The Harris County District Attorney’s office has a dilemma, compounded by a conflict, in search of a guy name Brady. A month or so ago, there were rumblings around town that a Houston Police Department homicide detective was under investigation. On Friday, Houston Police Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr. called this (former) police officer a liar and announced that the officer was fired. Of course, bad news always hits on a Friday.
Back on March 5, Jeremy Rogalski from Channel 11 reported that the homicide detective accused of sloppy work, Ryan Chandler, had received identical performance reviews. All four of Chandler’s performance reviews from 2011 and 2012 were “virtually identical.” They even included the same misspelling: “investigattions.”
On Friday, James Pinkerton reported in the Houston Chronicle that at least 24 homicide cases in the city of Houston were not investigated. Houston City Councilman Ed Gonzalez, a former HPD homicide detective, was recently in possession of pending homicide files. He told Pinkerton that he took the files with him when he left HPD for Houston City Council in 2009. Now we know that seven other officers from the homicide division have been disciplined for playing a role in the failure to investigate murder cases in Houston, Texas.
There is no question that, even at the outset, this was obviously a huge scandal. The actions of local law enforcement and a shared political consultant, Allen Blakemore, have turned the scandal into actions that require investigations by the Texas Rangers and a special prosecutor. It is not surprising to most that Allen Blakemore is the center of evil when it comes to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Unsolved homicide cases leave unidentified murderers on our streets and families without answers. So, who is investigating the actions (or inactions) of the Houston Police Department? Typically, the Harris County District Attorney’s office would investigate HPD’s behavior. Instead, the investigation was forwarded to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office at the request of the Harris County DA. This may have been done because Chandler is engaged to a Chief Prosecutor in charge of conviction review at the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
The new Harris County District Attorney, Devon Anderson, forwarded the investigation to Montgomery County District Attorney, Brett Ligon. Brett Ligon, an Allen Blakemore client, is also a former union attorney for the Houston Police Officers’ Union. So, now we know that Brett shares a political consultant with Devon Anderson. And they share their political consultant with the Houston Police Officers’ Union. And, before Brett was the Montgomery County District Attorney, he represented HPD officers on a full-time basis for almost ten years. Let me be clear, Brett Ligon represented HPD officers who were disciplined by the department or in trouble with the law. And, of course, Mike Anderson was endorsed by the HPOU. I did contact Jeff McShan, the spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s office on Friday and asked for an opportunity to speak with Devon about these issues. I have yet to hear back.
Mike Anderson campaigned on the restoration of integrity to the Harris County District Attorney’s office. After Devon was appointed by Governor Perry, her mouthpiece at the time, Chip Lewis, said that she would “continue the good work” done by Mike. So, wouldn’t you think that Devon would want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety? Why would she forward an investigation of Houston Police Department officers to a former HPOU lawyer? Did Brett Ligon ever represent any of the officers currently under investigation?
Do these disciplined officers continue to work in the homicide division? Do they continue to testify? Has the defense bar been notified about these problems and conflicts? Are these uninvestigated murder cases being reviewed and properly investigated? Are murderers roaming our streets because of law enforcement’s incompetence? Will these murder victims ever be acknowledged? If any of these cases ever go to trial, how will this situation be handled? Were officers paid to not investigate cases? Is that a crime?
The people of Houston deserve a truly independent investigation by the Texas Rangers and a neutral special prosecutor. Allen Blakemore cannot continue to use the courthouse and the District Attorney’s office as his playground. Blakemore controlled the District Attorney’s office through the Chuck Rosenthal administration and we saw the end of that story. It’s always the cover up that gets you.