Although the actual hearing for the Motion to Compel filed by Special Prosecutors Jim Mount and Stephen St. Martin was reset until Monday morning, December 19th, there were some interesting and noteworthy events that happened on Thursday. Here are a couple of the highlights:
1. Although Rachel Palmer was escorted from the Grand Jury room up to the 185th for the Motion to Compel, she wasn't in custody. I heard that rumors were running rampant through the CJC that Rachel had been placed in handcuffs and brought to the 185th. That was absolutely NOT the case. At some point, her attorney Clay Rawlings, who was angry with Mount and St. Martin about the Motion to Compel, announced to the court that his client was being mistreated and brought up "in custody." Rachel appeared mortified at her attorney's assertion and both Mount and St. Martin made a point of letting the court know that wasn't the case.
2. Over the lunch hour, David Mitcham was apparently added to the Defense Team. In the time between the original morning meeting on Thursday and when the Court reconvened at 1:00 p.m., I heard from several sources that Rachel was trying to hire new counsel (or at least additional counsel). Sure enough, Mitcham showed up with everyone at 1:00. Smart move by Rachel. David is a great lawyer.
3. Immunity is not on the table. The basis for which St. Martin and Mount are asking the Court to compel Rachel to testify is that their questions are not incriminating. The questions are sealed and nobody but the parties know what they are at the moment. Under the Special Prosecutors' position, there is no need for immunity to be offered if the questions wouldn't require anything for there to be immunity from. At some point during the hearing, Judge Brown made mention of the possibility of Immunity being offered to Rachel, and both Mount and St. Martin were seen shaking their heads in unison.
4. If Immunity had actually been offered, would it be worthless, anyway? This turns into an interesting legal question that Mark Bennett has touched on over at his blog with this post (specifically in the comments section). Commenters Mike Trent, Mike Paar and Bennett aptly point out that Immunity covers everything EXCEPT perjury. So, let's say in a hypothetical-theoretical situation that when Rachel testified before the Grand Jury last month she stated a set of facts that have now been contradicted by testimony from the other witnesses who were called after her (i.e., Ed Emmett, Steve Raddack, El Franco Lee). Now the Grand Jury has called her, Leitner, and Bridgwater back to explain themselves for their earlier answers and they want to invoke their 5th Amendment rather than risk getting caught in a lie from their previous testimony. Even if given Immunity, would it cover possible perjury from their previous testimony? Mark seems to think it would. Mike Trent points out that it isn't specifically spelled out.
5. Will it all be pointless in 2012? No, I'm not talking about the Mayan Calendar predicting that the world will end next year and that we will all be progressing into the next Astral Plane (known to some as a land called "Ho Ha.") Recent legislation has indicated that the power of all existing Grand Juries across the State will cease at the end of the year and all new ones must be empaneled at the beginning of the New Year. Word on the street is that Lykos and Crew are eagerly anticipating all this Grand Jury work to be for nothing, but there is disagreement amongst the legal scholars over whether or not a previously authorized hold-over Grand Jury can continue. Either way, I think it is totally awesome of the Upper Admin to be relying on a technicality to bail their asses out of hot water.
6. Bridgwater and Leitner did not testify in Grand Jury on Thursday. Although the 1st Assistant and Bureau Chief did receive subpoenas to come back to the 185th Grand Jury, they weren't actually called in on Thursday, most likely because they were having to deal with Rachel pleading the 5th. I'm curious as to whether or not they will be pleading the 5th, as well.
7. Bridgwater has Campaign Implications. Unlike Leitner and Palmer, Roger Bridgwater is running for Judge in 2012. Currently, he is unopposed in the Republican Primary. If he pleads the 5th and creates the debacle that Rachel has, or if any of these folks end up indicted, is the Republican Party going to be running a candidate who is under indictment? Or would they ask him to withdraw and just cede the race? If Jared Woodfill was smart (don't worry, Roger, he isn't), he would be getting a back-up candidate in that race by the end of Monday's filing deadline.
8. Jim Leitner is starting to fall apart at the seams. We had a preview of how the 1st Assistant reacts when he doesn't know the answer to the tough questions back in 2009. On Thursday, in the hallway immediately after the hearing, Leitner really lost his composure when pressed by Ted Oberg as to whether or not he found it "offensive" that an Assistant District Attorney had taken her 5th Amendment right. Instead of doing the smart thing and saying, "This is an on-going Grand Jury investigation and our Office has no comment," he ended up shrieking at the crowd of cameras that what he found offensive was being backed up against the wall and forced to answer questions. However, his response was probably more understandable than Rachel's dismissive "God is good" statements to the media.
9. Don Hooper is out of control.
Hooper has been very busy during this Grand Jury investigation. There have been a variety of posts on the Chronicle comments section that he has been accused of authoring under pseudonyms. Those comments typically attack Mike and Devon Anderson for their positions on the DIVERT program. Although my favorite pseudonym used was "Fake Murray Newman" (which I actually thought was pretty funny), another comment bore the name of the 185th Grand Jury's foreperson. That one isn't quite as amusing.
Last week, Hooper signed his name to a blog comment on David Jenning's Big Jolly blog, a comment that oozed the exact same bilge that these pseudonym commenters have been using on the Chron blog.
Can I prove that Hooper is posting as Fake Murray Newman and as the foreperson of the Grand Jury? Nope. Would I be willing to bet my lunch money that he is? In a heartbeat.
I don't know why this knucklehead thinks that he is helping out his wife with this type of behavior. I further don't understand why members of the Republican Party seem to think he has some sort of influence with them.
10. Where in the World is Patricia Lykos? With all of this going down, there has been no sign of the elected D.A. There are complaints of personnel moves and promotions being put on hold because Lykos won't sign off on them. She sure as hell hasn't stood with her people in court. Even her proposed move to make Rachel Palmer the public spokesperson for the Office hasn't been approved. I can't imagine why.
Also notably absent from the 185th courtroom on Thursday were any other prosecutors outside of the Upper Administration. No rank and file prosecutor in their right mind would have showed up to watch the fireworks. If they were perceived as coming to gawk at Palmer in the hugely embarrassing situation, they would have been labeled as enemies of Lykos on the spot. Not to mention Hooper would have been snapping photographs of them, as well.
So, that's why I started doing the live tweeting from the hearing.
And I'll be back doing it again on Monday.