I’m not sure yet what to make of this.
Incoming Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg accused three prosecutors Tuesday of trying to sabotage criminal cases by telling victims their cases were in jeopardy, and called for an investigation into what she said was “political retribution” for being fired.
The allegations came days after Ogg notified nearly 40 prosecutors that she would not keep them on when she takes office in January.
The preemptive firings and the Tuesday’s accusations illustrate the amount of bad blood between Ogg and current District Attorney Devon Anderson and her loyalists in the office following a bitter election campaign in which the Ogg questioned the integrity and ethics of the office under the incumbent.
“It appears that some of these individuals are sabotaging their own cases,” Ogg said at a press conference in front of Houston’s criminal courthouse Tuesday. “It’s the use of victims as pawns by disgruntled employees that shows, not just a profound disrespect for other people, but a lack of professionalism that won’t go unaddressed.”
The three prosecutors denied any wrongdoing and blasted Ogg for publicizing their names without investigating the claims.
“I have always tried to be ethical and have never been a win-at-all-costs prosecutor,” said Gretchen Flader, one of the three. “I have done what I thought was right and just every day. I am saddened and sickened by all that has happened.”
See here for some background. An earlier version of the story, before any of the prosecutors Ogg named had responded, sounded a lot worse and included a quote from County Judge Ed Emmett basically telling them to cut it out. The initial Houston Press story was in a similar vein. Read that and compare it to the Wednesday version, which sports the headline “Ogg Will Investigate Fired Prosecutors Without Asking for Their Side of Story”, and it will give you pause.
So it’s a little hard to say right now if Ogg was legitimately putting a stop to bad behavior, or overreacting to something that wasn’t a big deal. It seems to me that if it really is the latter, that this was a standard procedure, then there had to have been a failure of communications somewhere. Maybe Anderson’s office didn’t adequately brief Ogg on what they were doing to transition cases, maybe the prosecutors didn’t explain the process to the victims in a way they fully understood, maybe Ogg misinterpreted what she was told by the victims who did call her. I don’t have enough information to say. If this was bad behavior on the prosecutors’ part, I’m not sure why Ogg wouldn’t talk to them before taking any other action beyond telling them to stop and for all communications to be preserved. Whatever this turns out to be, I hope Ogg handles it carefully going forward. Mark Bennett and Marc Campos have more.