee.

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