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More DA drama

I’m not sure yet what to make of this.

Kim Ogg

Incoming Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg accused three prosecutors Tuesday of trying to sabotage criminal cases by telling victims their cases were in jeopardy, and called for an investigation into what she said was “political retribution” for being fired.

The allegations came days after Ogg notified nearly 40 prosecutors that she would not keep them on when she takes office in January.

The preemptive firings and the Tuesday’s accusations illustrate the amount of bad blood between Ogg and current District Attorney Devon Anderson and her loyalists in the office following a bitter election campaign in which the Ogg questioned the integrity and ethics of the office under the incumbent.

“It appears that some of these individuals are sabotaging their own cases,” Ogg said at a press conference in front of Houston’s criminal courthouse Tuesday. “It’s the use of victims as pawns by disgruntled employees that shows, not just a profound disrespect for other people, but a lack of professionalism that won’t go unaddressed.”

The three prosecutors denied any wrongdoing and blasted Ogg for publicizing their names without investigating the claims.

“I have always tried to be ethical and have never been a win-at-all-costs prosecutor,” said Gretchen Flader, one of the three. “I have done what I thought was right and just every day. I am saddened and sickened by all that has happened.”

See here for some background. An earlier version of the story, before any of the prosecutors Ogg named had responded, sounded a lot worse and included a quote from County Judge Ed Emmett basically telling them to cut it out. The initial Houston Press story was in a similar vein. Read that and compare it to the Wednesday version, which sports the headline “Ogg Will Investigate Fired Prosecutors Without Asking for Their Side of Story”, and it will give you pause.

So it’s a little hard to say right now if Ogg was legitimately putting a stop to bad behavior, or overreacting to something that wasn’t a big deal. It seems to me that if it really is the latter, that this was a standard procedure, then there had to have been a failure of communications somewhere. Maybe Anderson’s office didn’t adequately brief Ogg on what they were doing to transition cases, maybe the prosecutors didn’t explain the process to the victims in a way they fully understood, maybe Ogg misinterpreted what she was told by the victims who did call her. I don’t have enough information to say. If this was bad behavior on the prosecutors’ part, I’m not sure why Ogg wouldn’t talk to them before taking any other action beyond telling them to stop and for all communications to be preserved. Whatever this turns out to be, I hope Ogg handles it carefully going forward. Mark Bennett and Marc Campos have more.

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2 Comments

  1. Neither Here Nor There says:

    She is just playing by the same rules that Republicans play. It is about time Democrats grew some.

  2. Steve Houston says:

    I openly wonder how much of all this drama really means anything? DA-elect Ogg had the legal authority to not renew any of the employment contracts starting next year so even if she chose a chickenshit way to convey the message, nobody had the right to expect her to keep them on. In coming weeks, I expect we will hear similar stories regarding the sheriff’s office where sheriff-elect Gonzalez tosses out the still-new command staff brought over from Pct 4, just as reports of how Houston’s Police Chief Acevedo will be able to appoint an almost entirely new crew due to mass retirements and Fire Chief Pena will have to deal with likely losses as well.

    Sure, Ms. Ogg might want to lose the bunker mentality she’s been displaying, accusing people of crimes and demanding their personal cell phones be confiscated days before Christmas smacks of desperation, phone records will easily be available long after the employees are gainfully employed elsewhere. It’s not like she’s been able to produce any recordings of misconduct to prove her allegations, nor would the phones prove that, but given the employees were openly calling people to inform them of the change in prosecutor, she’s not doing herself any favors with blind accusations. Moving forward, let’s hear about the positive changes she intends on implementing.

    And if anyone with influence out there wants a suggestion, might it be a good idea to have an open town hall meeting of sorts with these new power players, Ogg, Acevedo, and Gonzalez, perhaps joined by Emmett and Turner as well as some of the major stakeholders? The bail bond gurus, maybe some of the incoming judges, Mental Health leaders, and experts in related fields can hash out some ideas to more quickly implement some of the mutual ideas that have come up. Push for more PR bonds on first offender victimless crimes, adding additional capacity for treating mentally ill people caught up in the criminal justice system, figure out the specifics of handling low level drug crimes, and re-focus scarce resources not just for events like the upcoming Superbowl but for long term benefits as well?

    It is a rare opportunity when so much change takes place so close together, even the upcoming legislative session readily available for making needed changes as needed. Anyone?