Live by the Hatchet, Die by the Hatchet

In Harris-County-Prosecutor Land, there is a strong current of belief that Kelly Siegler a) should have won the 2008 Republican Primary instead of Pat Lykos; b) should be DA now; and c) should challenge Lykos for the position in 2012. Prosecutors who don’t find the Lykos DA’s Office as amiable a place to work as the Rosenthal DA’s Office was see Siegler as their white knight, poised to ride in and bring back those good old days.

But Pat Lykos is politically formidable. Siegler could no more beat her in a primary now than she did in 2008. Nor could Mike Anderson, whose name is also bandied about by the wistful Rosenthal-Office alumni as a potential DA. Unless, that is, Lykos’s office were rocked by a scandal that the public might care about.

A scandal like an indictment against the sitting DA.

A grand jury would be needed to hand down such an indictment, and in the ordinary course of things, with Harris County grand juries closely controlled by Harris County prosecutors, a grand jury would never do so.

Now, however, we have a breakaway grand jury, out of the 185th District Court. They kicked the prosecutors out of the room, then asked for and received a special prosecutor and a term extension. They have been talking to witnesses who know things about the Houston Police Department’s broken BAT (Breath Alcohol Testing vans).

We usually don’t know who is serving on a grand jury. Serendipitously, we know who the foreman of this particular grand jury is:

Trisha Pollard, a member of the Board of Regents for the Texas State University System who helped SHSU develop STAFS, was recently elected foreman of the 185th Grand Jury in Harris County. She arranged for a group to tour STAFS and the SHSU regional crime lab in The Woodlands last week to get an idea of how evidence is studied.

(Huntsville Item.)

Here’s the grand-jury foreman being sworn in as an SHSU Regent (in the grand-jury office!) by Devon Anderson:

Who is Anderson’s husband? Why, he’s the aforementioned Mike Anderson, rumored to be considering running for DA.

But wait: there’s plenty more to feed the conspiracy theorists. Pollard is connected to the SHSU regional crime lab, which could surely benefit from having a friend running the Harris County DA’s Office. Judge Susan Brown organized this grand jury; her husband, Marc Brown (who is now a District Court Judge as well—Pollard contributed a little to his campaign fund), had at first been demoted from division chief to chief by Lykos, and later been repromoted but stuck in the position of Grand Jury Chief. (Marc Brown, while he was a prosecutor, contributed $500 to Kelly Siegler’s campaign fund when she was running against Lykos. Wheels within wheels.)

Now two prosecutors—Carl Hobbs and Steve Morris—have been called in to the 185th District Court to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for possessing grand-jury transcripts. Carl and Steve may be the first DAs to be thrown under the Lykos bus in this episode. The first, but not—I suspect—the last. Why would Lykos need to throw prosecutors under the bus? Political expediency. Better for Lykos that Hobbs and Morris should go down for following orders than that the law governing grand-jury secrecy should be too-strictly adhered to.

And you can expect a good deal more digging to find out who knew what when. Here’s one of the special prosecutors whom Judge Susan Brown appointed to advise the grand jury on the matter:

Not the one at the lectern: that’s Kelly Siegler, announcing her resignation from the DA’s Office after losing the primary election to Pat Lykos. Appointing Siegler as special prosecutor would be too blatant. The special prosecutor, Stephen St. Martin, is Siegler’s supporter on the far right.

St. Martin donated a healthy $3,000 to Siegler’s campaign when she was fighting Lykos for the Republican nomination. Also, Lykos kicked him out of the Special Crimes Division of the DA’s Office, and then publicly snubbed him when the FBI gave him an award.

I suspect that feelings between Lykos and St. Martin are mutual.

St. Martin should never have been appointed to investigate the Lykos DA’s Office. No matter how incorruptible he is, the appearance of impropriety is a problem. If the grand jury indicts Lykos or members of DA’s Office management, the public will wonder whether bad blood between St. Martin and Lykos contributed; if he does not, people will wonder whether St. Martin pulled his punches in an excess of caution. A local lawyer without the Lykos-related baggage that St. Martin has (Wendell Odom?) should have been appointed special prosecutor, or a hired gun from out of town (not this hired gun), or even the Attorney General.

Where does this put Pat Lykos? In an uncomfortable spot, I suspect, with no room to complain. She is, after all, no stranger to prosecutions with the appearance of impropriety. You might even say that, when it comes to Harris County hatchet jobs, she set the standard.

(Bonus reading: Butt-Head did not approve this hatchet job.)

About Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett got his letter of marque from the Supreme Court of Texas in May 1995. He is famous for having no sense of humor when it comes to totalitarianism.
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