Friday, November 8, 2019

The Belated Firing of John Denholm

So, after eight days of looking desperately for excuses not to have to fire careful deliberation about John Denholm, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg fired the former Intake Division Chief.  As I'm sure you know, Denholm was thrust into the spotlight earlier this week after rejecting charges on an attempted sexual assault case because the victim on the case might possibly be "an illegal."

Ogg had apparently hoped that the story of Denholm's absolutely inexcusable behavior would blow over with a little time.  Unfortunately for Ogg and Denholm, however, statements from the Houston Police Officer's Union (HPOU), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and Texas Congressman (and former Harris County Assistant District Attorney) Gene Wu have made it clear that the story was not going away.  The story broke on television a few nights ago and Keri Blakinger followed up with an article in the Houston Chronicle.  This morning, the Washington Post brought Denholm's stupidity to the level of national attention.

Why it took Ogg eight days to arrive at the seemingly obvious conclusion escapes me.

Ogg is far more well-known for her impetuous decision-making and general hotheaded responses when angered than she is for using cool rationale to respond to problems.  The fact that she waited eight days before firing Denholm is indicative that it was not a decision that she wanted to make.  That's not all that surprising, I suppose, given her history.  Let's not forget how long it took her to decide to recuse the Office from the David Temple case, despite extremely obvious conflicts of interests she had with the case.

But, alas, poor John Denholm's last day did come today.  It is my understanding that Denholm was given the option of resigning, but he refused.  Apparently, in his mind, he did nothing wrong.  He certainly wasn't willing to "take one for the team" and bow out gracefully.  So, Kim did what she had to do and finally sent a minion to take Fredo fishing.

Kim's belated firing of Denholm is not likely to placate anyone with any common sense, and the fact of the matter is that she wouldn't have found herself in this situation if she wasn't such a shameless politician.  Denholm was an unabashed political hire who was put in a position of leadership that he had neither the credentials nor the intellect to handle.

Before I go into Denholm's credentials (or lack thereof), I will, once again, point out that he and I have a personal grudge with each other that I will cover below.

I first met Denholm when he was a lieutenant with the Harris County Sheriff's Office Homicide Division.  He seemed alright to me back then, but I didn't know him particularly well.  His group of Homicide Investigators drank beer with the group of prosecutors that I hung out with back in the early 2000s.

Denholm went to law school and when Kelly Siegler was prepping for trial on David Temple, she asked Denholm to use his law school "expertise" to play defense attorney in a mock trial run-through.  John thought he did a wonderful job, but told Kelly that if he had been the lead homicide investigator on the case when it first happened, he'd have gotten a confession out of him.  Denholm was never short on confidence.

After Temple had been convicted and Denholm had gotten his law license, he started up with his talk about how David Temple was innocent.  One of the people he told about it was none other than Dick DeGuerin, Temple's trial lawyer.  It was a dramatic reversal of opinion coming from Denholm, and many of his former co-workers at HCSO looked at it as Denholm saying whatever he could to ingratiate himself with the famous defense attorney.  One HCSO Homicide Detective went so far as to tell me: "If Denholm dropped dead tomorrow, you couldn't find six guys around here who would carry his casket."

Although Lisa Falkenberg would later portray Denholm (and his cohort, Steve Clappart) as heroes who lost friends for making a stand for Justice in their defense of David Temple, that wasn't the reality.  The reality was that the two of them lost friends because none of those former friends believed that Denholm was doing anything other than trying to advance his defense attorney career with the help of Dick DeGuerin.  The fact that Denholm and Clappart were willing to file capital murder charges on a kid (that not even Temple's own defense team would accuse during the second trial) didn't go over very well with those former friends, either.

I can't help but wonder what Lisa thinks about Denholm in light of this week's events.

A few months after I had blogged about what Clappart and Denholm had tried to do with their secret warrant, I received notice from the State Bar of Texas that John Denholm had filed a grievance against me for trying to "subvert justice" by exposing their plan in my blog.  The State Bar dismissed Denholm's complaint as meritless, of course, but I won't lie -- it was infuriating to know that he had pulled such a pathetic ploy.

When Ogg took Office and hired Denholm as a Division Chief, I was shocked.  I knew that he was a campaign donor, but he had only been a lawyer for about eight years.  Eight pretty undistinguished years.   He had the credentials to maybe start as a junior Felony Two, at best.  The idea of making him a Division Chief was absurd.

Yet, thanks to political patronage, there he was.

Unsurprisingly, Denholm did about as well as one would expect in the Intake Division slot.  He considered himself to be an all-knowing combination of ex-cop and super prosecutor.  Multiple officers claimed he was condescending and rude when they called in for charges. He seemed to enjoy rejecting charges that didn't live up to his high standards.  Those charges that he did take were often baffling.  His reputation with the Defense Bar and his fellow prosecutors ultimately coined the term "Denholm Special" for describing charges that were inexplicable.

For those of us who know John Denholm, learning that he had refused charges on somebody because the victim "might be illegal" didn't really come as too much of a surprise.  Stupid is as stupid does, after all.  The only thing truly shocking about this was Kim Ogg's utter lack of appropriate reaction to Denholm's actions.

Upon learning of Denholm's actions, what Kim should have done was suspend him with pay pending an investigation. 

But, that's not what she did.  What she did was immediately announce that he had been promoted to a coveted spot in Special Crimes reassigned.  Make no mistake about this fact:  any attempts that Kim Ogg makes to pretend she was "investigating" Denholm for the past eight days are utter crap highly suspect.  They knew everything that had transpired immediately.  Another prosecutor had already filed the charges that Denholm had so flippantly rejected.  The decision to move him had already been made.

If it hadn't been for HPOU President Joe Gamaldi's press statement and demand that Denholm be fired, it is reasonable to believe that Kim thought the issue had been handled.  She had removed Denholm from Intake and she probably thought that would alleviate the problem.

The fact that she waited for eight days and a Washington Post article before firing him clearly illustrates that her decision was based more on politics than on outrage over what Denholm had done.  Kim has fired many other people for far less and she has done so far more quickly.  Hell, she's fired other people for less and more quickly today, according to some information I received this evening.

We'll talk more about that later.


Nathan Hennigan said...

She is losing it. That’s it. She’s acting like a crazy person. I think the end is near.

Anonymous said...

If by “less” you mean NOTHING then your next article will be spot on.

Anonymous said...

So what does a know-it-all former cop, former defense attorney, former prosecutor do after getting fired for being a racist?? It makes me smile just thinking about it. It could not have happened to a better guy.

Tom Zakes said...

Wu is a state rep, not a congressman.
I'm Tom Zakes, and I approve this message.

Anonymous said...

Denholm was never a homicide Detective, merely a supervisor, who approved reports, signed timesheets, etc. He was a dickhead to most everyone unless you were one of his snitches that he took care of.

Damon said...

I don't always agree with your blogs but I do always appreciate that you are up front and honest about your biases.

Bernie Palmer said...

Murray, keep up the good work. Kim baffles me, Denholm doesn't (he's simply is and always has been an arrogant megalomaniac). I worked closely with Kim when she was chief in Bob Burdette's court way back in the day. I hunted down many witnesses for her, respected her prosecutorial skills, and considered her a close friend. How she behaves today and runs the DA's office is an absolute 180 degree turnaround from what I remember.

Anonymous said...

Great article as always. When looked at from any angle it’s apparent that Ogg has made a lot of really bad decisions. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Denholm though.

Anonymous said...

When, even before she took office, Ms Ogg lopped off the head of the office's prosecutorial competence with their hundreds of years of experience, you had to know something like this was coming. Evidently a number of disgruntled members of the defense bar had her ear. They'd been out lawyered in many cases, & all they had left was to claim the D.A.'s Office had been unfair. As the exodus of experienced attorneys continued, Ms Ogg established within her administration what was, in effect, a defense bar in exile. She evidently hired her top lieutenants based on loyalty rather than competence or administrative ability. Denholm's hire may have just been another payback. But now, he had to go, and almost everyone knows he never needed to be there in the first place. -- Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I too worked with Denholm when I was in special crimes. He was a bully then. He treated his detectives like crap. I couldn't believe Ogg hired him. I suspect Joanne had something to do with that. But I sure am glad to see him go. Now if we could get so lucky as to see Ogg follow him out the door.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least we can take the ADAs over in Special Crimes off suicide watch. You know how hard it was to find round sheets?

Anonymous said...

100% true

Anonymous said...

Denholm has always been a legend in his own mind. I'd gladly carry his casket to his grave, and pour a libation to him over it, but I'd filter it through my kidneys first.

Anonymous said...

John Denholm was a bully...pretty simple... A sycophant at best... This would be an attack of Karma... Karma at its best.

Just another HCSO deputy said...

John Denholm traded EVERYTHING he ever did wearing the HCSO uniform and pissed all over it when he went to work for Kim Ogg. A piece of crap!!

Anonymous said...

He was a troubleshooter for the Tommy Thomas administration at HCSO. He cleaned up ugly messes and hid the bodies for the inner circle. He rode for the brand, any brand, that would kick-back a good assignment to him. Nobody cares where those bodies are buried now. Unless he's a double-agent, or triple-agent, or back-stabbing-snitch and sells his story for 30 pieces of silver to the next fast rising star. Karma's a bitch, isn't it.

Anonymous said...

John was a fairly well regarded patrol deputy in HCSO's District 2 (Humble) for a number of years. That said, his egoism and straight-outta-Ohio personality rubbed many, including me, the wrong way. Denholm came to power, though, on the coattails of D. V. "Red" McKaskle during his dark reign as Tommy Thomas' chief deputy; Red was Darth Vader personified and Denholm his willing minion and snitch. Denholm became bulletproof and wound up as a Homicide sergeant who attempted to order me, a lieutenant at the time, off a mult-agency OIS scene. When I refused, he whined to anyone who'd listen to him and I eventually caught hell. Denholm gives us a cautionary tale that megalomaniac bullies need to be stepped on like the bugs they are hard and fast lest they can wreak havoc for years before getting their final comeuppance. And I'm betting we haven't heard the last of Mr. Denholm, either.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing is some over at HCSO believed that it was Denholm himself(along with another snake in the grass) that caused the downfall of the Good Ole Boys regime by going to the media and snitching on the hand that feeds them. Ogg better hope she didn't include Denholm in on any insider strategy meetings, lest she might read about those secrets from her playbook.
Yes, we will be hearing from him again. Payback is what he does.

Real Homicide Lt. said...

The only thing that would be sweeter than Deguerrinholm being fired would be his crooked sidekick, Crapper, also getting the boot.

Anonymous said...

I spent a number of years in and out of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse and never ran into Denholm once. I guess I was lucky.

Kim is mixing politics with law enforcement which is always a bad idea. In this one respect she needs to be a little more like Holmes.

Although Holmes had his faults too. For one - he respected Rosenthal.

And real detectives and lieutenants don't use bad language on the internet.

Anonymous said...

Ever screw up so bad that you make the news in another continent?