February 27, 2008
Rosenthal testifies in Sheriff's lawsuit

Chuck Rosenthal took the stand yesterday during the Sheriff's lawsuit, and nothing too terribly exciting happened.

Attorney Lloyd Kelley, who represents the Ibarras, tried to establish that the district attorney's office passed the brothers' claims to the Harris County Sheriff's Office for investigation -- even as the sheriff's office allegedly prevented Kelley and the Ibarras from filing an internal affairs complaint.

Kelley also tried to question Rosenthal on Tuesday about deleting more than 2,500 e-mails subpoenaed in connection with the lawsuit, but that effort was halted when Rosenthal's attorney, Ron Lewis, asked to approach the judge's bench. Rosenthal still faces a contempt hearing for the destruction of those documents, which is set to resume March 14.

Rosenthal told the jury he asked prosecutor Joe Owmby to look into the Ibarra case after receiving numerous letters from Kelley complaining about the deputies' actions.

"I did not specifically order an investigation," Rosenthal testified. "I gave Mr. Owmby the authority to investigate the case if he thought it was reasonable to do so."

Rosenthal said he later received a memo from Owmby reporting on the progress. "I was satisfied Mr. Owmby had looked into it," he said.

Owmby ultimately closed the case because he had not received any complaints or statements from the Ibarras, Rosenthal said.

He agreed, however, that some claims raised by the Ibarras -- such as false facts in a police report or lying to obtain criminal charges or accepting criminal charges for an act that is not illegal -- could be potential crimes. Rosenthal also agreed the District Attorney's Office has the authority to prosecute officers who destroy evidence. Officers should not destroy film or videotape without a court order, he said.

I guess the key point here, at least from the plaintiff's perspective, is that the case was closed by the DA's office because no complaint was received from the Ibarras. Except that they allege the Sheriff's office prevented them from filing such a complaint in the first place. I presume there will be some evidence offered to back up that charge, at which point things will fit together for them. We'll see how it goes.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 27, 2008 to Local politics
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