Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Posts under ‘Crime and Punishment’

It’s a conspiracy!

Oh, noes! Planned Parenthood is in cahoots with the Harris County DA! Run for your lives! The anti-abortion activist accused of falsifying records to secretly videotape Planned Parenthood officials in Houston is accusing the Harris County district attorney’s office of illegally colluding with the nonprofit. The allegations were raised in court documents filed Thursday seeking […]

HPD rolls out its body cameras

The first wave has been deployed. The Houston Police Department handed out Thursday the first wave of 4,100 body cameras being distributed to all first-line officers over the next 12 to 18 months, initiating a new policy that will require officers to wear the cameras for all law-enforcement related activities. About 200 officers – those […]

More on Paxton’s SEC troubles

The short answer is, he’s gonna lose. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton may have some history on his side, but as of this week the numbers appear to be against him. Paxton, who is trying to become the latest in a long line of Texas officials to beat prominent allegations, unwittingly entered treacherous waters Monday […]

Bland committee makes its recommendations for Waller County jail

Good to see. Waller County needs a new jail, local officers need body cameras to record their activities and the sheriff’s office needs to promote civility, a study committee formed after the death of Sandra Bland said Tuesday. The county came under national scrutiny in July when Bland was found hanged in her jail cell […]

Criminal complaint filed over Uptown land acquisition

All righty then. A consultant who represents property owners in the Galleria area has filed a criminal complaint with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, alleging the Uptown Development Authority and related entities broke state open meetings and disclosure laws in relation to acquiring property for a dedicated bus lane project. The complaint, filed last […]

More troubles for the Planned Parenthood video fraudsters

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Investigators with the California Department of Justice on Tuesday raided the home of David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist behind a series of undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood, the activist said. Authorities seized a laptop and multiple hard drives from his Orange County apartment, Daleiden said in an email. The […]

Case against Rick Perry officially dismissed

So there you have it. The criminal case against former Gov. Rick Perry was officially dismissed on Wednesday, weeks after Texas’ highest criminal court ordered that it be dropped. Judge Bert Richardson, who presided over the case in Travis County and now serves on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, signed an order dismissing the […]

Paxton to get full court treatment

The full (sort of) 5th Court of Appeals will decide whether to dismiss or uphold the indictments against AG Ken Paxton. The 5th Court of Appeals announced late Friday that instead of the typical three-judge panel, nine of its 13 justices will hear oral arguments in Paxton’s case on May 12. Four justices stepped aside […]

The pros and cons of merging the crime labs

The calls to merge the city and county crime labs are back, but not everyone likes the idea. Merging Houston’s and Harris County’s crime labs, an idea that was rejected several years ago by the city’s mayor when forensic work was shifted from the police department to a new independent agency, is getting a fresh […]

It’s not easy going green

And by “going green” I mean legalizing pot, at least in Texas. Advocacy groups and lawmakers say marijuana policy reform in Texas could be the fiscally responsible thing to do in light of the state’s decreasing oil and gas revenues. Texas legislators should look to marijuana policy reform to save, and even make, money in […]

Collin County grand jury declines to add to Ken Paxton’s problems

He’s got that going for him, which is nice. A Collin County grand jury looking into a 2004 land sale tied to a business group involving Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has decided to drop its investigation, a lawyer for the McKinney Republican said Wednesday. Since November, two special prosecutors appointed by state District Judge […]

Former Trooper Encinia pleads not guilty in Sandra Bland perjury case

As expected. A former Texas trooper pleaded not guilty to charges he lied about his actions last July while arresting Sandra Bland, whose death in Waller County’s jail three days later sparked a national outcry from civil rights activists. Dressed in a gray suit and tie and flanked by his attorneys, former Department of Public […]

Complaint filed against Sid Miller

Game on. A liberal advocacy group on Monday asked the Texas Rangers to investigate whether Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller used taxpayer money to fly to Oklahoma to get an injection known as “the Jesus Shot” that is supposed to cure all pain for life. The group, Progress Texas, filed a two-page complaint alleging Miller intentionally […]

Paxton prosecutors file their response briefs at the 5th Court of Appeals

In sum: Don’t think about Rick Perry! A Travis County court’s decision to throw out Rick Perry’s abuse-of-power indictments should have no bearing on Ken Paxton’s securities fraud case, the team prosecuting the first-term attorney general wrote in their latest brief filed Monday. “Comparing Rick Perry’s case with Mr. Paxton’s is like comparing Citizen Kane […]

Another look at how long the Paxton case could take

The DMN makes the same comparisons that I have made. Ken Paxton has spent eight months — the majority of his time as attorney general — under indictment. The legal cloud shows no sign of dissipating. How long the case takes to resolve depends almost entirely on decisions made by Paxton and his legal team. […]

Shots fired at Sen. Whitmire’s office

Jesus. State Sen. John Whitmire said Thursday afternoon he believes the gun used in the predawn shooting of his Houston-area office was likely an AR-15 assault rifle. The Houston Democrat’s office was fired on at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. No one was injured in the shooting, which was first reported by KHOU. “[The bullets] were […]

Is there anything more to the Rick Perry case?

I’m dubious. The special prosecutor in the abuse-of-power case against Rick Perry said Thursday he still hasn’t decided whether to drop the matter a week after the state’s highest criminal court ordered that the indictment against the former governor be dismissed. Special prosecutor Michael McCrum of San Antonio said he and his co-counsel, David Gonzalez, […]

Turner names interim HPD chief

Congratulations, Chief Montalvo. Mayor Sylvester Turner has tapped 36-year Houston Police Department veteran Martha Montalvo to lead the department while his team conducts a nationwide search for a new permanent chief. Montalvo, 56, has served as chief of staff to outgoing Chief Charles McClelland and has held the rank of executive assistant chief since 2004, […]

The effect of the law that was supposed to cripple the Public Integrity Unit

Never tempt the weauxf gods. Or the Senate Republicans. Nearly a year after Texas Republicans cheered the passage of a law to strip the Travis County Public Integrity Unit’s power to investigate elected officials and state employees, the unit’s director says little actually has changed. Though the law took away the unit’s authority to prosecute […]

More questions about body cameras and video accessibility

Still sorting it all out. Months after statewide body camera legislation took effect and the Houston Police Department outlined its policies regarding the devices, local criminal justice watchdogs worry that some video from high-profile incidents may never see the light of day. At issue, they say, are provisions in the law that could stymie requests […]

Sebesta remains disbarred

Good. The disciplinary board of the Texas State Bar on Monday affirmed the agency’s decision to disbar Charles Sebesta, the former prosecutor who oversaw the wrongful death sentence of Anthony Graves. Graves, who spent 18 years in prison, including 12 on death row, for a fiery multiple murder he did not commit, filed a complaint […]

Federal judge smacks video fraudsters

That’s gonna leave a mark. In a sharp rebuke, a federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction ordering abortion opponents not to release videos they had secretly made at meetings of abortion providers, and he added that the opponents’ claims that such organizations were illegally selling fetal tissue were baseless. In the ruling, Judge […]

More on DNA mixtures

Some good news here. Texas criminal justice organizations have begun reviewing thousands of cases that relied on an outdated method for calculating the odds that a particular person left DNA evidence at a crime scene. At issue are samples that include more than one person’s DNA, such as evidence swabbed from a countertop after a […]

Video fraudsters offered probation

First the one, on Wednesday. A California woman charged last week for her role in the production of undercover videos at a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic will be offered probation, a Harris County prosecutor said in court. Sandra Susan Merritt, of San Jose, Calif., appeared in court Wednesday morning on charges of tampering with a […]

Collin County argues against anti-Paxton prosecutor lawsuit

Reluctantly. [Collin County Commissioners] Court on Thursday urged a Dallas judge to drop a lawsuit seeking to block payment to the special prosecutors. The suit, filed in December by local real estate developer and Paxton donor Jeffory Blackard, should be declared moot because the commissioners already had sent the prosecutors their six-figure check, the county […]

Sebesta appeals disbarment

This saga that I thought was over still has another chapter in it. Lawyers for Charles Sebesta, the ex-prosecutor who secured the wrongful death sentence of Anthony Graves, told a panel of the State Bar of Texas on Friday that he should not be disbarred based on technicalities in the rules that govern lawyer discipline. […]

HPD Chief McClelland to retire

From the inbox: Mayor Sylvester Turner today announced that he has accepted the retirement of Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, effective February 26, 2016. McClelland was sworn in as a police officer in September 1977. He rose through the ranks at HPD and was sworn in by former Mayor Annise Parker as police chief on […]

How the tables got turned on the video fraudsters

A must read. Planned Parenthood’s legal strategy was in some ways similar to how corporations facing major white-collar criminal investigations often cooperate closely with prosecutors to try to influence the outcome. From the start, Planned Parenthood and its Houston lawyer Josh Schaffer settled on a strategy of cooperating with investigators, said Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman […]

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Paxton appeals process to play out

Better settle in and get comfy, because this could take awhile. An appeal by Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is seeking to dismiss charges that he violated state securities laws, will extend at least into spring, with a strong chance of a ruling being delayed until summer or later. The Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals […]

Every investigation on Planned Parenthood has cleared them

From Think Progress: After a months-long investigation, a Texas grand jury decided not to indict Planned Parenthood on Monday — providing more confirmation that there’s no solid evidence to support the accusations against the national women’s health organization. This trend goes far beyond Texas. Across the country, GOP-led investigations into Planned Parenthood’s activities haven’t turned […]

Another way to achieve bail reform

From the Quorum Report: The unnecessary death of Sandra Bland in the Waller County Jail last summer has now put the reform of bail bonds in focus as a key criminal justice issue ahead of the next legislative session. Last month, a Waller County grand jury declined to indict those involved in [Sandra] Bland’s arrest […]

Reynolds loses another request in court

More bad news. State Rep. Ron Reynolds has lost his bid to resume practicing law while he appeals his conviction for illegally soliciting clients. Montgomery County County Court-at-Law Judge Mary Ann Turner on Thursday denied the request by Reynolds, who argued that the bond condition prevents him from being able to financially support his family. […]

Paxton prosecutors sue AG office to block records

Hold on to your hats. In an unusual and head-spinning twist, prosecutors in the criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the attorney general’s office Thursday to block the release of sensitive case information that could hinder Paxton’s defense but that his own agency ordered to be turned over to a Texas newspaper. […]

Collin County agrees to pay Paxton prosecutors

Grudgingly. For now. The special prosecutors handling the criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will be paid for their work so far at the rate they were promised. Commissioners voted 3-2 on Monday to pay the more than $254,000 in legal fees and expenses that have accumulated since April. […] “We have very […]