APPELLANT'S PETITION FOR DISCRETIONARY REVIEW FROM THE
SIXTH COURT OF APPEALS HUNT COUNTY
Appellant, Natalie Ausbie Reynolds, worked as an
investigative supervisor for the Greenville office of the
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
(hereinafter referred to as "the Department" or
"CPS"). In 2015, she was convicted of the offense
of official oppression. The charge was based on an allegedly
unlawful search and/or seizure of a cell phone belonging to a
fifteen-year-old girl who was in lawful emergency custody of
the Department. Reynolds's conviction was affirmed by the
Sixth Court of Appeals. We granted Reynolds's petition for
discretionary review to determine whether the court of
appeals correctly held that the evidence was sufficient to
support Reynolds's conviction.
upon our review of the record, viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to the verdict, we hold that the
evidence was insufficient to support the trial court's
finding that Reynolds knew her conduct was unlawful, which is
an essential element of the offense of official oppression.
We reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and render a
judgment of acquittal.
13, 2012, the Department received a referral regarding a
fifteen-year-old girl, A.K., who had run away from her
guardian, Brenda Robertson. Robertson had called the
Department seeking assistance. Robertson told them that A.K.
had run away from Robertson; that A.K. was using and dealing
methamphetamines and marijuana (Robertson had found scales,
baggies, and drug paraphernalia); that A.K. had lost a
significant amount of weight; that A.K. had been gone for two
weeks; and that Robertson did not know her whereabouts.
Attempts to contact A.K.'s mother, Hollie King, were
unsuccessful. Moreover, A.K.'s father was incarcerated
for various offenses. Prior to living with Robertson, A.K.
lived with Rene Cain, who also informed Reynolds that she
could not control A.K. and could not continue to care for
A.K. due to A.K.'s attitude.
was found by a Deputy with the Hunt County Sheriff's
Department at the home of Michael Watts, an unrelated
23-year-old male. A.K. was transported to the Hunt County
Juvenile Detention Center, where her personal belongings-a
ring, a bracelet, and her cell phone-were confiscated. The
next day, June 14, 2012, A.K. was released into the custody
of the Department because A.K. did not have an appropriate or
willing caregiver, and because it was determined that if she
were released from the Detention Center she would run away
again. The case was assigned to Rebekah Thonginh Ross, who
was an investigator with the Department and supervised by
A.K. arrived at the Department with Ross and Reynolds, A.K.
made it very clear that she refused to go to a placement home
in Dallas or any other "shelter." While in the
Department's custody, A.K.'s ring and bracelet were
returned to her, but she was not given her cell phone. A.K.
demanded the return of her cell phone, and an argument ensued
between A.K., Reynolds, and Ross. A.K. was upset and refused
to cooperate because they would not return her cell phone to
her. The cell phone was eventually locked in a cabinet for
the night, and two Department employees drove A.K. to a
placement facility. That facility did not allow the children
to have cell phones.
following day, June 15, 2012, the Department filed a petition
for temporary custody of A.K. Attached to and in support of
the petition was an affidavit executed by Reynolds which
included the following statements, among others:
• A.K.'s mother, Hollie King, is currently living in
a hotel. A.K.'s father is currently in prison.
• Robertson (A.K.'s guardian) gave A.K. a urinalysis
before she ran away and A.K. tested positive for
methamphetamines, amphetamines, marijuana, and Tricyclic.
Robertson found scales, baggies, and drug paraphernalia among
• A.K. had previously run away from Robertson's
• Robertson wants A.K. to get help and receive treatment
for methamphetamine addiction. Robertson stated she did not
think A.K. would stay at her home and that A.K. needed a
secure facility or she would likely run away again.
• Robertson stated that she had found out that A.K. was
dating a 30-year-old man, Steven Lamb, and was associating
with 23-year-old Michael Watts.
• A.K.'s mother, Hollie King, left A.K. with
Robertson in 2011 because she no longer wanted to care for
A.K. King has a criminal background and a history of drug
• Robertson stated that she did not know of any
relatives who were willing to care for A.K.
• While at the juvenile detention center A.K. tested
positive for methamphetamines, amphetamines, and marijuana.
• When A.K. arrived at the Department office, she was
upset and confrontational with the staff.
• A.K. denied selling drugs and stated she only used the
scales found by Robertson to weigh her own purchases. She
refused to provide information as to who provided her with
drugs or how she obtained them.
• King confirmed that she could not care for A.K.
court order dated that same day, June 15, 2012, the
Department was awarded temporary custody of A.K. The Order
contains the following relevant findings:
• All reasonable efforts, consistent with time and
circumstances, have been made by CPS to prevent or eliminate
the need for removal of A.K. the subject of this suit, from
the home and to make it possible for A.K. to return home, but
continuation in the home would be contrary to A.K.'s
• There is a continuing danger to the physical health or
safety of A.K. if A.K. is returned to the parent, managing
conservator, possessory conservator, guardian, caretaker, or
custodian who is presently entitled to possession of A.K.
• Continuation of A.K. in the home would be contrary to
• Reasonable efforts consistent with the circumstances
and providing for the safety of A.K. were made to prevent or
eliminate the need for removal of A.K.
than a full year later, Reynolds was charged with the
criminal offense of official oppression based on her
allegedly seizing and searching A.K.'s cell phone. The
indictment alleged that, on or about June 14, 2012, Reynolds,
acting individually or as a party with Rebekah Thonginh Ross,
intentionally subjected the complainant, A.K., to a search
and/or a seizure that Reynolds knew was unlawful, and
Reynolds was acting under color of her employment as ...