August 31, 2003
Two Rosenthal profiles

About a month ago, the Houston Press ran a reasonably fair and balanced profile of Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal, who has had a difficult first term in office as the replacement for his retired mentor, the well-respected Johnny Holmes. (I coulda swore I'd blogged about it, but I've scoured my archives and I didn't. Oh, well.) Reporter Rich Connelly had access to Rosenthal for the story, and though he touched on most of Rosenthal's missteps since taking office - the Houston Crime Lab debacle, the trials of Chief C.O. "BAMF" Bradford and Captain Mark Aguirre, his sublimely inept performance in front of the Supreme Court arguing for the state in Lawrence v. Texas - he liberally quoted Rosenthal's defenders as well as Rosenthal himself.

Today, the Chron has its own profile of Rosenthal, and though it doesn't mention the latter two lowlights, it's a lot more critical of Rosenthal. These quotes are indicative:

"There's an air in the district attorney's office now that I don't feel was quite there when Johnny Holmes was in office," said lawyer Katherine Scardino. "I don't get the impression that Chuck is as open as Johnny was. And, frankly, I don't think he's as smart."

Lawyer Dan Cogdell said, however, that the difference is more than intellect.

In August 1997, Cogdell and another criminal defense lawyer, Kent Schaffer, found themselves in a legal dilemma when a federal government informant attempted to double-cross them. The attorneys feared they might be targets of a Justice Department sting, so they went to Holmes for advice and help. Holmes came to their rescue by running a reverse sting and arresting the informant on bribery charges.

"Without Holmes' stepping up and doing the right thing, I would have had a very expensive legal battle, and probably a change in my ZIP code," Cogdell said. "There's no way that if I went to Chuck, and I had a federal sting headed in my direction, that Rosenthal would intercede."

Rosenthal did not talk to Chron reporter Steve McVicker, which may explain why the overall tone was more negative towards him. In addition to focusing on the crime lab problems, the story and its sidebar examine some of Rosenthal's ethical lapses as assistant DA, most of which I was unaware of.

I'll say again that if there's one countywide office the Democrats should set their sights on in the 2004 election, it's this one. Rosenthal can be beaten with a good candidate and sufficient funding. My suggestion: Eric Andell, currently slumming it in the Department of Education. Come home, Eric! Your city needs you!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 31, 2003 to Local politics | TrackBack