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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Judge Charged, then not charged, with Tampering with Evidence (MORE, CLICK HERE)

Prosecutor Quashes Charges Against Judge
By RALPH BLUMENTHAL - January 19, 2008 - The New York Times

HOUSTON — A grand jury’s bitter backroom struggle to charge a Texas Supreme Court justice and his wife in the burning of their house burst into the open on Friday after a prosecutor who had opposed the indictments went to court and had them quashed.

The grand jury foreman and assistant foreman said political favoritism was behind the decision to drop the day-old charges against the justice, David M. Medina, and his wife, Francisca.

“I felt like a dentist pulling teeth,” said Robert Ryan, 63, the foreman, a real estate broker and a previous grand juror. “The district attorney’s office did not want to prosecute this case.”

Mr. Ryan said his suspicions were aroused early when District Attorney Charles A. Rosenthal Jr. of Harris County said he had assured Justice Medina that the judge was not a target of the investigation. The officials are Republicans.

“My hope,” Mr. Ryan said, “is that early next week the grand jury will be reconvened and subpoena more documents and witnesses to back up what we obviously feel is probable cause, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Mr. Rosenthal, who is facing pressure to resign over e-mail love notes and sexually explicit and racially charged messages from his office, referred questions to his prosecutor in the case, Vic Wisner, who said, “Any claim that I stonewalled is not true.”

“We have an ethical duty to seek justice,” said Mr. Wisner, a 24-year-veteran of the office. “And it would be unlawful, unethical and irresponsible for me to proceed with a case that I do not think has the ability to get beyond a directed verdict of acquittal, let alone beyond a reasonable doubt.”

He said that it would be unlawful to comment further and that the grand jurors were violating the law if they commented on the proceedings.

Mr. Ryan and his assistant foreman, Jeffrey Dorrell, 52, a civil trial lawyer, and another grand juror who agreed to be interviewed, Dan Hall, 57, a landowner, said they had not discussed the evidence and so had not broken the law. They all described themselves as staunch Republicans, as were all 12 grand jurors, as far as they knew, they said.

Terry W. Yates, a lawyer for Justice Medina, filed a petition on Friday against Mr. Ryan and Mr. Dorrell for a contempt-of-court proceeding based on comments in The Houston Chronicle. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure says a grand juror “who discloses anything that transpires before a grand jury” in the course of official duties is liable to up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Fire investigators reported finding an accelerant in the blaze on June 28 in the Medinas’ garage in Spring, a northern suburb of Houston. The blaze spread to their house and two others.

In the indictments, Justice Medina, who is on the state’s highest civil court, was charged with a count of tampering with evidence, a threatening letter he reported having received. Mrs. Medina was charged with one count of arson.

Mr. Wisner said his position on insufficient evidence was “also the opinion of the Harris County fire marshal’s office.”

But the chief investigator in that office, Dan Given, declined to confirm that, referring questions to the prosecutor’s office.

Mr. Ryan said Mr. Wisner’s assertion surprised him. “The testimony of the arson investigator is what we went on,” the jury foreman said. “Draw your own conclusion if it was sufficient.”

Although a grand jury may be guided by a prosecutor, it alone decides in secret if there is probable cause to charge someone with a crime. A petit jury then determines guilt or innocence.

Dick DeGuerin, a leading criminal lawyer here representing Mrs. Medina, said the accelerant was explainable because any homeowner had chemicals like mower fuel and weed defoliants in his garage. Mr. DeGuerin portrayed the Medinas as innocent victims of “a runaway grand jury.”

“If the D.A. says there’s not enough evidence, why in the world are they indicting?” he asked. “To indict a public figure on no evidence is outrageous. It’s done indelible damage to Justice Medina.”

Robert Black, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed Justice Medina, said Mr. Perry never discussed the case with Mr. Rosenthal or anyone else.

“He has known David Medina a long time and has a lot of respect for him,” Mr. Black said of the governor. “But the legal process has to run its course, and it’s improper for him to be involved at all.”

Justice Medina was appointed to the court in 2004 and was then elected to a six-year term in 2006.

Mr. Ryan said that the grand jury was experienced, with two lawyers and three police officers, and that at least half the members had been grand jurors multiple times.

“We’ve been to the rodeo before,” he said. “I know the system.”

He said: “My antennae were raised when I read in The Houston Chronicle that Chuck Rosenthal called Justice Medina and told him to appear before the grand jury, but that he would not be a target. It wasn’t a couple weeks later that Mr. Wisner suddenly cooled and said, ‘I don’t think you got anything.’ ”

Mr. Dorrell said the panel’s feeling was “if the D.A. does not have enough evidence, get some more.”

Mr. Ryan said, “We asked for things they never produced.”

On Thursday, he continued, Mr. Wisner sought to block a vote and “we met over his objection.”

The prosecutor told them, he said: “ ‘Don’t bother to bring an indictment. We’re going to “nolo” it.’ ”

They sent Mr. Wisner out of the room and deliberated, Mr. Ryan recounted, and called him back with instructions to draw up two indictments.

“He said, ‘I will not,’ ” Mr. Ryan added. “We said, ‘Get your boss.’ He slammed the door.”

But 15 minutes later, Mr. Ryan said, Mr. Wisner came back “meekly,” as instructed, although Mr. Ryan added, “We knew he was going to move to dismiss.”


Anonymous said...

there is no doubt that this is a classic cover-up...that's what lawyering/judging is all about!

Anonymous said...

this is yet another blatant case of Judicial professional courtesy i.e. COVER-UP

Anonymous said...

The entire system has gone to hell...Doesn't anyone have a conscience anymore? Cover-ups, sex scandals, favors getting called in..Why the f--- is going on?

Anonymous said...

if the average person knew what goes on in the courts a revolution would start tomorrow. I've been told that the accomidations are made over the evening meal and the cash stuffed envelopes are passed under the table. That way no one will see anything.

Anonymous said...

- Have you ever been in court, any court, for any reason?

When it was over, and you were alone in the parking lot, did you have that feeling, deep down in the pit of your stomach, that......



Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised at this cover-up, this is the way things are done, its called the fixed.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This is for 'jail4judges"...i had those exact feelings and much, much worse, but for 30 yrs...i was AN OCA employee! I felt punched in the stomach before i enetered the courthouse and when i was RELEASED from it at 5PM! The hostility and discrimination that exists at BUFFALO CITY COURT is unimaginable to the regular public, including those who used that court and of course those who worked there and where political or had multiple family members employed with OCA , who provided protection or support for those who choose to daily harass other employees! The SUPERVISORS.... all female, found this behavior PLEASANTLY appropriate and tolerated it year in and year out...of course, they are ALL POLITICAL HACKS OR JUDGES GIRLFRIENDS THEMSELVES! BUFFALO CITY COURT is now embroiled in a massive discrimination and retaliation FEDERAL LAWSUIT, but they still harass and fire non-political minority and female employees, while having the distinction of employing the NY JUDICIAL SYSTEM'S only AFRICAN-AMERICAN CHIEF CLERK....who by the way is one of the most discriminating OCA employees i have ever encountered! CONGRATULATIONS OCA FOR CHOOSING AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT "MLK" WOULD DESPISE IN A LEADER IN THE AMERICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM!

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2