Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Regarding Complaints . . .

Chuck Rosenthal testified today in the Ibarra case, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

Chuck was confronted with the fact that the Ibarra brothers had lodged a complaint with him at the D.A.'s Office, and he (properly) forwarded the complaint to Joe Owmby, who is a Division Chief within the Civil Rights Bureau. According to testimony, Owmby investigated the complaint and determined it to not need further investigation.

This fact, I'm certain, has the conspiracy theorists (who seem to have found a home base gathering place on the Chronicle message boards) crying "foul".

Although Chuck has come under fire for many, many things in the past couple of months, one of the things he should be given credit for is that he did take the e-mail complaints that he received seriously. He also forwarded them to the appropriate members of his staff, regardless of his personal opinion of whether or not the complaints had merit.

Before you say to yourself "well, that's what he's supposed to do", take a minute to look at some of the things being written over on the Chronicle message boards. There are folks over there who seem to be writing 24/7 about some of the most bizarre ideas and conspiracy theories. One poster advocated that Kelly Siegler should be sexually assaulted. Another person advocated that all Assistant District Attorneys should spend three days in jail as part of their job training (Do you think this might affect the Office's job recruiting, by any chance?).

Now, imagine your e-mail address being flooded with e-mails like that. Yes, I know that we have all got plenty of comments to make about Chuck's e-mail inbox (if you have a joke about it that hasn't already been ridiculously overplayed, let me know). Chuck received e-mails from citizens who were concerned about the fact that their neighbors were aliens (from outer-space, not South America). Complaints that the government was reading their minds. People who were certain that people were plotting to kill them.

He did his best to respond to them, and often times that meant forwarding the e-mails down the chain of command.

But some problems just can't be solved. And problems that aren't solved, whether real or imaginary, lead to anger.

I'm not posting my thoughts on the worthiness of the Ibarra brothers' lawsuit, because, quite frankly, I don't know enough about it.

But from what I read in the Chronicle's article, Chuck did his part on the follow up.


J said...

Fact is, you're never going to please some people. They don't want to swear out a complaint--either because they're contemplating a lawsuit or because they're lying--but they still want you to investigate an alleged complant. You can't have it both ways. If you're going to make an allegation of police brutality and the like--serious charges--then you ought to be willing to swear out a complaint. And if you're not, then don't expect to be taken seriously. Yes, it was reasonable for Chuck to pass the matter along to the chief of the division assigned to deal with such matters and expect him to handle it appropriately. But you're never going to please some people, especially if they have an agenda.

PJ said...

Doesn't your analysis only suggest problems run deeper in the Harris County DA's office than Chuck? I'm not sure that's "on message." (The Ibarra's case against the Sheriff's Office is strong, by the way. The police never have any authority to interfere with a citizen's protected First Amendment activities or subsequently destroy evidence, as the HCSO Chief Deputy correctly testified.)


While the Chron article does not make clear the time period during which Chuck testified the office "had not received any complaints or statements from the Ibarras," if it was before or during the (wrongful) criminal prosecution of the Ibarras, then this "silence" is perfectly understandable. (Consult your Fifth Amendment. If this is the case, it could even show a motive for the prosecution itself: silencing the Ibarras.) In any event, the office received complaints from the offended parties' lawyer, a representative of the Ibarras. It's clear that, for whatever reason, the office simply didn't care to do justice here. No need to make excuses.

jigmeister said...

PJ:In any event, the office received complaints from the offended parties' lawyer, a representative of the Ibarras.

The problem with your analysis is that the office did get complaints from Kelley. However, they were then represented by an attorney and all correspondence was had with him. He was informed in writing several times, according to Omby, that they needed to come give statements to initiate the investigation. Kelley refused to do that. Once they were represented, the office could not unilaterally investigate, ie talk to them.

That certainly sounds like Kelley wanted to make a political splash, rather than use the office mechanism for investigating civil rights violations.