Monday, February 25, 2013

The Inheritance - UPDATED

UPDATE:  Since the writing of this post, I have been informed that the District Attorney's Office has recused themselves from the Chiofalo cases.

Grits for Breakfast recently reported that when newly-elected Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty took over her new position from outgoing D.A. John Bradley, she found a welcoming gift in her desk drawer of a headless corral snake.  This idea of a joke was clearly unprofessional, juvenile and mean-spirited; however, when considering the welcoming gifts provided during the Harris County District Attorney transition, it may pale in comparison.

When Mike Anderson took over for Pat Lykos on January 1st, he knew that he had a long road ahead of him.  The prosecutors' morale was down after four years of working under Lykos, Jim Leitner and Roger Bridgwater.  The Office's relationship with county-wide law enforcement agencies was strained.  The budget and the Office's Asset Forfeiture fund had been radically depleted.

All of this were things that Anderson knew he would be inheriting when he took the helm.  What he had not anticipated, however, were some of the scandals that had occurred under Lykos' Administration that suddenly were revealed under his tenure.

None of these scandals are more prominent than the FBI's arrest of former-Harris County D.A. Investigator Lonnie Blevins and the investigation into Blevins' partner, Dustin Deutsch for allegations of stealing high dollar evidence in a pending criminal case.

For those of you have somehow missed the story, Blevins and Deutsch are former partners with Harris County Fire Marshal's Office, who were hired to be D.A. investigators by Lykos at the beginning of 2012.  Prior to being hired by the D.A.'s Office, they had served in a liason-type capacity with the Office.  Both men were assigned to the Special Crimes Division, where they worked in Major Fraud.

In the vast majority of the investigator assignments with the D.A.'s Office, an investigator is very much a utility player in the course of day-to-day operations.  They hunt down witnesses on upcoming cases for trials.  They pick up evidence.  They accompany prosecutors any time the prosecutor has to go out in the field.

Being an investigator in Major Fraud, however, is a much more pro-active assignment.  Investigators like Deutsch and Blevins are routinely the police officers in charge of actually investigating allegations of criminal wrong-doing.  They draft search warrants.  They interview all the involved witnesses.  They collect the evidence.

Most importantly, they are the Affiants when charges are filed.

The D.A. Investigators for the Major Fraud division of Special Crimes file the vast majority of the cases that Division will handle, which makes the recent investigation into Blevins and Deutsch crippling.

Blevins was arrested for stealing (and subsequently selling) a large amount of valuable collectible comic books.  The problem was that these comic books were also evidence in the high-profile case against Anthony Chiofalo and his wife, Susan.  The bigger problem was that the investigating police officer who actually filed the charges against the Chiofalos was Blevins' partner, Dustin Deutsch.

Oops.

Let's just take a moment and see how this case plays out in trial.

A prosecutor has to put on Deutsch as a witness to testify about the wrong-doings of the Chiofalos.  Deutsch testifies passionately about how those terrible people stole all of that money.  The prosecutor then passes the witness to the defense attorney who asks Deutsch about how much money and collectibles he and Blevins stole as well.

See the problem here?

The fact that Deutsch and Blevins are under investigation isn't just relevant to the Chiofalo cases.  Theft is a crime of moral turpitude and it calls into question every case they ever touched.  There is a big difference from being a D.A. investigator who served a subpoena on a case, and being the one who actually filed the case, itself.  Their level of involvement in all of those Major Fraud cases calls every last one of the cases into jeopardy.

Additionally, as a friend of mine pointed out, think about all of the cases that Deutsch and Blevins handled as Arson investigators with the Fire Marshal's Office.  How easy would it be to walk through a burned up house and see an expensive watch, or even cash, laying around and steal it -- only to put in your report that all valuables had burned up in the fire?

The damage from the Blevins and Deutsch incident will affect not just pending cases, but potentially every one that they ever handled.

The District Attorney's Office did the right thing a few weeks ago when they said they were "freezing" 125 active cases handled by the Blevins and Deutsch.

But that's not enough.

Anthony Chiofalo's attorney, Paul Doyle, has called upon the Office to recuse itself from his client's prosecution, and he is absolutely right to ask for that.  There is too much involvement from Office personnel that jeopardizes the integrity of the case.  It is also worth noting that while the D.A.'s Office has "frozen" these cases, many of the defendants are still sitting in jail waiting for their cases to be "unfrozen" -- including Anthony Chiofalo.

Recently, the District Attorney's Office recused itself from handling the cases of any officers charged in the Chad Holley beating.  The reason given for that recusal was that Devon Anderson, the wife of District Attorney Mike Anderson, had represented an officer involved (but not charged) with the beating.

I agree that the Office's self-recusal was appropriate in the Holley case.  However, if it was appropriate in that case, then it is absolutely appropriate in the Chiofalo cases.  Quite frankly, at this point, the District Attorney's Office probably needs to recuse itself from any case handled by Blevins and Deutsch.  It just looks bad, otherwise.

NOTE:  As an interesting side note, Lonnie Blevins has hired Dick DeGuerin to represent him on his Federal case.  Dick is a great (and expensive) defense attorney.  Mr. Blevins dealt with Dick before on the highly publicized arson case of then-Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina.

The bad acts allegedly committed by Deutsch and Blevins did not occur during the Anderson Administration and they don't reflect on it, either.  That being said, how this Administration handles the fallout from this scandal absolutely reflects on them.

They inherited this problem, but they can very easily bypass their inheritance by simply recusing themselves from further involvement.

I don't understand why they wouldn't want to.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I suspect there will be additional fall-out over this incredibly stupid and criminal action by HCDA employees. Pat Lykos is like the gift that keeps on giving such as HPV- Human Personnel Virus.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on. Did the investigations into ADAs and investigators under holmes reflect poorly on him?

Lykos is gone. Let's move on.

After all, we have things to discuss like Anderson calling the Innocence Project the "enemy." So much for pursuing justice...

Rage

Anonymous said...

Rage, you really are an idiot. The office is definitely moving on. Above was just a comment on how even thou Lykos is gone, her lunacy is still affecting us. Hard to move on when hundreds of criminal cases may be adversely affected because of her hiring decisions.

Shirley Cornelius said...

Coral snake.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Newman,

Thank you for bringing this issue to light. Clearly, if one would make a business decision, any case touched by these two individuals should have a special prosecutor.

These cases are causing concern on a daily basis. Why not just sweep each out like Lykos was. There are many former prosecutors working outside the office who have experience in prosecuting cases. Appoint those indviduals who want to assist the citizens of this county.

Good Business Decisions.

Anonymous said...

12:23, was Lykos in out the theft? Because if not, this is hardly "her luncay." It's the criminal act of someone she hired. Did any one that Holmes hire ever commit a crime? I know there were people fired, or counseled for drug abuse during his term in office. Were you complaining about his lunacy then?

Of course not. And I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't even understand the comparison. Half the time I'm talking to myself around here. The other half I'm fighting off homosexual advances from Seaton.

Rage

Anonymous said...

Rage, the last time an HCDA investigator got caught tampering with evidence at the office was in the 1970's. This this is a big deal. Maybe if Lykos would pick qualified people instead of these two bumpkins it wouldn't have ever happened. She hired a number of low-quality investigators for political favors or because she wanted to hire those who were so desperate to work there she knew they would do whatever she told them.
Special Crimes ought to be staffed by the best if the best. The background of these two surely didn't warrant being assigned there.
BTW, when you vigorously back up to Seaton, that's not exactly fighting him off.

Anonymous said...

All prior administrations had scandals.Ask Carol,Johnny,or Chuck.Taking cocaine from evidence is not a minor crime and it happened while Carol in office.Anderson has a lot more headed his way with some of the people working there.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget that there was a very extensive back ground investigation on these two along with the fire marshalls office. Those whom conducted the back ground investigation are currently working for Anderson. You cant blame that on Lykos. Grow up Mr. Newman.

Anonymous said...

How about some of you address house bill 1426 and how devastating it could be. Seems to me all you ADA's care of nothing but yourselves, which isn't surprising.

Scott C. Pope said...

How will house bill 1426 be "devastating" if passed?

Anonymous said...

Calling the Innocence Project the enemy sounds like a Rosenthal sound bite. So the innocent convicted should stay locked up? Because when you battle an enemy, you seek to prevent their victories. Not sure that someone who takes an oath to see that justice is done can also battle to keep innocent people behind bars.

Anonymous said...

Scott, HB 1426 will be devestating because the minority of defense attorneys whining about it will have to work as hard as you do.

Just Sayin' said...

Your buddy Mike will soon learn the difference between,"It sure will be cool being DA" and "Oh fuck I'm the DA and that means I have to make real decisions with real consequences".

This is the "Big Leagues" and whether you like the NY Mets or not; you have to able to put some solid wood on the ball.

Just Sayin'

Anonymous said...

Mr Newman, Sir:

If an ADA feels ethically compelled to drive to his boss' house on a Sunday to ask if it is okay to dismiss a case against a wrongfully accused defendant; is it really relevant that the defendant plays ball for the NY Mets?
The suggestion that such a drive demonstrates high ethical ADA standards begs one to ask: if that same ADA discovered that the arresting officer in one of his pending cases planted drugs on a poor crackhead defendant should or even would the ADA in question make the same Sunday drive to his boss' house seeking permission to dismiss?
Prosecutorial ethics demands that there be but 1 set of ethical standards at any DA's office.......whether the defendant is liked, is well connected, plays professinal baseball for the NY Mets or lives under the Pierce elevated with his crack pipe should never influence the ethical behavior of a prosecutor.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Newman

Didn't the prior administration have to take out some left over trash from several previous administrations when it prosecuted former Harris County District Attorney's Office employee Eloise Mireles and her husband for stealing over $250,000.00 from the Victim-Witness account? I believe those thefts took place over a number of years. Oddly enough, you never mentioned that. I don't suppose the reason for that was that and your crowd were running the show then.

Anonymous said...

The DA's office recused itself on the remaining Holley cases. As they should have. But in that instance, the also did the right thing and let the Court appoint a special prosecutor. As I understand it, in the Chifalo case they have reached out and unilaterally procured their own special prosecutor without input from the Court or anyone else. That smells bad. Why the different standard? Especially in light of the fact that the conflict in the Chiafalo case is significantly more problematic thant the perceived conflict in the Holley cases. Why would Anderson and Co. oppose allowing the Court to appoint the special prosecutor?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.....as a victim of one of the criminals in one of the cases handled by D. A. Investigator Dustin Dueutsch...I DO NOT think it would be appropriate to throw all the cases out, because it's too much effort to regroup and start over.
In our particular case...we were about to go to court to get an indictment...and now we are told that the "previous two Assistant District Attorneys took cases they probably shouldn't have." Strange, because if they are so inadequate....why then are they still employed with Harris County? I am waiting to see how many of the 124 are swept under the rug.
We are told some evidence is now "missing" but it is a recorded statement or two that can be easily obtained again. When I stated this, I was told it wasn't really important or worthy information anyway. It seems that the plan is to ditch as many of the 124 as possible.

Anonymous said...

What is the status of this case. Did these people slide out of these charges too.

Anonymous said...

The criminal has not yet slimmed his way out of this pending case file yet....it was a white collar crime in which the individual is a con man and conned a fellow out of $104,000 CASH...and the previous ADA investigator (Dustin) worked on the case. We were told some peculiar things about the plight of the case...but the simple fact remains..the people that were handling the case are inconsequential as to the evidence and facts of the case. Mickey Mouse could try the case. The evidence was provided entirely by ME. I believe all these cases MUST be tried...and whatever happens after that...will be dealt with accordingly.

Anonymous said...

UPDATE...

In my case with the HCDA....Catherine Evans was the 3rd ADA assigned to the case. she claimed the other two before her were "inexperienced" and took cases they shouldn't have. she was rude and condescending, and last week, had the case dropped right after becoming a newly appointed Judge, running for a seat! LOL! Gotta love it!