January 03, 2008
What happened with Chuck?

Here's an interesting account of how Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal got persuaded/browbeaten into withdrawing from the race.

The local Republican Party officially accepted his one-sentence withdrawal letter three minutes before the deadline for removing candidates from the March 4 primary ballot -- and three days after Rosenthal had defiantly vowed to run and win despite a scandal over intimate e-mails he sent to his executive secretary, Kerry Stevens.

The action means Harris County, the nation's leading jurisdiction for sentencing murderers to death by injection, will get a new chief prosecutor next January after eight years of service by Rosenthal. He plans to serve the remainder of his current term through 2008, officials said.

Minutes after Rosenthal's announcement withdrawing from the race, a federal judge scheduled a hearing for this month where Rosenthal will likely be asked to explain how more than 2,000 of his e-mails got deleted over a weekend. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit against the county have asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt to either sanction Rosenthal or hold him in contempt.

In a sworn deposition last month, Rosenthal denied any wrongdoing.

The missing e-mails were later salvaged and given to the plaintiffs' lawyers, records show, but Rosenthal's information technology director couldn't assure them that no e-mails were overlooked.

That ought to be fun. How exactly does one account for 2000 "accidentally" deleted emails? I suppose the best bet is to say you didn't believe they fell within the scope of the discovery order for this case. I have a feeling that will be more lame than compelling, but we'll see how it goes.

Under state law, his withdrawal extended until 6 p.m. Friday the deadline for candidates to sign up for the GOP primary for district attorney.

Defense lawyer and former prosecutor Jim Leitner, one of the few contenders party leaders had considered backing in the primary if Rosenthal had remained in the race, filed for a place on the ballot Wednesday. He said he did so to help the party and the district attorney's office retain credibility and that he would consider stepping aside for another qualified contender.

Top Rosenthal assistants Marc Brown, Stephen St. Martin and Denise Bradley, formerly Denise Nassar, also went through the interview process with party leaders, along with former state District Judge Patricia Lykos. Brown and Bradley said they will talk with their colleagues about becoming candidates, perhaps with only one emerging from Rosenthal's staff as a consensus choice.

When he rejected his party's request Sunday that he step aside, Rosenthal said Republicans had no one qualified to run against him. But that was before he started encouraging some of his assistants to line up for the job in case he withdrew.

So Leitner may in the end be nothing more than a placeholder. That would be a shame, since he would clearly represent a philosophical shift from the Rosenthal regime, but I suppose that may be too much to ask for.

As Rosenthal and party officials communicated through Bettencourt throughout Wed-nesday, Rosenthal changed his mind a few times about whether he would step aside, party leaders said privately.

The district attorney apparently started the day thinking, regardless of his public promise to run again, that the scandal would make his re-election difficult if not impossible in a year when political observers say the Republican advantage in Harris County is already slipping.

Closer to the middle of the day, however, several prominent defense lawyers urged Rosenthal to stay on the job, saying his administrative skills were intact and that the scandal was surmountable. Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, a leading figure among Houston lawyers, was said to be among those who urged Rosenthal to resist making an exit. Haynes in an interview said he would not confirm or deny that he gave such a message to the district attorney.

With would-be candidates gathered at party headquarters to ponder their moves, Rosenthal's withdrawal letter finally arrived, on district attorney's office stationery rather than campaign letterhead.

Well, here's one defense attorney who didn't see things the same was as Racehorse Haynes allegedly did agrees with Haynes but for a different reason. He's also hearing that one of Rosenthal's assistants has now filed to be on the ballot as well.

At the end of the day, I still think it's a good thing that the Rosenthal era is coming to an end. I certainly hope we'll get a clean break from that this November, but this is a good start regardless. Easter Lemming and Grits have more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 03, 2008 to Election 2008

Chuck's in the wrong party. This sort of behavior is resume enhance for Dems. Worked for Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Gerry Studds, and Barney Frank. As far as disappearing records, there was Hillary's Rose Law Firm records and then there was Sandy "Burglar", er Berger.

Posted by: G-Man on January 3, 2008 9:38 AM

"He said he did so to help the party and the district attorney's office retain credibility...". If Rosenthal and the GOP want to retain that kind of credibility in the DA's office then they have a bigger problem and too many girlfriends.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on January 3, 2008 12:37 PM

It would be nice to think he might end up being indicted over the deleted emails also known as obstruction of justice, or a mere technicality if you're Kay Bailey Hutchison, but there have been so many other things he should have been indicted over and wasn't so don't hold your breath.

Reality is he's a good old boy and the good old boys protect their own. That and the fact he has so much dirt on everyone at this point that one would dare go there. Don't forget his wife is a former FBI agent. And, well, once an FBI agent, always an FBI agent. They protect their own as well. Usually by supplying the dirt you need to protect yourself with. As someone put it not long before all of this hit print, who protects us from the people who are supposed to protect us?

All the dirt he has on everyone may explain why the Democratic "leadership" has been so silent about all of this.

The other reality is we have a rabid dog loose for the next year. Hope everyone got their rabies vaccination.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on January 3, 2008 4:37 PM


I am generally not in the business of disagreeing with Racehorse. If I thought Chuck would have listened to me, I probably would have encouraged him (for the reason in the post you linked to) to stay the course.


Posted by: Mark Bennett on January 3, 2008 8:45 PM

My apologies, Mark. I will alter the post to reflect that.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 3, 2008 8:54 PM

I wonder if that scandal is still surmountable.

Posted by: Mark Bennett on January 10, 2008 11:46 PM