March 21, 2007
TYC: What did Perry's people know?

One of the many questions regarding the Texas Youth Commission scandal is about what Governor Perry knew and when he knew it. The Chron advances that story today.

Gov. Rick Perry's staff knew as early as June 2005 that two administrators at a Texas Youth Commission facility were not being prosecuted on allegations of sexually abusing youths in their custody, according to records obtained Tuesday by the Houston Chronicle.

Perry's aides have said that TYC notified them of the initial investigation in February 2005, and that they thought the case was being pursued by prosecutors until they were told otherwise in October 2006 by an aide to state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.


Perry and other state leaders have expressed outrage that a Ward County prosecutor allowed sexual abuse allegations against two West Texas State School administrators to languish for two years without prosecution.

But an e-mail obtained under the open records act shows a TYC administrator told a Perry criminal justice staff member in June 2005 that the case was not under prosecution.

In a June 13, 2005, e-mail, Perry staff member Alfonso Royal asked TYC Chief of Staff Joy Anderson: "What is going on in the West Texas investigation?"

Anderson replied 18 minutes later: "Both the assistant superintendent and the principal resigned in lieu of termination. We aren't aware of any pending criminal charges."

Perry spokesman Ted Royer said Tuesday that in June 2005 no one in the governor's office would have believed the prosecutor would sit on the case for 18 more months.

"From the communication we received, there was no reason to believe that due process was not moving forward as it should have," Royer said.

Royal did not check back with TYC again on the investigation.

I'll stipulate that Randall Reynolds is a villain in this drama, but still. June was four months after the initial Rangers investigation. Did Royal ask why there were no pending charges? One way of interpreting Joy Anderson's response is that she understoofd the matter to be closed after the resignations of Brookins and Hernandez. If so, then the extent of Reynolds' delay is irrelevant because Royal's expectation would have been that nothing else was going to happen.

Again, the real problem here is one of indifference. Royal could very easily have asked followup questions like "Do we expect any charges to be filed? If so, when? If not, why not?" Maybe that's easy for me to say, and maybe things are clearer in hindsight, but what's also clear is the pattern of inaction. Everywhere you look, from the Attorney General's office to the Governor's office, every time someone had the chance to really check and see what was going on, the path of least resistance was taken instead. In the end, it was one person asking questions who got things rolling. The reason that didn't happen sooner is because no one else had bothered.

Speaking of the Attorney General, he is finally taking this case to a grand jury.

In a West Texas courtroom today, 12 grand jurors will consider whether two top administrators of a state juvenile detention center routinely molested boys in their care -- allegations that shocked lawmakers and prompted a systemwide investigation.

Ward County District Clerk Patricia Oyerbides anticipates "a circus" of news media types and ordinary citizens to assemble outside the second-floor courtroom as the jury begins hearing evidence against Ray Brookins, a former assistant superintendent at the West Texas State School, and John Paul Hernandez, the facility's former principal.


Now, the Texas Ranger who pursued the case despite a lack of support from local, state and federal authorities, Sgt. Brian Burzynski, will tell jurors what he believed happened inside the tall metal fence of the 52-acre West Texas State School between 2003 and 2005.

In his investigative report, Burzynski said TYC staffers, incarcerated youth and log books indicated the two administrators summoned youthful offenders from classrooms and dormitory beds to their offices where they abused them.

Burzynski noted in his 2005 report, that one youth reported being abused by one of the men "so many times" that he "lost count."

Sometimes the man would use security to summon the boy in the morning, sometimes he'd wait until after lights out at 9 p.m., plying the youth with pornographic movies in his office, Burzynski's report states.

"Everyone knew what was going on," another youth told Burzynski at the time, adding that he was not molested.

Another youth who told the Ranger he was regularly abused in an empty classroom said one of the men once came bearing a cake from Wal-Mart and an offer to help him obtain financial aid for college in exchange for sex.

Hopefully, we'll finally get some justice for the victims. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 21, 2007 to Scandalized!