Thursday, June 28, 2012

Channel 13 Tonight: UPDATED

Looks like you might want to tune in tonight to Channel 13 for Wayne Dolcefino's latest report.

From the teaser during the six o'clock news, it looks like he'll be examining whether or not there is a conflict of interest in asking Pat Lykos' District Attorney's Office to investigate the Harris County Attorney's Office, due to Nick Lykos being a high-ranking member of the County Attorney's Office.

Here is the link to Dolcefino's story.

And it IS a big deal when the District Attorney's Office is acting in collusion with the County Attorney's Office to unapologetically refuse to comply with the law.

Lykos needs to resign before December 31st.  At this point, you have to wonder why she wouldn't.

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt

Sorry for the late notice on this, but there were some issues ironing out the details for the show tonight.  Todd is out of town with his daughters, so I'm taking over hosting duties for the evening.

My guest will be Franklin Bynum.  Yeah, I know you are probably disappointed, but he's really insistent.  It is just going to be the two of us on the show, because we figured a third person might cut into us hogging the conversation.

Please call in with your questions and comments.  I will be the one wearing shoes.

As always, you can watch it live streaming by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Edward Ziegler

This evening I learned that an old friend and mentor, Ed Ziegler, passed away after a long battle with cancer.  He wasn't someone from Harris County and I don't know if many of my readers would have known him, but he was one of the first people I ever worked for in the criminal law arena.  He was one of the most unusual, outspoken, and admirable people that I ever have had the honor of knowing.

Back in February of 1994, I was the ripe old age of twenty-one and a student at Texas A & M.  I started an academic internship with the Brazos County District Attorney's Office, working for Bill Turner.  Bill put me under the supervision of his investigator, Gil Schultz, and Gil put me to work for the intake prosecutor, Ed Ziegler.

I cannot begin to express how much those three men would ultimately influence almost every aspect of who I am today.

When I first met Ed Ziegler, I was scared to death of him.  He was in his mid-50s and had recently retired from the Army, where (if I recall correctly) he had been a JAG Officer assigned to the 82nd Airborne.  He dressed more sharply than anyone else in the Office, and he had the world's largest set of hearing aids that I had ever seen.  He and I couldn't have been more different, but for whatever reason, we hit it off.

Back then, I was working for free at the D.A.'s Office, so in addition I put in about 15 hours a week working for my dad's printing company to help pay for expenses.  Ziegler would accuse me of printing my own cash at my dad's office and he began referring to me as "Easy Money."  I would retort that he was the one with fancy clothes and so I called him "Big Money."  To my recollection, we never referred to each other by any other name once those nicknames were established.

Big Money had a fascinating life story.  If I recall correctly, he had served in the Navy in Vietnam.  He finished his tour of duty and married his wife, Wally.  They had two children, Ed and Beth.  He became a lawyer and was working in the private sector when one day he passed an Army recruiting booth and signed up.  He told me,  "I went home and told Wally, the sign said 'Be all you can be,' so we're in the Army now."

The stories he told of his days in the service were fascinating and Ed was a masterful storyteller.  He had worked under the supervision of Colin Powell for some time, and he was a tremendous fan of the General.  When referring to General Powell, he would shake his head as if in amazement and say, "That was the smartest dude I ever met."

When I first started working at the D.A.'s Office in Brazos, I was one of the shyest and most reserved college juniors on Earth (believe it or not).  I was like a bewildered spectator watching stunning (and often tragic) human drama unfold.  Observing how Ed handled the cases with a combination of compassion, sarcasm, and jaded wit helped shape the way I have viewed the cases I handled in the years since.  The "gallows humor" accompanied by the self-confidence that came from a belief that prosecutors handled the most serious business on Earth gave me the 100% conviction that there was no career choice for me outside of criminal law.

I learned of his passing this evening as I was driving home.  I spent all of dinner telling my wife stories about Ed that I can remember as if they happened yesterday.  Good Lord, that man was hysterical.  He was also an inspiring leader who taught me about the value of loyalty and leadership and the taking of responsibility.

He embodied all that is good about a sense of Duty and Public Service.  His years in the military doubtlessly shaped the lives of many who served under him.

He certainly had a profound influence on my life.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

Although Pat Lykos never actually made herself very familiar with an actual courtroom during her tenure as District Attorney, she does seem to be making herself quite comfortable by appearing in front of the Commissioners' Court these days.

Two weeks ago, there was an appearance before the Commissioners' Court that had something to do with the salary levels of some support staff within the Office.  There are some reports that at tomorrow's meeting, she may be making a similar appearance in regards to tinkering with prosecutorial salaries.  There is some confusion and controversy about what those appearances are designed to accomplish, so I'm not posting about them quite yet.

What is very clear on tomorrow's Commissioners' Court agenda is item 14(d), which is a request for money that reads:
$17,108 to reimburse Stephen Scott Morris for legal expenses incurred in connection with an investigation and court proceedings in the 185th District Court.
Morris, if you will recall, was one of two prosecutors and two court reporters who were ordered to appear in a Show Cause Hearing in front of Judge Susan Brown when it was alleged he and the others had unlawfully come into possession of some Grand Jury transcripts on a proceeding the Harris County District Attorney's Office had been recused from.  A contempt action was considered and ultimately dismissed against Morris, Carl Hobbs and the two court reporters.

During the pendency of the Show Cause proceedings, Morris was represented by Randy and Josh Shaffer.  Apparently their bill to Morris was so significant that Lykos is asking you, the taxpayer, to help him out on it.

Now, let's take a look at a couple of thoughts that may spring to mind here.  I suppose an initial reaction to this might be: "Well, if the case against him was ultimately dismissed, then he deserves to be reimbursed for any money he had to spend.  He's not guilty of anything, right?"

Well, that's a lovely thought, and wouldn't it be nice if every time a case was dismissed or a defendant was found not guilty, the government reimbursed the Accused for his or her attorney's fees?  It seems only right, doesn't it?

Yeah, that never happens.

I mean, ever.

So, it seems pretty disingenuous to me that you have an employee (and lawyer of the very Agency in charge of prosecuting people) wanting reimbursement when he finds himself prosecuted.  All of those other folks that get prosecuted and then get their cases dismissed (or are found not guilty) still have to pay their legal bills, but that type of thing is just unseemly if you are a prosecutor.

The absurdity of the idea that Lykos would even approach the Commissioners' Court and ask them for money to repay the expenses of a debacle that her Office created and perpetuated is astounding.    

Every day, hundreds of people get charged with crimes by the simple accepting of charges by an Assistant District Attorney sitting at intake when a cop call in.  As a result, they may lose their jobs, their homes, their spouses, and tons of money.  If Steve Morris is getting reimbursed for his fees, then every last person who pays for their own attorney should get the same benefit.

Do you think that Roger Clemens is going to be getting money back from the government to help him pay Rusty Hardin's bill?  He was found not guilty after all.

Of course not.

But Roger Clemens' tax dollars will certainly be helping pay for Steve Morris' legal fees if the Lykos Administration gets its way.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Slow Goings

Well, things are pretty quiet at the old CJC these days, as Lykos and the Gang seem to have gone underground for the time being.  I'm still looking into what happened with her at the Commissioners' Court last Tuesday, but I'll have to get back to you on that one.

In the meantime, I did do a post on the Chronicle blog this morning, which was inspired by an insanely early morning phone call today.  You can check it out by clicking here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tonight's Reasonable Doubt (6/14/12)

Join me and Todd Dupont for tonight's Reasonable Doubt where our guest will be J. Julio "JV" Vela.  JV and Todd have been enjoying a very successful week at the CJC and we are looking forward to talking about it on tonight's show.  I imagine that we will be talking about closing arguments, so if you've got some favorites to tell us about, please call in.

We'll be on tonight, live at 8:00 p.m.  As always, you can watch it live-streaming (allegedly) by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Latest from the Lame Duck Administration

Well, it looks like things have settled down somewhat over on the 6th Floor in the aftermath of the Republican Primary.   Despite initial concerns of mass retaliatory firings by the Administration, Lykos seemed to have been content to just loudly blame all of her underlings for losing the election.

I was surprised to learn that Lana Shadwick made her return to the Office yesterday after her leave of absence to run for Judge.  Her position in Grand Jury had (mercifully) been filled by someone who actually knew what she was doing.  Hopefully, this will cut down on Shadwick getting defendants indicted who were already on deferred adjudication and help the County avoid a lawsuit for unlawful arrest.

Lana being replaced in her Grand Jury slot, however, begs the question of "Where do we put her now?"

Apparently she is officing on the 6th Floor with an ambiguous job description.

Lykos is appearing in front of the Commissioners' Court today for some ambiguous reason.  I've never been a big Commissioners' Court watcher, but I've heard that she is approaching under Item 2C regarding the budget.

I've heard it from multiple sources that her goal is to lower the maximum pay for certain high level positions within the office.  I'm not sure what her reasoning is for that, but it appears strange to me.

Maybe she did her own merit review of her Executive Leadership Committee and decided that they weren't earning their keep.

Maybe she needs room in the budget for Lana's room and board.

Maybe she needs it to pay for the Grand Jury "investigator" (which is the equivalent of a paperboy having an intern.)

Maybe she's trying to show the Commissioners how fiscally responsible she is so that they will find a reason to put her name on a new Independent Crime Lab.

We shall see.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Where Do We Go Now?

A commenter on my last post cited the final moments (after the credits) in the classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
Remember that very, very last scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off? "Hey, what are you still doing here?  The movie is over . . . go home . . .  go." Well, in the same vein and tone of speech:  "Hey, you/we . . . Won.  Why are we still talking about this woman?  Let's get to work and she WILL be gone in a few short months -- compared to the last 3+ years.  So go on . . .  now." Wanna drive a narcissistic queen crazy?  Ignore her.  Be indifferent . . . let's let all of this kvetching die on the gossip line. 
I couldn't agree with the commenter more.

Although thinking of Pat Lykos as Ed Rooney, Rachel Palmer as Jeanie, and of course, Alex Bunin as Ben Stein has inspired me to post this clip.

The Republican Primary of 2012 is over and regardless of what happens in November, Pat Lykos is done as of December 31st (at the latest).  It is time for the District Attorney's Office to get back to the business of doing business.

Of course there will be relevant things to talk about as we see what happens within the Office now.  That will certainly be true if Lykos continues down the retaliatory path like she did with Kenny Rodgers.  There are questions to be answered in the days and weeks to come:

    Will Lykos continue to fire people who didn't support her?
    Will the Commissioners and/or Republican Party leadership ask Lykos to step down before she gets the County sued?
    What is the future of Jim Leitner and the rest of the Executive Leadership Committee?
    Is Lykos really trying to get her name put on the Regional Crime Lab by donating Asset Forfeiture Money to it?
    What's going to happen with the Rangers' investigation?
We will doubtlessly address all of those issues in the near future.

However, at some point it becomes time to let the anger fizzle out somewhat. (And, yes, I'm more guilty of failing to do that than anyone else.)  I do understand that a lot of prosecutors feel like they've just been sprung from prison after a 3 and a half year sentence and some celebrating is in order.  I'm certainly not here to quash that. 

I am hopeful, however, that our discussions in the future are more substantive than just giving the "one finger salute" to Lykos, Leitner, Rachel and the rest of the Lykos "Brand."  

I think the voters already did that last Tuesday.

Friday, June 1, 2012

In the Name of the Brand

On Tuesday night, when it became apparent that Lykos was getting completely crushed in the Republican Primary by Judge Mike Anderson, she gave an extremely ominous statement regarding her employees who had supported her opponent.
"There's an old Texas saying that you 'ride for the brand,' and if they can't ride for the brand, then they need to leave."
Today Pat Lykos lived up to that threat by firing long-time investigator Kenny Rodgers.

Kenny had served as the Chief Investigator under the Johnny Holmes Administration before leaving the Office under Chuck Rosenthal.  He's been in law enforcement for 40 years.

In December, approximately 30 minutes after Judge Mike Anderson announced that he would be running for District Attorney, Lykos approached Kenny and asked him to "drive her around" and "introduce her to people" in hopes of him using his contacts in Harris County to get her re-elected.  He politely declined, explaining that he would be working on the Sheriff's campaign for Louis Guthrie.

The following evening, Lykos ran into Kenny at the Republican Executive Committee meeting at the Tracy Gee Community Center.  She seemed surprised to see him and asked him why he was there.  He reminded her that he was working for Louis Guthrie's campaign.

Shortly thereafter, at the Office "holiday cheer" party, Lykos again sought out Kenny.  She singled him out and walked over with a grin on her face.

"How's my biggest fan?" she asked.

The next day, he was abruptly transferred to the Juvenile Division.

Last Tuesday, Kenny was out and campaigning for Guthrie at a polling location on Sage Road.  Unfortunately for him, Lykos was campaigning for herself in person at that location.  Keep in mind, Kenny Rodgers was not campaigning for Anderson nor Lykos.  He was simply there supporting Guthrie.  He tried to speak with her and say hello, but she ignored him and refused to even say hello.

So, it was little surprise to Kenny today when he became the first person fired by Lykos in retaliation for his First Amendment-protected political beliefs -- not because he supported her opponent.

It was simply because he failed to ride for the brand of Pat Lykos.

Sergeant Paul T. Standley

Today there will be a ceremony at Ellington Field to honor World War II Army Air Corps Radio Operator, Sergeant Paul T. Standley.  The 147th will be marking Sergeant Standley's 70th anniversary of joining the Army Air Corps.  He began his career at Ellington Field, but would see a lot of island hopping during World War II as he transported soldiers from Hawaii, to Guam, Kawajalin, Siapan, and after August 1945, home.

As part of the ceremony honoring Sgt. Standley, his son, Judge Larry Standley has created a shadowbox display containing his father's uniform and medals.

As Judge Standley pointed out, there are only approximately 1.7 million American veterans still alive from World War II, and statistics seem to indicate that about one thousand of them die every day.  This is an amazing and touching tribute from a Son to a Father -- and a Nation to a Solider.

Congratulations, Sergeant Standley and thank you for everything.

The Contested Primaries 2024

In addition to the extremely heated battle for Harris County District Attorney, there are only a handful of other races within the Criminal ...