Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Stain

So, as I predicted in my last post, no indictments were handed down by the 185th Grand Jury today as they concluded their investigation into criminal wrongdoing by Pat Lykos' District Attorney's Office.  Also as predicted, they issued the following statement:

To:  The Honorable Susan Brown, 185th State District Court
From:  Foreman, 185th Grand Jury, Harris County
DATE:  January 31, 2012
RE:  Our Grand Jury Service

The members of this Grand Jury are honored to have had the opportunity to serve as Grand Jurors for the August 2011 Term, extended to February 1, 2012 for the HPD Mobile B.A.T. Vans investigation.  The privilege to serve the outstanding citizens of Harris County by participating in the determination of probable cause in felony cases and in an investigation is a unique experience essential to the administration of the criminal justice system, and we actively encore other citizens to volunteer for Grand Jury service.

Our attempts to initiate our investigation were met with unexpected resistance from persons in the Harris County District Attorney's Office (HCDAO).  Nothing prepared us for the events that unfolded, some of which are documented in motions filed by the HCDAO and some are in the public domain.  In the days prior to the Court's ruling authorizing the attorneys pro ten to aid in our investigation, an investigator and other senior members of the HCDAO were observed in the hallway outside our Grand Jury meeting room;  we were unable to determine whether this was an effort to track the traffic of witnesses or for purposes of intimidating members of the Grand Jury.  One day while walking on a sidewalk returning from lunch break, some Grand Jury members were photographed by an unknown person in what appeared to be a government issued vehicle, again for an unknown purpose.  We discovered through our investigator that the HCDAO initiated investigations into members of the Grand Jury, the attorneys pro ten and past and present members of the Harris County Judiciary.

Our investigation was distracted by the Assistant District Attorney most responsible for the prosecution of DWI cases invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination (publicly reported).  To be perfectly clear, we know the ADA had the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment, but we are deeply troubled that any prosecutor would fear prosecution from a Grand Jury investigation.  The stain upon the HCDAO will remain regardless of any media statements issued or press conferences performed by anyone.

The ultimate standard for prosecutors much be much more than mere obedience to the law; it must be conduct which constantly reaffirms one's fitness for the responsibility and continuously furthers the belief that a DAO exists to ensure an even-handed administration of justice.  Conduct which casts public discredit on the office of the HCDAO as well as on the administration of justice is unacceptable.  While we appreciate the fine line between ethics and the law, our investigation was unable to determine that any criminal conduct had occurred.  But it is clear that the work of this Grand Jury has already resulted in some positive changes in the enforcement of DWIs in Harris County, as the HPD B.A.T. vans are being phased out.  Again, we thank you for the privilege to serve our County.

So, what can be made of this letter?  A lot, actually.

The letter points out that they "appreciate the fine line between ethics and the law" when they state that no criminal conduct had been committed.  Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that unethical behavior by an attorney may be handled on other levels (such as a grievance with the State Bar), but may not result in criminal charges being filed.  Ethical violations and breaking the law are both wrongful acts, in other words, but ethical violations won't put you in prison.  The fact that the letter points this out is very telling.

Furthermore, the fact that the letter indicates that the Grand Jurors felt as if the District Attorney's Office was attempting to intimidate them is a definite cause for concern.  In fact, it is more of a concern than any allegations regarding the functionality of a fleet of B.A.T. vans.  David Jennings, in a Twitter post, made light of the intimidation tactics by writing: "LOL, it reads like a black helicopter conspiracy kook wrote it.  Photos from a car looked like a gov't vehicle!  Oh no!"

I can't help but wonder if Dave would feel so cavalier about the Grand Jury's claims of intimidation if Defendants charged with violent crimes and other felonies roamed the hallways outside where a Jury or Grand Jury was deliberating their cases, or were taking photos of them as they walked down the street.  Lykos does have Joe Strange working for her and his job (as he drives around in his county car) is taking photos.  Or perhaps, it was just that nimwit Don Hooper taking photos as he likes to do.  He does have a lot of free time on his hands.

The bottom line is that whether the allegations of wrong-doing by the Harris County District Attorney's Office were True Billed or No Billed, Pat Lykos and her Crew responded truly like defendants in a criminal case.  Lykos tried everything in her power to have her prosecutors bully their way into the Grand Jury room, stonewall by pleading the 5th Amendment, and claim that she was set up for political reasons.  As I'm writing this blog post, she's giving a press conference celebrating the fact she and her Gang weren't indicted.

Actually, the vast majority of criminal defendants that I have dealt with in my 13 years of handling criminal law respond with more dignity and respect for the System than Lykos has.  Lykos and Palmer have truly acted like the Stain on the Criminal Justice System that the letter described them to be.

I'm certain that Lykos and Palmer and the rest of their group will feel very emboldened by today's Grand Jury decision.  What they should be is thankful.  Despite any external or fictional political pressure, the Grand Jury weighed the evidence they had and decided that no criminal cases would be filed.  The organization that is notoriously mocked as being inclined to "indict a ham sandwich" did not indict anyone from the District Attorney's Office.

Does that disappoint me?  Not in the slightest.  The Grand Jury did what it was supposed to do.  They held a government agency to scrutinizing standards and made their decision based on the law provided.  You can't argue with that.

But, I am reminded of something that Pat Lykos said on the campaign trail back in 2008, in alluding to the benefits of "transparency":  sunshine is the best disinfectant.

I couldn't agree more, and the 185th Grand Jury did add some sunshine with their letter.

The Final Week Predictions

This week should mark the final week of the 185th Grand Jury.

If I recall correctly, their original order of extension put them through February 1st.  Since they are meeting only on Tuesdays and Thursday, that would have made today (January 31st) the last day they met.  However, some time last week, I heard that they had been authorized to meet through the end of this week, and have the option of meeting on Thursday, February 2nd if need be.

At this point, anyone who is saying they know what the Grand Jury is going to do is just speculating. The common consensus around the CJC seems to be that they don't believe anyone from Pat Lykos' Administration is going to be indicted.  I'm inclined to agree that it is doubtful that there will be any indictments, and if any indictments are, in fact, returned, I doubt that they will reach the upper echelons of the Office.  According to the comments section a while back, Rachel Palmer and Jim Leitner were already planning to appear on Gary Polland and David Jones' "Red, White and Blue" TV show as soon as the investigation officially ceased.  That would certainly seem to indicate that perhaps they have some sort of inside knowledge of what the results will be.

The biggest question in my mind, however, is "what has the 185th been doing the past two weeks?"  Pat Lykos testified on January 17th, but I haven't heard of them calling any other additional witnesses since then.  Obviously any one who serves on a Grand Jury is very civically-minded, but I doubt that they would be coming in for the past two weeks just to hang out.

Someone in the comments section of one of my earlier posts mentioned that the Grand Jury has the authority to issue a report on their findings.  This is complete speculation, but perhaps the past several meetings have been drafting such a statement.  Who knows?

Whatever the 185th Grand Jury ultimately does, the Lykos Administration will spin, of course.

If indictments come down, they will blast the 185th Grand Jury for being politically motivated.  If there are no indictments, Lykos will claim that her Office cooperated completely with the investigation, thank the 185th for their hard work, and then commend them for seeing the "truth" about how the allegations were "politically motivated."

Whatever the 185th Grand Jury decides to do, I'm glad for the fact that they have at least looked into what the Pat Lykos Administration is all about.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Memorial Service for Michael Barrow

There will be a memorial service for Michael Barrow on Wednesday, February 1st at 2 p.m. at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, located at 717 Sage, Houston, Texas 77056.

Following the service, at 3:30 p.m., there will be a gathering of family, friends and colleagues at Grove Park Lounge, located at 33 Waugh Drive.  Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend.

Michael Barrow

I learned this morning that my friend and fellow defense attorney, Michael Barrow passed away following a brief battle with cancer.  After all the friends in the legal community that we lost last year, I was hopeful that this year wouldn't be quite as tragic, but it looks like we are already off to a rough start.

I first recall meeting Michael when I was a relatively new Felony Two in the 185th District Court.  I was prosecuting a trio of aggravated robbers and he represented one of them.  From my first dealings with Michael on the case, I just liked his style.

Michael was smart and funny, and he was pleasant.  When I told him what I thought I had on his client, he nodded and didn't argue.  He also didn't tell me doodly-squat about any of the defense facts that he had.  He didn't confront anything I told him about what I believed the case to be.  He would reserve that for trial if need be.  Ultimately, the case worked out.

The longer I worked in the 185th, the more I got to know him, and the more I liked to talk to him when I got a chance.  Quite frankly, I just thought he was cool.  A few years later, when I first met my friend Todd Dupont, and I realized he and Barrow were buddies, too, we all became even better friends.  He was always around the courthouse with a smile and an easy laugh.  He was as laid back as they came, and he always seemed to have a genuine interest in how everyone else was doing.

When dealing with his clients in the holdover, he was a good listener to what they had to say and he had compassion for what they were going through.  Any request a client made of him, whether it be filing some hand-written motion the client had for more "liberry time" or just calling their mom or girlfriend, Michael did it.  He was a kind person and he wanted to help them.

On the converse side of that, he didn't take any crap off of an inmate who was rude or hostile to him.  I never saw him start a fight with a client, but I saw him finish them (verbally, of course).  His position was to work hard for his clients, be respectful to what they were going through, and to be respectful to his opponents in trial.

Although he took his job very personally in doing the best job that he could, he never made the conflict personal.  Does that make sense?  He would do everything in his power to broker a favorable resolution for his client, but not at the expense of his sense of honor and civility.

When I became a defense attorney, I wanted to handle myself on the defense side like Michael Barrow did.  Not just because he was one of the coolest human beings I knew, but because I admired his Rules of Engagement.

A few months ago, Michael and I got appointed to represent co-defendants in the 351st.  I was really excited about the chance to work with him on the case for once, rather than against him.  The clients were brother and sister, and I was telling my client how lucky I thought his sister was to have Michael as her attorney.  I told him what a great attorney Michael was and how I looked forward to working with him.  I didn't realize that Michael was in the holdover and heard what I said until later that day.

I'm glad that he overheard me.  Even if it wasn't intentional, I'm glad he knew how highly I thought of him.  It seems that too often, I'm having to express how much I liked or respected someone I worked with on this blog -- long after the opportunity to tell them to their face has passed.

Dupont told me that Barrow was sick on January 1st.  I thought I would have had more time to say goodbye to him.  Unfortunately, I learned this morning that wasn't the case.

About two weeks ago, the brother and sister co-defendants that Michael and I shared were on the docket in the 351st.  As a courtesy, I told Michael's client that her lawyer wouldn't be able to make it to court because he was sick.  His client nodded and seemed to think that it was just a stomach bug or something, so I explained to her that it was actually much more serious than that.

The client actually got very choked up and concerned in the holdover.  Her family got very saddened when I told them the news a few minutes later.

For those of you who don't do criminal defense representation, having a client get emotional over your well-being isn't all that common.  The majority of them are a little too self-centered and concerned with their own problems to be too worried about how their defense attorney is doing.

But on that one day, Michael Barrow's client and her family expressed genuine sadness over his illness.  Perhaps they were genuinely empathetic people, but I don't think that was it.

I think that they appreciated the kindness, diligence, and empathy that they saw Michael had for them, and they returned it.

Those of us of the Defense Bar and my friends at the District Attorney's Office are all deeply saddened by Michael's untimely passing and we send our thoughts and prayers to his family.

It is very easy to say that Michael Barrow was one of the coolest guys I ever knew, but he was so much more than that.  Knowing Michael, however, he probably would have liked just being referred to as one of the coolest guys I knew, though.

I will keep you all posted when funeral arrangements become available.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

News Stories in my Absence

Sorry I've been quiet the past week.  I was out of town over the weekend and came back just in time to start up trial.

There have been a couple of interesting stories that are good topics for conversation, though.  I just don't have the time to write about them at length right now.

First, we have Ted Oberg's attempt to once again get Pat Lykos to answer some questions, which she avoids (again).

And this story from the Chronicle about Lykos giving nearly a half-million dollars in asset forfeiture funds to HPD for breath testing equipment.  That would be the same HPD lab that she said she had no faith in this past Fall.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The CNN Test

Just saw this poll on CNN and thought my friends at the D.A.'s Office might like to take it.


Tonight's Red, White and Blue (1/20/12)

Tune in tonight for David Jones and Gary Polland's Red, White, and Blue at 7:30 p.m. on Houston PBS's Channel 8 tonight.

The guests are Pat Lykos and Mike Anderson.

Should be worth watching.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lykos Testifies

Per the Houston Chronicle's Brian Rogers, Pat Lykos did, in fact, testify before the Grand Jury today.

Probably a good move on her part.

My reports do indicate that she came to the Grand Jury down the back stairwell, rather than walk in the front door like other witnesses must do.  I wonder if she realizes that skulking around like that makes her look more suspicious than a registered sex offender hanging around a playground with a bucket of candy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tune In Tomorrow

According to all the information that I've heard, Pat Lykos has been subpoenaed to testify before the 185th District Court Grand Jury tomorrow as part of their investigation.  The word on the street is that Lykos is intending to file a Motion to Quash her subpoena tomorrow in an attempt to avoid testifying.  I don't know whether or not that particular rumor is true, but given the way she and the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight have handled this entire debacle, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.

Now, keep in mind that Lykos got subpoenaed at the end of last year to testify in a DWI case and showed her distaste for testifying by filing a Motion to Quash and then heading to Hawaii.  It would appear that the woman (who prior to the 185th Grand Jury always had a sound-byte for every occasion) suddenly gets a little shy when that talking is under oath.  She's seen the bashing that Rachel Palmer has taken for invoking her 5th Amendment Right in front of the same Grand Jury and knows she doesn't want to follow in those footsteps.

So, what's an Elected District Attorney with an honesty problem to do?

Here are a few thoughts:

1.  If, in fact, Lykos does file a Motion to Quash her subpoena tomorrow, you can bet your bottom dollar that she is going to do so under the theory that the 185th Grand Jury has been improperly held over.  The person who will decide that issue on its face will be none other than Judge Susan Brown.  Look for a Motion to Recuse to follow.

2.  Lykos got her subpoena the week before last.  If she does actually file the Motion to Quash, it really will beg the question: why did she wait until the last minute?  I mean, I think we could all pretty much assume that the Motion wouldn't take over a week to prepare.

3.  The answer to the above point would be that it is a very obvious attempt to "run out the clock" on the 185th Grand Jury.  The 185th's term has been extended to the end of January.  Since they meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that would make January 31st their last day to appear.  If the Lykos-Defense Team files a Motion to Quash, they will mostly likely try to stretch it out for over two weeks, making the issue moot.

4.  If Lykos files the Motion to Quash and it goes to a Motion to Recuse Judge Brown, look for it to potentially eat up about a week of time as it goes to another court for hearing.

5.  If the Motion to Quash is based on the idea that the 185th Grand Jury was held over improperly, look for every defense attorney in Harris County to file a Motion to Quash the indictment on every single case indicted during the new year.  How on Earth could the Lykos Administration make an intellectually honest argument that the Grand Jury conducting an investigation into her isn't valid, yet the ones indicting the regular citizens of Harris County are just fine?

6.  The biggest question for me is what is Pat Lykos scared of? To some degree, I could understand Rachel Palmer taking the 5th.  She had testified previously to the 185th Grand Jury, and then they heard from additional witnesses.  If those witnesses contradicted her, I could see Palmer being concerned that she might be walking into a "perjury trap" by making a second appearance with them.  Lykos, on the other hand, hasn't testified to them and has no such concerns about perjury from previous testimony.  Unless there are some actions that she has committed that she is scared to testify to, I don't see why she doesn't hold a press conference, announcing that she will gladly answer all of the Grand Jury's questions, because she knows she hasn't done anything wrong.  I honestly don't get why she doesn't do that.

It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.  Maybe Lykos will go in and clear her name and the name of the Office that she has dragged through the mud.  Maybe she will file her Motion to Quash and pretty much make things look worse than they already do.  I will be waiting eagerly to hear.

But one thing that Lykos should know that perhaps she doesn't realize, having never tried a case herself:

The Grand Jury doesn't have to hear from you to indict you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (1/12/12)

Please join me and host Todd Dupont for tonight's Reasonable Doubt with special guest, Staci Biggar.  We've been working on getting Staci on as a guest for several months now to talk about Mental Health and how it is dealt with in Criminal Law.  It's going to be a great show and we look forward to taking your questions.  As always, you can watch it live streaming at 8:00 p.m. by clicking here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pat Lykos subpoenaed

Last night on the ten o'clock news, Channel 11 KHOU reported that Pat Lykos has been subpoenaed to testify before the 185th Grand Jury, which will resume meeting next week.

I don't see a web article on their website, but it was reported on air.  They additionally aired comments from Lykos that the Grand Jury was politically motivated.

Well, that's just brilliant.  Insult them before you even walk in the door.

Perhaps she should read a prepared statement before giving testimony:  "I'm Pat Lykos, your elected District Attorney.  You all are a bunch of A-Holes.  That is all."

I actually thought that Lykos had previously testified to the Grand Jury, so I'm not stunned by this development.  I expected they would call her eventually.  Obviously, I have no idea what is happening in the Grand Jury room, but if I had to guess, the fact that they are calling her means the Grand Jury may be getting close to a resolution of its proceedings.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A New Grand Jury Scandal

As I mentioned in some of my earlier posts regarding the 185th Grand Jury investigation, one of the sneakier things that Pat Lykos and Crew were hoping to have happen was for the Grand Jury's term to expire at the end of the calendar year.  If it had done so, Lykos, Leitner, Bridgwater and Palmer could have all breathed sighs of relief as the twelve men and women who were looking into criminal wrongdoing suddenly had to disband as a matter of law.

The reason Lykos and Crew believed this a possibility was due to some changes in the last legislative session which changed the terms of Grand Juries, thus ending all active Grand Juries on December 31st, 2011 . . .

. . . unless that Grand Jury got an extension from the Court . . .

. . . which the 185th Grand Jury did.

Unfortunately, while the Lykos Administration was hoping against hope that their Grand Jury problem was going to go away by January 1st, they were forgetting to do something else:  work on establishing new Grand Juries for January 2012.

Selecting a Grand Jury is not something that can be done overnight.  You have to find people willing to serve and the ability to serve for what is now (under the law change) a six month term.  Details have to be ironed out about how exactly they are going to do that.  Are 11 of the 22 District Courts going to have active Grand Juries the first half of the year and the other 11 the second half?  Are Grand Juries going to meet just once a week, instead of two?  There are a lot of things to consider.

And Lykos and Crew considered NONE of them.  They were way too busy holding their breath and waiting to see if the 185th was about to go away.

Which explains this e-mail from First Assistant Jim Leitner to the rest of the Office today:

-----Original Message------
From: Leitner, Jim
To: All DA Employees
Subject: Grand Juries for the November Term 2011
Sent: Jan 5, 2012 9:43 AM

I have just been notified that the Judges have terminated all Grand Juries that were empanelled for the November Term 2011. That termination, from what I understand, has been backdated to December 31st. Therefore, do not take any cases in to any Grand Jury until the Judges have created and sworn in Grand Juries for the January Term 2012. Also, don’t issue any Grand Jury subpoenas until we have new Grand Juries empanelled.  I am meeting with Judge Hill today to make sure that we have the right information on this, but until you hear otherwise proceed as if there are no Grand Juries available  until the new term Grand Juries are sworn in. This does not affect the 185th or 232nd Grand Jury which have been extended for pending investigations.
This is the legal version of getting caught with your pants down.  In Harris County, Texas, there are two Grand Juries meeting every day of the week to manage the enormous caseload that comes through the courthouse.  It will take the District Attorney's Office and the courts at least a week (and most likely longer than that) to get them up and running again.

Obviously, having no Grand Juries running is going to create an enormous backlog.

It can also create a danger to the public.  Here's why.

When a person is arrested and incarcerated prior to trial, the District Attorney's Office has 90 days to get that case indicted.  Otherwise, the person accused is entitled to a bond they can make.

That applies to all felony charges -- from Aggravated Sexual Assault to Aggravated Robbery to Murder.  If the deadline goes past the 90 days, the end result is those folks will be getting back out on the street.

It recently happened in Fort Bend with one case. 

The rank and file prosecutors had absolutely ZERO notice this was coming.  Nobody from the Upper Administration sent them anything letting them know, "Hey, if you have a case getting close to 90 days old, you need to get it to the Grand Jury before December 31st."

And most of the more serious cases take the full 90 days to get ready for Grand Jury.  As a prosecutor, I routinely took murder cases and sexual assault cases to the Grand Jury on the 85th to 89th day.  The trial prosecutors are about to find out that if they were banking on going to the Grand Jury this week or next, that they are not going to be able to do so.

And some really bad people are potentially about to be back on the streets.

If Lykos had been watching the Public's back, rather than her own, perhaps she would have caught this.

I cannot emphasize enough what a colossal screw up this is.

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (1/5/12)

Join us tonight as we return from the Christmas break with a new episode of Reasonable Doubt.  Our guest tonight will be the Reverend John Craig Still of the Harris County Public Defender's Office.  As always, you can tune in at 8:00 p.m. and catch it live streaming by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Prosecutors Campaigning in a Lykos World

"I would be hard pressed to punish anyone because they exercised their constitutional rights." - Jim Leitner

As we all know by now, Pat Lykos, Jim Leitner and the rest of the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight are really really big fans of the 5th Amendment.  The big question as we enter campaign season, however, is, "How are they feeling about the 1st Amendment these days?"

Those around the Harris County Criminal Justice Center know that the vast majority of the prosecutors at the District Attorney's Office are miserable under the Lykos Administration.  They don't have the discretion to deal with their cases the way they know how.  They are worried about being "on the radar" which could possibly land them on the Upper Administration's Enemies List.  They are worried that the slightest infraction, whether real or perceived, could end up with them being gainfully unemployed.

Judge Mike Anderson's candidacy and the possibility that 2012 will spell the end of the Lykos Regime have installed something in those prosecutors that has been missing for the past three years --


I can't begin to tell you how many prosecutors have expressed to me their delight at the idea of Judge Anderson being the District Attorney.  

But every time they tell me that, they tell me in private, and begin it with the traditional caution that I hear so often:  "Don't put this on the blog, but . . . "

Their concern is a reasonable one.  Higher ups from the D.A.'s Office have let the word go forth that Assistant District Attorney's and all other Office personnel had better "watch themselves" (i.e. not get caught openly supporting anyone other than Lykos.) The chilling phrase coupled with those warnings has been, "Pat won't be as forgiving as she was in 2008."  

Ah yes, Good Old Forgiving Pat.  As someone who didn't quite make it onto the beneficiary list of Pat's forgiveness, I can attest to what it means when she isn't feeling so forgiving.  Now, to be clear, I wasn't really expecting nor wanting Pat's forgiveness, either.  I knew very well that my tenure as an ADA was ending when Lykos won the primary run-off election.  I compared her to a Bud Lite Lizard, for crying out loud.

But for every one of us who did oppose Lykos and subsequently lost our jobs, there are plenty more who kept them.  I point this out to give you some reassurance that they can't fire all of you and there is a big difference from what I did during the 2008 campaign and simply expressing your 1st Amendment-protected-political-beliefs in a more, um, "toned down" manner.  

Here are some helpful hints if you would like to exercise your 1st Amendment rights as freely and enthusiastically as Rachel Palmer enjoyed her 5th in front of the Grand Jury:

1.  Order a copy of your personnel file right now.  Seriously.  Go do it.  I'll sit here and wait for you to get back.  
At the end of 2011, Pat Lykos abruptly ordered that all evaluations done on office personnel would be pushed back until after the election.  Why exactly she did that is anyone's guess, but it certainly leaves the door open for her waiting until after election time to grade everyone on how they behaved, doesn't it?  If she, or the Upper Admin, don't like the way an ADA acts this Spring, they can add an evaluation with bad things and say "Well, we like totally would have put that in the evaluation at the end of 2011, but we didn't do them then," and "This has nothing to do with the prosecutor's 1st Amendment political choices."
Knowing how much Pat Lykos loved me and would probably love going through my personnel file once she became D.A., I ordered a copy of it long before my last day.  Pat and Company can curse my name until the cows come home and Don Hooper can call me every name in the book on the Chronicle blogs.  But nobody can say I was a bad prosecutor.  I've got my personnel file to prove otherwise.
Get yours now before the election.  All you have to do is let Scott Durfee know.  If John Barnhill asks you why you want it, tell him it's for a scrapbooking project, or better yet, "None of your damn business." Knowledge is Power, people.

2.  Your Facebook profile is your own business, too.  If you are like me, you are pretty much Facebook friends with everyone you've shared an elevator with at the CJC.  Secretaries, Prosecutors, Clerks, Bailiffs, Investigators, Process Servers, Coordinators, Defense Attorneys and even Judges comprise many of our friend lists.  With that many people, anything you post on the World's Greatest Social Media Website can easily be learned about by the 6th Floor.
There have been a few instances that I'm aware of that somebody from the Office got in trouble because Jim Leitner got wind of what they had posted on their Facebook account.  
Again, remember that discretion can be a big determining factor here.  There is a big difference between you "Liking" the Mike Anderson for District Attorney page and you taking a picture of yourself, mooning the camera, with a caption that reads "Pat Lykos can kiss my . . ."
But, if you so choose to support Mike Anderson, do it as an individual.  That doesn't mean that you have to take down the Harris County District Attorney's Office as your place of employment before posting anything.  Just don't say "As a Harris County Assistant District Attorney, I support anyone other than Pat Lykos."
If Jim Leitner or anyone from Upper Admin even thinks about asking or criticizing you for your 1st Amendment right to vote for whoever the hell you want to, refer them to your lawyer.  Or better yet, just plead the 5th.  They are totally cool with that.

3.  Even if you are concerned about supporting publicly, you can still help privately.  As an earlier commenter pointed out, you can still spread the word through your own private e-mails and phone calls to people.  Just make sure to be doing it on your own time.  Your address book on your home computer or Blackberry or iPhone is filled with plenty of Houston voters that you can send an e-mail blast to.  Or just start telling people by word of mouth.  

4.  Remember that bullies rely on the fact that you won't fight back -- the very definition of a bully is a coward who picks on those they believe to be weaker than them.  Those from the Upper Admin who are going around talking about Lykos "not being so forgiving" are banking heavily on the idea that this will scare you into submission.  When you come armed with your good personnel file, you can say, "If I get fired for exercising my 1st Amendment rights, I can guarantee you that I'm not going to be forgiving either."

5.  VOTE.
6.  VOTE.
7.  VOTE.
8.  VOTE.  

9.  Remember the passion you have for your job and translate it into election action.  As I've pointed out time and time again, if you add up all the votes received by Kelly Siegler and compare them to those gained by Pat Lykos, Kelly crushed Lykos by thousands of votes.  The reason was that during that first primary vote, there was so much passion involved in getting out there, spreading the word, and voting.  Unfortunately, when it came time for the run-off, too many people took it for granted that Kelly would crush her again.
Pat Lykos didn't win that run-off, Apathy did.  Don't let it happen again, folks.
In the 2010 elections, the passionate work of people working hard for good candidates helped Judges Don Smyth and Marc Brown defeat two very unqualified candidates, despite those candidates having a lot of Republican support.  
You've got the Power.  Now use it.

10.  Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel.  You've made it through three years of Lykos and this next one is going to go by quickly.  Of course there is no guarantee that Judge Anderson is going to win the election, but I think he will.
Think about what life would be like for you with an actual prosecutor at the head of the Office.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a leader who has been through everything you're going through when he was at the Office?  How about one who understands that sometimes there are cases that you just can't make?  One who won't have policies that defy justice solely because they please the public?  One who won't make you feel like the KGB is watching you at every turn?

If you are ready to get fired up about your job as a prosecutor again, the time to do something about it is now.  

Here's a little motivational music for you as we wait for the Primary.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In Re: Donald Hooper [UPDATED]

UPDATE NOTE:  Several posters have put up different things about Don Hooper's financial and court dealings in the comments section since I put this article up yesterday.  I have allowed those that I have posted because I think they illustrate to potential voters who meet Hooper that he is not who he holds himself out to be.  In my opinion, given the trash that Hooper seems to feel so free about spewing out regarding others, this will allow those who meet him to consider the source.  

Yesterday, Brian Rogers ran a story in the Houston Chronicle regarding the District Attorney's race "heating up."  In the early morning hours, this relatively benign story suddenly got a flood of comments on it from a "group" of Chronicle commenters who mostly seemed to have generated their profiles the day before. The names such as "Dinkit", "KevinPadrick", "Tort_king", "LibelLuci", "Mike420" and (my personal favorite) "BaldUglyDefenseAttorney"all preached a very similar message to those spewed out over on Big Jolly's Blog under the name of "JJones", "Snapped", "Ted's Conscience", oh, and the name Don Hooper.

Don Hooper, as you all know, is Rachel Palmer's husband, and he has had a very "interesting" storyline ever since he and Rachel first got together several years ago.  Per his recent testimony in Rachel's Motion to Recuse hearing against Judge Susan Brown, Don is a 50-year-old "energy trader" who is politically active along with his friend, Gary Polland, in the Republican Party.  As a matter of fact, he and Gary have been working very hard to find opponents to run against Judges Marc or Susan Brown.  (NOTE:  Gary, if it isn't really your policy to be rounding up opponents to run against incumbent Republicans, you might want to have a chat with Mr. Hooper.  He is throwing your name around.  Just FYI.)

Many people who work at or around the CJC are of the opinion that all of these different "identities" on the Chronicle blog, as well as those on Big Jolly's, all belong to the same poster -- Don Hooper.  The comments usually have the same trademarks that lead us to believe that.  They are usually crude and nasty, attacking those he perceives to be against Pat Lykos (and thus, by extension, Rachel Palmer).  The attacks are usually childish to the degree that he is openly accusing people of everything from alcoholism to adultery (which in the big scheme of things is kind of ironic).  The comments come in the mornings on the Chronicle blog and are usually deleted as soon soon as someone from the Chronicle reads them and sees how libelous they are.  His commenting identity is usually banned, and a new one or two springs up immediately thereafter.

All in all, it is a foolish and frustrating endeavor by the person doing it.

It is frustrating because there is probably no one more susceptible to some negative publicity than Don Hooper.  I know that he and Rachel think that I have attacked them both on a personal level, but I think if one were to go back and read what I have written about them, the themes have been based on things that are relevant to the jobs done.  Rachel's treatment of her subordinates and her lack of honesty and knowledge of the law are relevant in the job she does.  Don getting special treatment by the Pat Lykos Administration when he harasses his neighbors with Rachel's badge is very telling when one tries to figure out the abuses of power going on at the District Attorney's Office under this administration.

But, Don and Rachel (believe it or not) should be VERY thankful for those things that I don't put on this blog.

Trust me on this one.  I have been contacted by people who have known Don Hooper for a very long time.  I know things about him that would make Kitty Kelly blush.  Hell, I even had one person send me a copy of a booking photo.  My "Rejected Comments" box on the blog has many many things about both of them that I would never publish because they are truly personal and have nothing to do with the work at the CJC. I guess that is just my own definition of the Rules of Engagement when it comes to this blog and what I will or will not publish.

Sadly, Mr. Hooper seems to have no such rules.  The comments that were spewed on the Chronicle article yesterday were beyond vile and will not be repeated on this blog.  Suffice it to say that if you go to the Chronicle article and see where a comment has been removed or a commenter has been blocked, that was one of the many many things taken down by the staff at the Chronicle.  They were bad things with accusations of people who aren't even running for office but ones that Don and Rachel might perceive to be their enemies.

The author of those comments clearly had no Rules of Engagement, and in my opinion, no honor.

I give safe-harbor to commenters here who want to post their names anonymously, but I police the content of what is written.  It is true that sometimes the comments get more vulgar and more childish than I would prefer, but what happens in people's homes is off-limits.  Some may argue with my Rules, but I at least have some.

Hooper's methodology in campaigning either for or against someone is devoid of morals, ethics, and any semblance of integrity, in my opinion.  Not to mention the fact that this 50-year-old "man" seems to be doing so much damage to the causes he purports to support.

Do you really think that you are helping Pat Lykos' campaign with your multiple personalities on the Chronicle?  You insulted numerous Republican Party leaders and supporters?  Your very actions are disgraceful to the minimal presumptions of dignity that come along with a democratic election.

With your wife under such scrutiny for taking the 5th Amendment to the 185th Grand Jury, is it really to her benefit that you write posts as if you were the foreperson of the Grand Jury?  Do you really lack such a mental capacity that you think that your behavior is in anyway prudent?

My hope would be that Pat Lykos or Jim Leitner or somebody would sit down with Hooper and Palmer and tell them that this juvenile behavior needs to stop.  It does nothing more than fuel the fires against an Office whose reputation is already in the toilet.  If the fake identity attacks don't stop, then the Office should terminate all contact with the Hooper-Palmer family immediately.

The Republican Party, especially its leader, Jared Woodfill, should disavow everything done in such a juvenile and hateful manner.  Otherwise, you are condoning politics by intimidation, blackmail, and extortion.

The voters who vote in the Republican Primary should know what is being done by one of their own, and do everything in their power to stop him -- starting with voting against every candidate he supports.

We all feel passionately about those issues that affect us at the CJC.  We can disagree and even dislike each other, if need be.  What is happening on the Chronicle blogs takes things to a level that humiliates us all.  Sadly, it becomes the perfect example of that old saying about never wrestling with a pig.  You both get covered in mud.

The only difference is that the pig likes it.

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 ...