The latest in the continuing saga of the Houston grand jury’s probe of the D.A.’s cover-up of defective Breathalyzers…
Prosecutors, Court Reporters Face Contempt Charges in Grand Jury Probe
Houston, TX. Nov. 1 – Two Harris County prosecutors are facing contempt charges after a judge learned members of the DA’s office were given information that may contain official transcripts from secret proceedings of a grand jury that is investigating the district attorney’s office, court records show.
Assistant district attorneys Carl Hobbs and Steve Morris, along with court reporters Javier Leal and Katherine Chagaris, have been summoned to appear before Judge Susan Brown’s court at 9 a.m. Monday.
According to a motion requiring the four to attend the hearing, the prosecutors and court reporters must show why they should not be held in contempt and sanctioned by the court for violating orders issued by Brown.
"It is now come to this court’s attention that members of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office may be in possession of official transcripts of testimony from witnesses who appeared before the grand jury," according to a motion issued by Brown and obtained by the Houston Chronicle Tuesday.
Hobbs and Morris, both senior prosecutors with the DA’s office, are two of three prosecutors who were excluded on Oct. 18 from listening to witness testimony by the grand jury, which also appears to be investigating the Houston Police Department troubled mobile breath alcohol testing vans. That day, when defense attorney Brent Mayr, a critic of the vans, was called to testify, the grand jury ejected the two along with the general counsel for the DA’s office, John Barnhill, and threatened to have the bailiff arrest them if they did not leave, according to court records.
Brown revealed last Wednesday that a Harris County grand jury is investigating possible criminal conduct by the district attorney’s office and disqualified the office from participating in the ongoing investigation into the testing vans.
The judge made the disclosure in an order granting the grand jury’s request for a temporary special prosecutor. She appointed attorneys Stephen C. St. Martin and James Mount to assist the panel. Both are former veteran assistant district attorneys.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, but suspicions by defense attorneys involved in the case and court records have indicated that the panel’s investigation centered on issues surrounding the breath alcohol-testing vehicles – known as BAT vans – and possibly the DA’s office’s involvement.
If the prosecutors or court reporters are found guilty of the misdemeanor contempt charges they could face up to a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.
"Possible criminal conduct by the district attorney’s office"? If only some prosecutors worked as hard at finding the truth as they do at hiding it…
(Thanks to Ari Weiner.)