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Yet Another Public Servant's Hipocracy Revealed

Houston Prosecutor Admits He Deleted E-Mail Messages
Michael Stravato for The New York Times

District Attorney Charles A. Rosenthal Jr. has faced tough questioning in a contempt hearing. Friday’s proceedings ended abruptly after he acknowledged an error in his previous testimony.


By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
Published: February 2, 2008

HOUSTON — The embattled Harris County district attorney admitted before a federal judge here Friday that in violation of two subpoenas and a court order, he deleted as many as 3,500 e-mail messages sought in a civil rights lawsuit. He said he thought the messages were available on backup files.

Appearing at a contempt hearing in Federal District Court, the district attorney, Charles A. Rosenthal Jr., appeared to open himself to possible perjury charges by acknowledging that in earlier sworn testimony he had provided false information about how he deleted some messages. He called his earlier testimony “an error.”

Clearly irked, Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt told Mr. Rosenthal, “In fact it can be a crime to destroy documents; it can be obstruction of justice.

“You prosecute people for that,” the judge reminded Mr. Rosenthal.

Shortly afterward, the two-day hearing was abruptly adjourned at Mr. Rosenthal’s request before his lawyer, Ronald C. Lewis, was to question him.

Judge Hoyt ordered lawyers not to discuss the matter, but some experts said the sudden halt could suggest that the case was taking a new turn. Further, they said that Mr. Rosenthal, who had been subpoenaed to testify and did not invoke his Constitutional privilege against compelled self-incrimination, might be seeking to limit further exposure to possible federal charges.

A noted criminal lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, who was United States attorney for the Southern District of Texas from 1990 to 1993, sat in a front pew of the courtroom Friday, but did not identify himself as a counsel of record. He did not respond later to a message left with his office.

Lloyd E. Kelley, the lawyer who filed the motion for contempt after e-mail messages the court had ordered be provided to him were erased, said he was barred from giving details.

The messages were sought as part of a lawsuit Mr. Kelley filed on behalf of two brothers, Sean and Erik Ibarra, who claim they were falsely arrested and brutalized after photographing sheriff’s deputies raiding a neighbor’s house in 2002.

Among about 800 messages turned over to Mr. Kelley from Mr. Rosenthal’s office computer were love notes to his executive secretary, Kerry Stevens, election campaign material, racial slurs and pornographic images. Mr. Rosenthal, 61, a Republican, has been a prosecutor here in the state’s most populous county since 1977 and was elected district attorney in 2000. He recently dropped his bid for a third term.

On the witness stand Friday, Mr. Rosenthal testified that he had not read subpoenas issued last October and an Oct. 16 order by Judge Hoyt compelling production of all e-mail messages sent and received from July 1 to Oct. 15, 2007, but that he knew he had to provide the records.

Still, on Nov. 5, as he told Judge Hoyt, “I moved some items from the ‘sent’ file and ‘received’ file into the ‘delete’ file and deleted some of those items from the ‘delete’ file.”

Mr. Rosenthal said he thought that his general counsel, Scott Durfree, had already printed out some 5,000 e-mail messages to preserve them. But he acknowledged he had not seen Mr. Durfree carrying out reams of paper and said he realized later that just a log of messages had been printed.

A computer specialist from the prosecutor’s office, Gary Zallar, testified that when he went to collect Mr. Rosenthal’s messages on Nov. 21, he could find only 1,585 and that up to 3,500 others had been erased. Mr. Rosenthal did not tell his staff of the deletions, and Mr. Kelley did not learn that most were gone until he went to pick them up on Nov. 26.

Asked why he had deleted e-mail messages the court had ordered him to provide, Mr. Rosenthal said he was trying to clean up his computer desktop.

Judge Hoyt was not persuaded. “You had unlimited capacity,” he said.

Mr. Rosenthal agreed, saying, “I understand that now.”

Mr. Kelley asked why, if Mr. Rosenthal had sworn that he routinely deleted all incoming messages older than July 24, 2007, he had been selective, deleting some received since that date.

“Yes,” Mr. Rosenthal responded, “I can see there’s an error.”


__________________________________________________ _______________


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By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
Published: December 29, 2007

HOUSTON — A day after a federal court slip-up exposed intimate office e-mail exchanges with his executive secretary, Texas’ most powerful prosecutor, the district attorney of Harris County, issued a public apology Friday to his family and others.
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Charles A. Rosenthal Jr., the Harris County district attorney.

“I deeply regret having said those things,” the prosecutor, Charles A. Rosenthal Jr., said in a statement. “This event has served as a wake-up call to me to get my house in order both literally and figuratively.”

Mr. Rosenthal’s current marriage is his second. His wife, Cindy, is a retired agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The issue took on immediate political dimensions on Thursday when Mr. Rosenthal, a 61-year-old Republican who has announced he will run for a third term next year, attacked the disclosure of the messages as “bare-knuckle politics.”

The messages, which had been turned over to lawyers in the course of a federal civil rights lawsuit that alleges misconduct involving Harris County sheriff’s deputies, contained Mr. Rosenthal’s professions of love and longing for the woman, Kerry Stevens, with whom he has acknowledged having an affair during his first marriage.

In one message dated Aug. 10, Mr. Rosenthal wrote, “The very next time I see you I want to kiss you behind your right ear.”

A day earlier, he had sent Ms. Stevens an e-mail message saying, “You own my heart whether you want or not.”

An opponent of Mr. Rosenthal for district attorney, C. O. Bradford, a Democrat and former Houston police chief, said “the personal use of government property by government officials” was “totally inappropriate.”

Neither Mr. Rosenthal nor Ms. Stevens responded Friday to telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

As district attorney of a county with a population of four million, more than that of several states, Mr. Rosenthal also presides over the country’s busiest capital punishment establishment, which has sent 100 convicted murderers to their deaths since 1976.

The e-mail messages were attachments to a brief filed by Mr. Rosenthal’s lawyers seeking to keep the exchanges under seal. When Judge Kenneth Hoyt of Federal District Court in Houston ruled on a motion by KHOU-TV that Mr. Rosenthal’s pleading itself could be made public, the e-mail attachments were inadvertently unsealed briefly.

The filings grew out a civil lawsuit by two brothers, Erik Adam Ibarra and Sean Carlos Ibarra, who claimed that on Jan. 4, 2002, they were beaten after taking pictures of sheriff’s deputies abusing a family during execution of a search warrant. A lawyer for the brothers later claimed that Mr. Rosenthal and the sheriff’s office were looking out for each other, the filings said, as in “I’ll watch your back if you watch mine.”

In that brief filed on Dec. 19, the Ibarra brothers’ lawyer, Lloyd E. Kelley, claimed that Mr. Rosenthal had deleted at least 2,500 e-mail messages after they should have been turned over to the court in the process of legal discovery after Nov. 16.

In his court papers, Mr. Rosenthal has claimed that his e-mail messages came under “zones of privacy” involving personal conduct recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case in which the court overturned the state’s anti-sodomy law.

But Mr. Kelley’s brief says that it was Mr. Rosenthal who appeared before the court to argue for Texas.




Mind you, the privacy rights he argued to deny ordinary Texans, were invoked in an attempt to retain control of said e-mail. Fascinating.


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/02/us/02texas.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/29/us/29texas.html
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 02-28-2008, 05:38 PM
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Hopefully he will be prosecuted and punished.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 02-28-2008, 08:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by isthisdave View Post
Houston Prosecutor Admits He Deleted E-Mail Messages
In his court papers, Mr. Rosenthal has claimed that his e-mail messages came under “zones of privacy” involving personal conduct recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case in which the court overturned the state’s anti-sodomy law.

But Mr. Kelley’s brief says that it was Mr. Rosenthal who appeared before the court to argue for Texas.
Ah, the cunning "Cone of Silence" defense.



Would you believe... ?

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Being smart is knowing the difference, in a sticky situation between a well delivered anecdote and a well delivered antidote - bear.
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