Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bad Boys Breaking Bad

In the wake of Pat Lykos' election, Harris County prosecutors were nervously waiting to see how the Office would be structured on January 1st, 2009. Obviously the first thought on most people's minds was whether or not their job was safe. The next thought was curiosity over who she would be bringing in as her upper-administration.

Jim Leitner was obviously going to be the First Assistant. Although he had lost the trust and respect of many of the ADAs when he endorsed Lykos (after he and Clint Greenwood had sworn up and down that would never happen), there was actually a little relief to hear that Jim would be in the Upper Admin. The thought being that he would provide some calm advice and stability during those moments where Lykos was letting her infamous temper flare up.

When Roger Bridgwater lost the election for the 178th bench, and was named as part of Team Lykos, I was glad to hear it. I had always liked Roger as a defense attorney and had been very happy for him when he had been appointed judge. I thought Lykos was making a great call by bringing him on.

I (and a lot of others) thought that if anything was going to make the next four years survivable with a crazy political hack, it would be having the calm and guiding force of these two men.

Good God, did we miss the mark on that prediction.'

Over the past six months, Jim Leitner and Roger Bridgwater have transitioned from the spineless hatchetmen to Official Administration Apologists to downright Grade-A Bullies.

Jim was the first to fully embrace his Napoleonic complex, as he first decided he would break bad and just verbally eviscerate Rifi Newaz and Mark Donnelly after the Batson debacle. Some would think that a good administrator might have actually given them the benefit of letting them explain themselves, but not Big Jimmy Leitner. Of course, in all fairness, I guess he was under a deadline to chew them out since Lykos was in the next room calling the Chronicle about what was happening.

He's continued his "tough guy" image by doing a lot of shooting first and asking questions later. Demanding explanations on perceived wrongs rather than asking what happened from his troops. As one prosecutor mentioned to me, "there's a presumption that you have done something wrong and he acts like he is looking for any reason to fire you."

There have been at least two occasions that I'm aware of where Leitner has tried to play a diminutive Clint Eastwood tough guy on younger prosecutors for actions that they had carried out because he told them to.

But the bottom line is that Leitner has become little more than Lykos' chief thug.

What was more surprising to me, personally, was that former-judge Roger Bridgwater has now apparently decided to get into the act.

I will freely admit that I used to be a big fan of Roger's. I thought better of him.

I was wrong.

His behavior has become as bizarre and erratic as the rest of the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight. Whether it be his officially revoking an invitation to Rusty Hardin to speak at an in-house CLE (yeah, that Rusty Hardin guy. What the hell does he know about trying a case?), or trying to push the moronic DWI Diversion Program off on the general public, the Roger Bridgwater I used to know ain't there anymore.

But Roger hit his all-time low yesterday.

During yesterday morning's weekly "Show and Tell" meeting (which is a regular update meeting attended by all Division chiefs, Bureau Chiefs and the Elected D.A.), he apparently went completely off the deep end. After being questioned on his rationale on decisions about Rusty Hardin, the diversion program, and the fact that more people learn about their Administration decisions from the paper than from the administrators, Bridgwater lashed out at none other than Donna Goode.

Now, before reading on, keep in mind that Donna Goode and I aren't exactly best friends. Although I liked her and respected her during my time at the Office, we were never particularly close nor did we work on any cases together. Earlier this year, she referred to the blog as being "toxic" (which actually cracked me up). I don't dislike her, but I doubt we will be going bowling any time soon.

But whether I'm friends with Donna or not, I respect her. She's a good lawyer and prosecutor who has devoted somewhere in the ballpark of 30 years to the Harris County District Attorney's Office. She was a Division Chief when I started with the Office, and prior to this morning, she was the Bureau Chief of Special Crimes (the position held by Kelly Siegler when Kelly left the Office).

After having the audacity to question Roger on some very valid questions regarding how he was running his Division, Roger blew up on her and some others in the room. He completely lost his cool and went after a lady who has worked there, literally, over 50 times longer than he has. He did his best to humiliate her in front of everyone in the room.

But he didn't stop there.

When the meeting was over, he decided to file a complaint against Donna with the Disciplinary Committee for her remarks during "Show and Tell".

The complaint he made against her? Insubordination.

Now, if you are keeping score at home, two questions should be coming to mind.

1. Um, when did the Office get a Disciplinary Committee? I thought if somebody did something bad that Lykos just called the Chronicle.
2. How exactly could Donna be "insubordinate" to Bridgwater when they are both Bureau Chiefs?

Well, I don't know the answer to Question # 2, but apparently since Lykos shot her mouth off on the Batson debacle, they have developed a Disciplinary Committee.

Guess who is on it! Well, that would be Patsy Lykos, Jim Leitner, Hannah Chow, John Barnhill, and um, oh yeah, Roger Bridgwater. Yes, the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight has their own hit squad, and it is pretty much the entirety of the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight.

As an added insult, somebody within the Gang decided to have Donna remotely locked out of utilizing her county computer. Jimmy Leitner was kind enough to offer Donna his computer if she would like to type a response to Bridgwater's complaint. She declined.

So this morning, Donna Goode, a career prosecutor took her retirement and left the building as a prosecutor for one last time. It was pretty much the only move left to her by the incestuous and low-rent Gang.

She was able to walk out of the CJC with class and with her head held high. I know she and I didn't always see eye to eye, but I wish her well, and I respect the hell out of her for leaving because of her principles.

Perhaps the D.A.'s Office could bring her back to give a CLE on character. Nah, Roger would rescind the invite.

So, today my opinion of Donna Goode has skyrocketed, while my opinion of Leitner and Bridgwater has pretty much bottomed out.

They are both, unquestionably bullies.

When Craig Goodhart got his notice of termination from Leitner and Bridgwater, he told them he was ashamed of them both. I think Craig was just slightly off on that assessment. Jim and Roger are who they are. They only have to answer to themselves at the end of the day, I suppose. They are more than welcome to be the bad guys.

I'm more ashamed of myself for ever thinking that either one of them were ever good guys.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Strange Moments on Facebook

I was just checking out my Facebook page (which if you know me at all, you know I'm addicted to damn Facebook) and Pat Lykos popped up as a "Friend Suggestion".

Now, I'm not sure what I find more amusing - the fact that Pat Lykos has a Facebook page or the fact that someone thought she and I would be good Facebook friends.

Either way, I'm very disappointed that Facebook clearly doesn't know me at all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Help Needed

The following information was brought to my attention by my good friend (and Defense Czar of Provocation) Robert Fickman regarding the family of an Assistant District Attorney who needs some help from our CJC family. Robb writes:

Josh Reiss is a young Assistant District Attorney. He is married and has two small children.

Sadly his wife Ahn has a blood disease (MDS) which will require a stem cell transplant in order to save her life.

A blood drive in search of a suitable donor is ongoing.

The drive will be at the Courthouse, (on the 2nd floor) on Friday the 26, from 11 until 2pm.

Members of the DA's office, court staff and defense lawyers will all giving blood to try to find a suitable donor. Please come by. You may save a life.

This young lawyer and his family need all of us to kick in and do what we can. The odds are greater that a suitable match will be found in the Vietnamese-American or the Asian-American Community. So if you know anyone from the community please encourage them to participate. No matter what you have planned,

I am sure we can all agree that there is nothing more important than trying to help save a young mother's life.

As an added bonus, Brother Fickman has sworn that he will shave his hair into a Mohawk if he gets 300 Defense Attorneys to participate.

I'm in.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lykos and the Legislative Update

With the closing of this year's Legislative Session, it is now time for Judges, Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys across the State of Texas to begin familiarizing themselves with the newest laws that are coming into effect on September 1st.

The Texas District and County Attorney's Association (TDCAA, for short) which is an organization of all the prosecutors across the State of Texas has typically spearheaded the teaching of the new laws as their upper administration travels from venue to venue across the State, holding day-long seminars that cover everything you need to know. In the past, every two years, there will be a seminar that joins together Judges, Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys. TDCAA, especially Staff Attorney Shannon Edmonds, does a thorough and entertaining job of presenting all the new criminal laws.

Obviously, in years past, the Harris County District Attorney's Office has comprised a very large portion of the attendees there. Prior to Pat Lykos' arrival on the 6th Floor, Harris County was one of the two most sizeable and active counties involved in TDCAA, and it was a great relationship. TDCAA is a wonderful organization that serves as an excellent resource for prosecutors across the State. They organize Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars year-round, including the incredibly helpful Baby Prosecutor's School for rookie prosecutors.

More importantly, TDCAA helps foster a feeling of camaraderie with all prosecutors and builds friendships and contacts across the State. One of the things I hated the most about leaving the D.A.'s Office was that I was no longer a member of TDCAA. It really was something I was very glad to be a part of.

Apparently, however, Pat Lykos is taking a bit of a more chilly approach to TDCAA.

Prosecutors were informed on Friday via e-mail that the Harris County District Attorney's Office would not be participating in this year's Legislative Update in Houston. Instead, they would have several prosecutors from within the Office giving lectures on the new laws.

The kicker on the deal, however, is that the in-house update is occurring on July 23 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. So, after a long day of work, Patsy and her Gang are going to make all the prosecutors and investigators stay until 7:30 p.m. to get their CLE. I guess if you have such a thing as a "family" or some of those pesky "children" thingies, you are going to have to get a babysitter or make other arrangements.

God knows that Patsy, Little Jimmy and Roger could give a crap less if they are inconveniencing you.

It is worth noting, however, that at the end of Bridgwater's e-mail regarding the new mandatory CLE, he notes that the Houston Legislative Update offered by the TDCAA is still going on at South Texas College of Law on July 31st. However, he posts the following caveat:

Please be advised should you desire to attend that presentation it must be on self-pay basis and using vacation or comp time.

Are you freaking kidding me, Roger? I mean, I can understand you making the prosecutors pay for the class if they want to attend, but seriously, comp time? A prosecutor wants to go listen to the organization that helped write a lot of these laws actually speak on the topic and you are treating it like they are taking time off the go see Weekend at Bernie's II? If a prosecutor is willing to pay to take the class to make them a better prosecutor, then don't insult them by making them take Comp Time.

Here's the bottom line on this, folks. Once again, Patsy and Crew are making an ass out of themselves and the entirety of the Office. By pulling out of attending the TDCAA Seminar, she is guaranteeing that the seminar will be better attended by Judges and Defense Attorneys than prosecutors. Seeing how TDCAA is an organization for prosecutors, that's just embarrassing. And taxpayers should be aggravated that Lykos is going to make all of her prosecutors and investigators earn some comp time with her stupid after hours lessons.

As a side note, these after-hours training sessions are nothing new. Bridgwater has been forcing his misdemeanor people to have after hours training sessions quite frequently on Thursdays. Kind of funny when you consider the fact that even the Babies have more prosecutorial experience than he does in recent memory.

So the big question about Lykos' decision to pull out of the seminar is "Why?"

I can think of three possible scenarios. Let me know if you've got a theory.

Scenario # 1-recently, Lykos tried to persuade TDCAA to move the Advanced Advocacy Training from Waco to Houston. TDCAA looked into it, but ultimately declined. The leaving of the TDCAA Seminar is possibly nothing more than a straight up retaliation from a cranky old lady in a snit.

Scenario # 2-given the absolutely sterling budget management that Lykos and the Gang have exhibited during their six months in Office, they flat out just don't have the money. Looks like the water coolers that were strategically placed throughout the Office by Hannah Chow were more important than actually, uh, having prosecutors who were up-to-date on the law.

Scenario # 3-since Pat Lykos is clearly not a prosecutor and is more interested in appeasing the media than doing her job, she may be a little bit nervous about what TDCAA might have to say about some of the bills that she had the Office advocate for -- especially that whole Journalist Shield Law that TDCAA has always opposed. God forbid that the scenario arose where TDCAA came to town and had to talk about what a bad idea for prosecutors that bill was. That scenario might have Lykos looking like, um, I don't know, perhaps, an idiot.

Whatever her motives were, Lykos is once again showing her unbridled arrogance. She has been a prosecutor (in title only) for less than six months and is already shunning the guidance and assistance of the best prosecutors organization in the country for her own "wisdom".

She continues to be an embarrassment to Harris County, and now she is taking it to a Statewide level.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Unholy Alliance

One of the questions that I get quite frequently from people who read this blog is "why doesn't the media ever report the bad stuff about Pat Lykos?"

During her five and a half months in power, Lykos has had the luxury of being treated like someone who can do "no wrong" by the Houston media, most specifically the Houston Chronicle. It would be extremely difficult for anyone to argue that Patsy is anything other than our local paper's, um, Golden Girl.

The Chronicle has continued in the tradition that Alan Bernstein started during the campaign of either ignoring, or giving exceptionally light treatment to Lykos screw ups. Ask yourself how you think Jeff Cohen's paper would have reacted if Chuck Rosenthal, or even Johnny Holmes had done the following:

-announced a policy of keeping "whale cases" and forcing them to go to trial;

-announced that no probation would be given to non-citizens of the United States;

-has a beyond shameful record of Adminstrative Racism;

-publicly humiliated two excellent prosecutors without checking her facts;

-snubbed two of her other outstanding prosecutors when they were presented with a National Award;

-paid money out of the budget for a motivational speaker to come tell the ADAs that their job was to make their boss "look good" (during the middle of docket hours, no less); OR

-singles out an African-American prosecutor with a sterling reputation and punishes her for supporting a political opponent;

Is there any one of you who can honestly say with a straight face that the Chronicle writers wouldn't be screaming at the top of their lungs?

So, what's the deal here?

Some folks have suggested that since the Chron endorsed Patsy that they have to stand by her now to save face. Maybe, but I don't really think that's it. That would tend to imply that they had some sort of institutional integrity.

My personal belief is that Lykos created an unholy alliance with them awhile back. She backs their agenda and she comes out smelling like a rose with them.

No matter what.

Before you start calling me Oliver Stone, consider this: I have it on very good authority that Lykos sent representatives from the D.A.'s Office to the Chronicle prior to this past legislative session. Their job was to see what Jeff Cohen's crew wanted the Office to back in the way of legislative bills. So, rather than basing her opinions on what was best for the community she was elected to represent, she's going to see what the media thought would be best.

The clearest example of this? The Free Flow of Information Act (AKA the Press Shield Law) This has been a bill that has been uniformly opposed by District Attorneys across the State for years now for reasons that should be apparent. It protects a journalist from having to reveal their sources if they are called upon to do so by the Court. Two exceptions to that protection are if the reporter actually witnesses a crime, or if a source admits to committing a felony to the reporter.

Those are two fantastic exceptions. But let me give you two hypothetical situations that aren't exceptions, and exemplify things that a reporter could keep hidden from law enforcement if they decided to:

Scenario # 1 - let's say there are a series of unsolved crimes in a location like, say, Acres Homes, that lead HPD to believe there may be a serial killer in the community. A witness is scared to come to the police but does agree to talk to a Chronicle reporter on the condition of anonimity. They tell the reporter that they have good information on who the killer may be. Chronicle runs the story, and the cops want to know who can help them solve the case. Under the Shield Law, the reporter doesn't have to give up the info.

I'm sure the idea of this would give many Civil Libertarians a good laugh. Let's see if the next scenario makes them laugh too:

Scenario # 2 - HPD arrests a suspect in the killings and charge him with Capital Murder. A Glory Hound Elected D.A. announces she will be seeking the death penalty. The same witness from Scenario # 1 calls up the same reporter and says that the police have got the wrong person and they know who the real killer is. Guess what? Under the Shield Law, the reporter doesn't have to give up the info.

I absolutely believe in the 1st Amendment and the Freedom of the Press. But in matters of life and death, it needs to take a back seat sometimes. That's why prosecutors have uniformly opposed the Shield Law for years.

But guess who decided to break with tradition and actually support the Shield Law this year?

Yep. That would be our gal, Patsy Lykos.

In doing so, she became Jeff Cohen and the Staff of the Chronicle's Dream Girl. And in exchange for selling her soul to the Chronicle, she gets nothing but rave reviews from them. She crafted an unholy alliance that undercuts the interests of victims of crime and (potentially) all other members of the community she is sworn to represent. In exchange, she gets the media's (bought and paid for) love.

That's why I was absolutely stunned to read Falkenburg's article last week which belittled Lykos' lack of planning on the DWI Diversion program. Of course, the Chronicle had to make up for Lisa's error. They ran a cute little article about Lykos' love of baseball, to show her sweet, human side.

Never saw anything run about Holmes or Rosenthal like that, did you?

And they made sure to also run an editorial about how right she was to be instituting pre-trial diversions on first time DWI cases in the same Sunday edition. They have yet to even air what MADD's response might be to Lykos' new scheme, or dare to write an opposing view.

No, the love affair that the Chronicle is showing towards Pat Lykos has many of us wanting to yell out "get a room!". But, when it comes to the Chronicle, why wouldn't they love Pat Lykos? They have always been more interested in an agenda that puts the interests of criminals way ahead of the interests of crime victims. The sympathy of the Chronicle has always been for those who violate the law rather than those who uphold it.

The interest of the Chronicle has always been very much the opposite of the community which they write for, in my opinion.

And when you make the realization that the Chronicle and Pat Lykos are of the same mind when it comes to our community's interest . . .

Folks, that's just damn scary.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lisa Falkenberg's Excellent Column

Bet you never thought I would write a post with that title, did ya?

But, I gotta say that I loved Lisa Falkenberg's column today on Pat Lykos' new poorly-thought-out plan for Pre-Trial Diversions for first time DWI offenders. From start to finish, the whole article kept me laughing, and that laughing was mostly at Lykos' expense.

Now, I would imagine that Lisa probably went over to interview Lykos and her stand-in "Yes Man" Roger Bridgwater with the best of intentions as a way of illustrating how wonderful the new plan would be. But even the liberally slanted columnist for the very pro-Lykos Chronicle was forced to point out that the "program is far from thoroughly thought-out" and "a new district attorney launching a controversial program should probably be a little more prepared before going public."

Ya think?

I love Lykos' explanation that the reason the details hadn't been ironed out yet was "because news [of the plan] broke a bit prematurely".

No kidding? I hear that Lykos holding a press conference announcing the plan was a leading suspect as to the cause of why the news may have "broke a bit prematurely".

Funny how that works out. I bet that really caught the Old Girl off guard.

In defense of her plan's disorganization, Patsy decided to rely on some of her campaign experience and decide to launch some negative publicity -- not at detractors of her plan, but at other counties.

"We're not going to engage in any fraud as they do in other counties by calling a DWI something else."

Holy crap, that one nearly made me spit out my coffee. First of all, this statement alone from Patsy pretty much ensures that nobody from another county is going to dance with her at the next annual Texas District and County Attorney's Association meeting. Second of all, who on EARTH is Lykos to be criticizing other counties and the way they handle DWI cases?

The Lykos plan is to erase the first DWI that an offender gets, and make it as if it never happened, and she is blasting counties like Bexar County that apparently utilize other offenses as a method of plea bargaining? You've got to be kidding me.

And she emphasizes that the purpose of her plan is "to reduce the number of repeat offenders". Well, um, yeah, if you don't actually count the first offense, I suppose that will technically reduce the number of repeat offenders from a mathematical standpoint. You aren't a true repeat offender if the first one didn't count, right?

And then she points out that DWI is a "pandemic in Harris County". And the elected District Attorney's solution to that is to treat it less seriously?

To wrap up, Lisa points out that Roger Bridgwater and Lykos weren't even on the same page as to the requirements they would demand for their Pre-Trial Diversion. Bridgwater, who does not drink, wanted to make no alcohol at all a requirement for the probation, leading Lykos to disagree and state: "I'm not Carrie Nation."

NOTE: I am glad that Lykos cleared up that she is not, in fact, Carrie Nation (pictured above), however, I think there is still an astounding chance that they may have been sorority sisters.

The conclusion of Lisa's article wraps up with Lykos joking (over Bridgwater's doddering attempt to downplay it) about her own drinking habits:

With a laugh, she [Lykos] added, "I wish I had a Jack and Coke right now."

I don't have a problem with Patsy having as many Jack and Cokes as she wants.

She just needs to cut down on making these policy decisions after so many of them.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Side Effect of Lykos' DWI Announcement

Defense Attorneys at the CJC who approached prosecutors asking for their pre-trial diversions for first time DWI cases were told by Harris County Prosecutors that no such animal exists quite yet. The official word coming from prosecutors is that it is a plan that is still being worked out and will take a while. The word on the street is that nothing will be ironed out before August of this year.

So, I know that Lykos needed her daily affirmation of love from the Press and that's why she made her announcement before actually thinking out how the plan would work, but let's now examine the consequences of her premature announcement.

Say you are a defense attorney who is representing a client charged with Driving While Intoxicated for the first time.

Wouldn't you pretty much be committing malpractice to plead that client out right now, if you know that the D.A.'s Office is going to be offering the Pre-Trial Diversions in a few months?

My prediction is that first time DWI cases are about to come to a complete stand-still in the County Courts until Lykos and the Gang figure out how to implement her plan and get it rolling.

Maybe next time, Lykos will think before she shoots off her mouth.


Episode Seven: The Voters Awaken - A One Act -Sci-Fi Play

SCENE:  The Death Star orbits over Downtown Houston. [INTERIOR] The Imperial Council Chambers. EMPRESS OGG sits at the head of a long table ...