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Ogg challenges Anderson’s handling of Ryan Chandler investigation

This gets a little complicated, so stay with me.

Kim Ogg

Kim Ogg

A county prosecutor who was engaged to fired Houston homicide detective Sgt. Ryan Chandler emailed him an office database search of all his cases as he was under investigation for possible criminal prosecution, according to documents released Thursday by district attorney candidate Kim Ogg.

Assistant District Attorney Inger Hampton sent Chandler an email Feb. 18 with a seven-page attachment that listed criminal cases Chandler handled from 2000 to 2014. The search of the DA’s office database was sent after Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson recused her office from the Chandler investigation on Jan. 7, and asked a judge to seal the motion to keep Chandler from knowing he was under investigation.

Chandler was fired in early April after Chief Charles McClelland disciplined him and seven other homicide division investigators and supervisors for not properly investigating nearly two dozen deaths.

Anderson’s office issued a statement late Thursday saying that while the information provided to Chandler by Hampton was public, its release violated policy and the matter is being reviewed. A phone message left with Hampton’s office Thursday was not returned.

“Inger Hampton’s email to Sergeant Chandler … only involved the release of public information; however her actions were contrary to office policy and as a result, Hampton is subject to internal discipline for this violation,” said a statement from Harris County DA spokesman Jeff McShan.

Ogg is asking Anderson to release information on the transfer of the case to Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon, who for years was head of legal services at the Houston Police Officers’ Union.

[…]

At a press conference Thursday, Ogg questioned Anderson’s decision on Jan. 7 to refer Chandler’s criminal case to Montgomery County, and her refusal to unseal the motion she made to the Harris County chief administrative judge when she requested the transfer. Ogg said former prosecutors and defense attorneys in Harris County are frequently appointed as special prosecutors.

Montgomery County prosecutors said they decided the criminal allegations against Chandler of tampering with a governmental recordwere the type usually dealt with administratively by the police department. Chandler was accused of criminal conduct by HPD for falsifying a report claiming he had referred an April 1, 2011, fatal shooting of an armed robber to the DA’s office for presentation to a county grand jury. Another HPD detective presented the case to the grand jury in September 2013, after an internal investigation began into Chandler’s work.

“We thoroughly looked at and evaluated the Ryan Chandler matter, and it didn’t rise to the level of a criminal offense,” said Phil Grant, Montgomery County first assistant district attorney. “I’m the one who made the decision, and Brent’s former association with HPOU never entered into those deliberations.”

As a bit of background, Chandler is in the process of seeking to get his job back; after a second day of testimony the hearing was put on hold till September.

Here’s the press release Ogg put out for her news conference at which she made these charges, and here’s the executive summary of the report put together by Wayne Dolcefino (yes, that Wayne Dolcefino). I was at the news conference, and these are the points Ogg made:

  • Ryan Chandler’s disciplinary letter of firing indicated that he falsified official reports and lied to the IAD investigators. The former is likely to be a crime – tampering with an official document – and it is what needed to be investigated.
  • Chandler’s engagement and subsequent marriage to Assistant DA Inger Hampton creates a conflict of interest. Normally under these circumstances, there’s a process that is followed that involves the Administrative Judge for the region that in this case includes Harris County, and out of that comes a judge assigned to the case who can then appoint an attorney pro tem, which is the fancy term for “special prosecutor”. Such a special prosecutor is usually appointed from the county where the case originated. Ogg stressed that there are hundreds of qualified attorneys in Harris County who can do this kind of work, and said there have been ten or twelve who have done it recently for various cases.
  • In this case, a Harris County district court judge (we don’t know who for sure) was asked by the DA’s office to appoint Montgomery County DA Brett Ligon as the attorney pro tem. Ligon, as the story notes, is the former counsel for the Houston Police Officer’s Union, which is representing Chandler in the appeal of his firing. Ligon is also a client of consultant Allen Blakemore, as is Devon Anderson, and the HPOU donated money to Mike Anderson’s campaign in 2012.
  • The motion made to appoint Ligon as attorney pro tem was sealed. Ogg wants all documents related to that motion unsealed, which among other things will tell us the name of the judge that acted on it.
  • Ogg also raised concerns about the DA’s office not notifying defense attorneys about the Chandler investigation as is required by law, and in fact did not inform other prosecutors about it in a timely manner. Rather than summarize the evidence Ogg put forth for this, I suggest you read page 4 of the executive summary for a timeline.

From the last page of that document, here’s what Ogg is demanding:

On May 12th,Dolcefino Consulting filed a request under the Texas Public Information Act for letters to victims and Brady letters to defendants and their legal counsel on behalf of the Ogg campaign. Documents released by the District Attorney’s office show none of the letters were written until after the demand for public disclosure filed by Dolcefino Consulting.

The Harris County District Attorney’s office has not released e-mail communication between Inger Hampton and Chandler they deem “personal”. That should immediately happen.

In addition, Anderson should unseal any documents detailing her request for a prosecutor pro-tem, and call on Montgomery County District Attorney Ligon to release documents detailing the “investigation by his office”.

Anderson should also be required to detail for the public what steps she has taken to investigate the actions of Hampton and to internally investigate other personal relationships between prosecutors and testifying police witnesses that give rise to conflicts of interest and report the results to the public.

Most importantly, the District Attorney should have to explain her failure to notify victims, her lapse in notifying defendants, and her failure to warn her own prosecutors.

So there you have it. Anderson for her part released this statement via Blakemore that denies Ogg’s allegations and asserts that “Sergeant Chandler’s activities have undergone the scrutiny of HPD Internal Affairs Division, and an investigation by a Special Prosecutor appointed by the Administrative Judge of the Harris County Criminal District Courts”, but it doesn’t get into any specifics. I’ve got paper copies of the rest of the documents that Ogg provided, but I don’t have electronic versions at this time. There’s a lot here, and we’ll see if anything more comes out. KHOU has more.

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4 Comments

  1. Steven Houston says:

    If Ogg was serious about running for the office, she would have hired a reputable investigations firm, not one owned and operated by someone who is very generously called a “yellow journalist” for good reason. While I have to hand it to Wayne for making mountains out of molehills in almost each point he made, and it seems like he was paid by the word like a pulp writer of old, Ogg’s continued poor choices like this one leave me colder to her campaign than ever.

    Frankly, whatever Chandler did or didn’t do, Anderson took the correct action by moving the case to a nearby county. Had she handled it, Ogg/Dulcefino would be railing that Chandler’s union supported Anderson’s husband in the election and can’t be trusted so it’s a no win situation regardless of the facts. Ogg and Dulcefino would have found something wrong with any ADA in the office given her husband’s ties to Chandler’s union and the fact that Chandler’s family (including a Captain) were friendly with many of them, even appointment to a junior ADA would be criticized because then the case would have been handed to a lightweight.

    That the information her ADA provided Chandler was public record and freely available to him or anyone else just makes Ogg seem desperate for another round of government largess. Sure, this minor policy violation needs to be looked at, and I suspect it already has been, but just as Dulcefino makes a big deal about emails as a primary manner of communications (only because that is what he can openly request and makes for the easiest pickings; the lazy man’s way to investigate) when many of his questions could have been answered by phone or personal communications, it “sounds” worse when put in that framework. I challenge him or Ogg to come up with a single instance where Brady was violated too; each defense attorney notified as required by law regarding questions of Chandler. Given that Chandler had a history of not wanting to testify, something well known in the small world of the Harris County courts, does anyone honestly think he was a lynchpin for any existing cases or that no one on both sides was clueless about it?

    As for Chandler trying to get his job back, his claim was that he was overworked and out of his league in homicide. He told that to his supervisors and his partner did likewise but they did nothing about it, perhaps thinking it was the usual worker lament of being overworked. They were disciplined for failing to take action so maybe he had a point. That his chief called him a liar and suggested what he did rose to criminal conduct is no surprise, contrary to the KHOU report, all such matters are “political” and no chief likes being taken to task for ineffective, unproductive, or otherwise poor employees. Given the way he’s stretched the truth enough times, his ability to draw a legal conclusion is questionable but I openly wonder if he or anyone on his command staff truly attempted to file criminal charges on Chandler or if they rely on our short attention spans?

    And like the Dulcefino of old, I wonder what leads he left out since they didn’t serve his purposes. Did he contact the Montgomery County DA’s office to find out which ADA was actually assigned the case since it is not customary for the elected official to handle such? I’m pretty sure he did but didn’t like that he couldn’t make hay out of it. The same holds true for other aspects of the “investigation” and political smear job but then you had to know that was the case by the simple fact that Dulcefino was involved; the old “throw everything on the wall to see what sticks” guy himself.

  2. joshua ben bullard says:

    election night results in das race kim ogg 49.7% – anderson 50.3%=anderson wins

    joshua bullard

  3. Wayne Dolcefino says:

    Mr. Houston,

    Since you are so knowledgable about the way this investigation was handled, I am sure you will join me in asking the Montgomery County District Attorney’s to release the case file.
    Oh by the way, when an attorney pro Tem is appointed they are the ones who are supposed to investigate independently and then present the matter to a grand jury. Yet I noticed in the Chronicle that the 1st assistant DA said he made the call on the Chandler case. He wasn’t the one chosen to investigate the case, and the fact the office was involved at all is exactly why there is a problem.

    BTW. Know you are a huge fan of my work, but my last name is Dolcefino….

  4. Steven Houston says:

    Mr. Dolcefino,
    apologies for the spelling of your name. Old habits die hard but I take responsibility for the error and it was mine alone.

    Regarding being a fan or the specifics of the investigation. I’ve long held that responsible media are needed to keep those in government honest. Over the years, it would be incredibly charitable to say you filled the bill as such, going for the lowest common denominator or otherwise running with half baked stories for ratings sweeps, always sensationalizing even when a story just didn’t warrant it. Early on, I cheered for you in hopes of your work getting better but it just never happened, hence the taint Ogg gets by using your services now. You would have probably been better on our school board…

    By all means go on social media and express your findings as you see fit. Let Ms. Ogg do likewise but I suspect it will hurt her campaign more than help given your respective pasts. I apologize if that comes across as a cheap shot but you earned your reputation time and time again when many hoped you would clean up your act.

    Joshua, unless a real smoking gun story appears just before early voting, I suspect Anderson is going to win by a significantly wider margin than that, just watch.

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