June 11, 2003
Prosecution presses on

The prosecution continues to makes its points in the case against former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre on five counts of official oppression stemming from the botched K-Mart raid last year. The DA has two main thrusts to its argument, which are that Captain Aguirre operated on his own, and that the arresting officers made no attempt to distinguish between actual offenders and innocent bystanders. Yesterday, Assistant Chief Charles McClelland, who approved the original plan, testified that he did not and would not have approved what Aguirre actually did.

"I didn't prohibit anybody from making any lawful arrests, but clearly our target was illegal street racers," Assistant Chief Charles McClelland Jr. testified.

McClelland said he "had no idea" that then-Capt. Mark Aguirre had changed the plan and that he never saw an Aug. 16 memo Aguirre sent to the dozens of officers involved in the raid instructing them to make arrests for trespassing.


McClelland told the jury in state District Judge Carol G. Davies' court he signed off on a plan Aug. 1 that specifically dictated "those believed to be spectators should be directed toward the exit of the parking lot."

If Aguirre had notified McClelland of the change in the plan, McClelland said, he would have called off the operation.

"I fully expected spectators to be released if they hadn't done anything or weren't wanted (on warrants)," McClelland said.

Defense attorney Terry Yates argued that a supervisor at the scene can change a plan. McClelland said the plan could only be changed for an extreme situation or "to protect someone's life."

You can be sure that the defense will revisit McClelland's claims that he knew nothing about the modified plans when they put on their case. The defense has asserted all along that the top brass at HPD, in particular Chief C.O. "BAMF" Bradford, knew what was going on and that the denials are just CYA. They insist that Aguirre, who was greatly disliked by Bradford, became a convenient scapegoat for this snafu.

Getting back to the prosecution, Monday's testimony by 17-year-old Jessica Paine was about the other prong in the attack.

As she was driving away from the Sonic drive-in next to a Kmart Super Center in the 8400 block of Westheimer, Paine testified Monday, a Houston police officer knocked on her window with gun drawn and told her and her best friend to "get out of the goddamn car."


She had no idea why she was being stopped, she said. She and her friend had been there looking at all the souped-up cars, as they do every weekend.

About 12:15 a.m. Aug. 18, they ordered two cherry limeades and an ice cream sundae [at the Sonic drive-thru adjacent to the K-Mart] and were leaving for home in time to make Paine's curfew.

Instead, she said, she was forced from her car at gunpoint, herded to the back of the strip center, placed in plastic flex cuffs and hauled to jail two or three hours later. She wasn't released until that afternoon. When she got to her towed car, she said, the ice cream was melted and the two drinks sat full in the console.

The testimony about "souped-up cars" is interesting, since all along the reports have said there were no drag racers to be found at the parking lot. Not that having such a car makes you an illegal street racer, of course. Still, this is another point that I expect the defense to return to, since they have also claimed that the arrests were righteous.

Though it doesn't say, I daresay the state is close to resting its case. A witness like the Assistant Chief is a high point, so unless they've got Chief Bradford himself lined up - and they very well may, since I'll bet the defense will call him if they don't - I've gotta think they're done. It's already amazing they had this much testimony in a misdemeanor trial, but then this was never an ordinary trial.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 11, 2003 to K-Mart Kiddie Roundup | TrackBack