State Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting has requested an investigation of State Rep. Talmadge Heflin, whom Soechting said may have perjured himself during the recent custody fight.
In a letter to Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal on Wednesday, Charles Soechting cited discrepancies in state Rep. Talmadge Heflin's account of the mother's role while she and the child lived in his Houston home for more than a year.
During a court hearing last week, Heflin called Mariam Katamba a house guest, but she maintained she was employed as a maid by Heflin and his wife, Janice. Soechting alleges that Heflin also has referred to Katamba as an employee.
Heflin spokesman Craig Murphy denied the allegations.
"Representative Heflin has been consistent on this, and everyone who has seen (Katamba) has seen her as nothing but a guest," Murphy said.
Rosenthal confirmed that he received the request and said he would look into the matter, as he would any such allegation, after a transcript of the court proceedings is complete.
He added that any investigation would wait until after the November election in which Heflin is seeking a new term.
"It has been a long-standing policy of this office not to influence the outcome of elections," Rosenthal said.
Heflin and his wife say their only motive was love for the 20-month-old child and concern for his welfare. However, they presented in court no corroborated evidence that the child's parents were unfit. Heflin's testimony was unpersuasive and based on notions of social superiority and noblesse oblige that went out of fashion a century ago.
Had Talmadge not been the powerful Republican chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, residing in a county where Republicans dominate the courthouse, he probably would not have been able to get an associate judge and a judge of a family district court here to sign an order granting him temporary custody.
The representative's lawyer asserted in court that Heflin deserves the child because the parents cannot afford health insurance, and because Medicaid patients have to wait for exams and treatment. A leader in the Legislature, Heflin was instrumental in cutting children's eligibility for subsidized health insurance. Now he makes the grotesque claim that parents who can't insure their children are unfit.
The case offers another incongruity: Heflin belongs to the party most frequently associated with law and order and opposition to illegal immigration. Yet Heflin admits he sheltered an immigrant who had overstayed her visa.
Finally, the judges who were responsible for assigning temporary custody to the Heflins are named here.
The Heflins, who said they were worried about the child, sought an emergency order July 27 granting them temporary custody. Family District Judge Linda Motheral, who was presiding over the custody case, was out of town. Her associate judge, David D. Farr, reviewed the Heflins' filings, including allegations of abuse.
Katamba, who is from Uganda, and Fidel Odimara Sr., who is from Nigeria, denied those allegations.
Farr approved the Heflins' motion, and Family District Judge Frank Rynd signed an order. Farr could not sign it because he is an associate judge appointed by Motheral to assist her.