May 16, 2008
The Rosenthal investigation

After being rebuffed by interim DA Ken Magidson on the existence and/or status of an investigation into Chuck Rosenthal's email activities while he was in office, Rick Casey turns to the feds Attorney General's office and finds them much more loose-lipped.

I asked Magidson because Bert Graham, who served as acting district attorney for a month before Gov. Rick Perry appointed Magidson to replace Rosenthal, had told me that the attorney general's office had offered assistance in a criminal investigation of the disgraced DA.

The attorney general's office had dropped an earlier investigation when Rosenthal had resigned, but that investigation was to determine whether he should be removed, not indicted.

"We are not going to comment on whether there is an investigation," Magidson declared forcefully. "It would be unethical and improper."


I suggested to Magidson that the Rosenthal controversy was a matter of public concern. The evidence that he had used his staff computer for his political campaign had emerged from court records made public in a federal lawsuit.

Some citizens might believe Rosenthal had paid enough of a price by losing his job and his reputation. But others might take the position that a district attorney, of all people, should be prosecuted if he committed a crime. Either way, the public has an interest in the decision and the reasons behind it.

"I don't care what the public thinks," Magidson retorted. "I will do what is right."

I think Casey raises a reasonable point here. The things that Rosenthal did that would lead to an investigation of him are well known. He resigned his office over them because of their possible illegality as well as their impropriety. The AG's office was involved initially to see if there were grounds to force him to resign, before he finally spared them the trouble. Frankly, I think most people have been assuming all along there's an investigation, because that possibility has been part of the discussion from the beginning. Given all these circumstances, I don't think it would compromise Chuck Rosenthal's privacy to confirm or deny the existence of a formal investigation. At the very least, I don't think the question is as clearcut as Magidson makes it to be, however honorable the sentiment behind it is.

A few minutes after our conversation, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott returned the call I had placed to him asking for information on any Rosenthal investigation.

"What's your fax number?" he asked.

A few minutes later I had copies of an exchange of letters between Magidson and Eric J.R. Nichols, deputy AG for criminal justice.


So it appears Magidson is, indeed, conducting an investigation. His use of the assistance offered by the attorney general will spare his staff from the awkwardness (and possible conflicts) of assisting in the investigation of their former boss.

I think it is appropriate that there is an investigation, and though I don't think much of our Attorney General, it's better for that office to be handling it. I look forward to seeing the result of their efforts.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 16, 2008 to Crime and Punishment

FYI -- The Texas Attorney General's office is not "the feds".

The federal prosecuting office in Houston is the United States Attorney's Office (which is part of the United States Department of Justice, headed by the federal Attorney General).

Posted by: Mase on May 16, 2008 9:03 AM

Oops, dumb mistake on my part. It's fixed now, thanks for the catch!

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 16, 2008 10:57 AM

"I don't care what the public thinks," Magidson retorted. "I will do what is right."

That right there says all that needs to be said. He could care less whether even a semblance of propriety is restored to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

The real problem with Chuck Rosenthal didn't end with his resignation - until the corruption within that office is finally addressed, it will continue. Which suits the Republicans just fine. And suits some Democrats just fine as well.

The only hope for people in Harris County who believe in the Constitution and in the rule of law is for C.O. Bradford to win in November. If he doesn't, well, expect the same old, same old.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on May 16, 2008 12:21 PM