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K-Mart Kiddie Roundup

Council to vote on K-Mart settlement payments

And we’re one step closer to officially putting all the lawsuits that stemmed from the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup into the books for good.

[Houston City Council] on Wednesday will consider whether to settle one lawsuit brought by 59 people who were arrested that night. The full settlement amount is $474,117. According to the settlement, each plaintiff will get $4,000, except for one who will get $5,000. Their four lawyers will split $237,117.

The other lawsuit had 43 plaintiffs. The proposed settlement is for $257,500. Each plaintiff will get $2,500 or $3,500. Their attorney, Paul Rosen, will get $125,000.

Eight other lawsuits stemming from the Kmart raid already have been settled. Four others were dismissed. The total cost to the city for all the settlements is $840,117. Senior Assistant City Attorney Robert Cambrice estimated that an additional $60,000 was spent on outside lawyers who helped defend HPD and worked to expunge the arrest records of those caught up in the sweep.

“We came in at less than $1 million,” Cambrice said. “Some people said how many tens of millions this would cost the city. I would say justice was served, and the public purse was appropriately protected.”

Randall Kallinen was one of the attorneys in the suit that may be settled for $474,117.

“The Kmart raid represented one of the most egregious mass civil rights violations in Houston history,” Kallinen said Monday. “I believe it is a reasonable settlement under the circumstances, and all the clients will get some payment for the suffering they went through.”

Well, it is less money than the Ibarra lawsuit, I’ll say that much for it. The original agreement was reached in April, and if this subsequent story is still accurate, then there’s still some action pending for Judge Nancy Atlas, which should be completed in another month. And then, that’s all she wrote. Miya has more.

More K-Mart suits dismissed

This story needs a wee bit more detail.

Several civil rights lawsuits from a 2002 botched street racing raid were dismissed Friday in Houston federal court.

The resolution comes days after the more than 100 plaintiffs in the remaining 10 cases settled their lawsuits with the city of Houston.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas issued an order Friday dismissing the combined cases unless the settlements aren’t resolved by July 18.

Okay, so is this saying that these dismissals are all part of the settlement agreements, or that there are some cases which aren’t a part of that which have now been tossed? I believe it’s the former, but it could have been made a lot clearer.

Three plaintiffs who had not come to agreements with the city or had not been located earlier this week have been reached and also settled.

Well, that answers that question. Barring a collapse in the settlement negotiations, it looks like July 18 is the end of the line for this saga.

Two down, one to go for K-Mart settlement

It’s almost over.

Two of three remaining plaintiffs with legal claims against the city and former Houston police chief C.O. “Brad” Bradford for alleged civil rights violations during a botched raid almost six years ago have reached settlements.

Houston lawyer Michael Kerensky notified U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas late Wednesday about the deals.

Now, with the exception of one plaintiff who cannot be located, the lawsuits filed by dozens of people arrested by Houston police during a 2002 street racing raid at a Kmart parking lot have been resolved.


Monday morning, Atlas approved the 11th-hour settlements for all but three plaintiffs. At that time, there was no deal for Wassim George Matta as well as two other plaintiffs who had not been located. Atlas on Monday agreed to put off jury selection in Matta’s case until April 22. Since then, Matta and Ryan Grenwelge have settled, but lawyers are still trying to locate a man named George Mui.

Okay, so what happens if he can’t be found? Does the settlement get entered and then put into escrow or something until he can be located, or does his case get dismissed? And how long do his attorneys have to find him before some action gets taken one way or the other?

I presume this is a situation where he took a trip without leaving contact information for his attorney, and not that he’s really unfindable. Even if that is the case, I’m a little surprised at the lack of communication between him and his attorney. You lawyers out there, is this unusual, or more common than I thought? Thanks.

Settlement reached in K-Mart Roundup lawsuits

The great K-Mart Kiddie Roundup saga may finally be drawing to a close.

Dozens of people arrested by Houston police during the 2002 street racing raid that turned into a scandal for the Houston Police Department have reached a tentative settlement with the city.

The agreement — which still needs approval by U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas and the City Council — will resolve at least nine of the 10 federal cases that include more than 100 plaintiffs. Lawyers on both sides confirmed the deal, but declined to reveal the settlement amount late Sunday. They will appear in court today, when jury selection was slated to begin, but it is unclear how Atlas will proceed in light of the agreement.

City Attorney Arturo Michel said the agreement makes good sense given the mounting legal costs and the distraction the litigation brought to HPD. The department is a different agency today than before the raid and lawsuits, he added.

“They’ve looked at how they operate, made some changes and they’re moving on,” he said of police officials. “It just closes the chapter on HPD’s attempt to regulate a serious problem, but raises a lot of issues on how it was done.”

The settlement also means that former HPD Chief C.O. Bradford, the Democratic candidate for Harris County district attorney, could avoid recounting the details of his department’s missteps during a trial. Bradford stepped down as police chief in 2003, shortly after the incident.


In the early stages of the cases, Atlas ruled that HPD’s plan to curb street racing was unconstitutional. In 2005, the judge wrote a scathing opinion calling HPD tactics to detain and arrest people not observed violating the law “an unjustified, almost totalitarian, regime of suspicionless stops.”

Last year, an appeals court rebuffed Bradford’s attempt to be removed as a defendant after Atlas ruled he would remain.

The judge allowed the case to proceed in February because of unresolved disputes about whether HPD had a custom of mass detention without individual suspicion and because what Bradford knew about the plan remained unclear.

Other plaintiffs settled their lawsuits, but these final cases took five years to resolve.

Looks like I was right after all to predict that these suits would not make it to a jury but would be settled instead. There may be one last case to go forward, and we still need Judge Atlas to sign off on all this, but this appears to be the end of the line. Which is surely a relief for Chief Bradford, as all this business will now not get a week-long rehashing in the news. I’m sure this incident will come up as a campaign issue, but at least from his perspective it will only be a campaign story, and not a lawsuit-against-the-city story. All things considered, given that there was enough merit to the suits for them to have come to trial, that’s the best outcome for him.

K-Mart lawsuits: Still proceeding

Another request by the city of Houston to throw out ten remaining lawsuits stemming from the infamous 2002 K-Mart Kiddie Roundup has been denied by the judge.

In a decision this week, [U.S. District Judge Nancy] Atlas wrote that the more than 100 plaintiffs could sue about whether the Houston Police Department had a “custom of mass detention without individualized reasonable suspicion.”

A mediation is scheduled in the coming weeks. Without settlements, a joint trial is set for April 14. Other plaintiffs already settled with the city.

In 2005, the judge ruled that the police plan that led to the mass arrests was unconstitutional. In a scathing opinion, she called HPD tactics to detain and arrest people who were not observed violating the law “an unjustified, almost totalitarian, regime of suspicionless stops.”

Civil rights lawsuits were filed after almost 300 people were arrested in August 2002 during a surprise raid on the Kmart parking lot in the 8400 block of Westheimer. The HPD operation was an attempt to combat street racing.

All of the cases name former HPD Chief Clarence C.O. Bradford, who is running as a Democrat for Harris County District Attorney, and allege he knew about the plan. The lawsuits also accused police of brandishing pistols and shotguns and verbal use during the incident.

Most of those arrested were charged with trespassing or curfew violations, but none was accused of street racing. The charges were dropped after public outcry. Three years later, Atlas said the city’s efforts to shut down street racing that summer were unconstitutional.

In court filings, the city tried to avoid trial by arguing that issue was not the mass detentions, but the department’s plan to pursue racing spectators through the use of trespassing laws.


The plaintiffs claimed that HPD maintained a pattern of mass detentions dating back to 1989. But in the most recent ruling, Atlas said those cases were not sufficiently similar to the incident in 2002.

She is allowing the plaintiffs to continue their cases on the disputed facts of the custom during the summer of 2002.

The judge also wrote that there is a genuine dispute about then-Chief Bradford’s knowledge about that summer’s plan.

Bradford lost his appeal of Atlas’ decision to keep him as a defendant in the lawsuits.

You can peruse all my archives on this here. I thought back in 2005 that we’d never see these cases go to court, but that they’d all get settled one way or another. Looks like I may be proved wrong about that in two months. I presume the plaintiffs will get former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre to testify against his erstwhile boss. That ought to make for some compelling action. I don’t know how credible he’ll be – he wasn’t particularly credible at the time; the cross-examination ought to be a doozy – but I’m sure he’ll land a few blows, and he’ll enjoy the heck out of doing so. Stock up on the popcorn now, and we’ll see how it goes.

Bradford still part of K-Mart lawsuit

It’s been almost two years since we last had an update on the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup story.

Former Houston police Chief C.O. Bradford’s request to be severed from a lawsuit related to an infamous crackdown on street racing has been denied by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In an opinion filed Monday, the appellate court ruled that it does not have jurisdiction in the case and, therefore, did not have the authority to grant Bradford’s motion to be removed from the federal lawsuit.

Bradford was chief at the time of the raid. Contacted by phone Monday night, Bradford said he could not comment without consulting with his attorney.

The litigation was filed after almost 300 people were arrested on Aug. 18, 2002, during a raid on the Kmart parking lot in 8400 block of Westheimer in an attempt to combat street racing. Most of those arrested were charged with trespassing or curfew violations, but none was accused of street racing. The raid produced public outcry and the charges were dropped.

In response to the raid, 10 lawsuits involving more than 100 plaintiffs were filed, accusing police of brandishing pistols and shotguns, and verbally abusing some during the incident. Bradford, who was not at the raid, was named in all of the lawsuits.

In July 2005, in a scathing opinion, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas ruled that the lawsuits could go forward.


Bradford had appealed Atlas’ decision. But in its ruling Monday, the 5th Circuit said Bradford had made arguments about fact that could only be ruled on by the district court.

I’m not qualified to opine on the legal mumbojumbo. At a high level, it pretty much comes down to how much Bradford knew, and how much he could or should have known. It’s been clear from the beginning that fired HPD captain Mark Aguirre was directly responsible for the mess as it took place. Aguirre has claimed that Bradford knew what he was doing and approved of it; Bradford has denied that he approved the specific plan. That much certainly sounds like a matter of fact for the lower court to decide. How long it will take to get to that point from here, I have no idea.

K-Mart lawsuits can proceed

It’s never a good thing for a police force defending itself against various lawsuits to be labelled almost totalitarian by the judge.

Calling the operation “almost totalitarian,” a federal judge says a Houston police plan that led to 278 arrests in a Kmart parking lot almost three years ago was unconstitutional.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas allows all 10 lawsuits filed in the wake of the Aug. 18, 2002, mass arrest, and a smaller operation the previous night, to proceed.

The “plan to detain all persons … with no regard for the existence of open businesses and their customers, is facially unconstitutional,” Atlas wrote in an opinion made public this week.


Atlas threw out a number of the lawsuits’ claims, but allowed the plaintiffs to go forward with allegations that Bradford knew about the mass arrest plan, known as the “Jackson plan” for the officer who devised it.

“It reflected an unjustified, almost totalitarian, regime of suspicionless stops and was completely inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment rights Americans hold dear,” Atlas wrote, referring to the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures.

She also allowed them to go forward with an accusation that a police “zero-tolerance” policy customarily allowed improper arrests and that Bradford knew about it.

Bradford has denied knowing about the plan or the policy.

I’d love to know which of the plaintiffs’ claims were tossed, but never mind that. We’re approaching the three-year anniversary of the great K-Mart Kiddie Roundup and we’re still nowhere near the end of the story.

Joseph Lanza, an attorney representing more than 60 of the more than 100 plaintiffs, called Atlas’ ruling “a signal victory for the plaintiffs because it continues to allow them to press their claims in federal court.”

Senior Assistant City Attorney Robert Cambrice said it was merely another step in a long process. He predicted the lawsuits will never reach trial.

“When you look at the total picture, the city is still in great shape,” Cambrice said.

They can’t both be right, but I do agree with Attorney Cambrice in one regard – I don’t think these lawsuits will go to trial. I think they’ll eventually be settled out of court. My gut feeling is that taking them to a jury would represent a sizeable crapshoot for both sides, and as such there’s plenty of room to come to an accomodation that should be suitable to all.

On the other hand, with ten suits total, there’s sure to be some wide variance in the level of risk acceptance among the plaintiffs, meaning that one or more may decide to take that dice roll and hope for the best. If so, then whatever the outcome is of those cases, I’ll bet the others that follow will either get dropped or quickly settled once a verdict is in.

But I’m just guessing. Any actual lawyers want to weigh in on this, please be my guest.

Aguirre firing upheld

An arbitrator has ruled against former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre, who was fired by the city for his role in the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup.

Thursday’s decision came six months after Aguirre testified that he was wrongfully fired in January 2003 as a scapegoat when the raid became a political controversy.


“Capt. Aguirre led and was responsible for a tragedy that ultimately affected not only many officers but the citizens as well,” John B. Barnard, the arbitrator, wrote in his decision.

After the arrests prompted public fallout, the city dropped charges against everyone arrested. What followed was the police department’s largest internal affairs investigation, resulting in disciplinary action against 32 officers.

Aguirre’s attorney, Terry W. Yates, said Thursday that Aguirre likely will appeal the decision to a state district court or file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city.

Oh, good Lord. Will this ever be over?

Aguirre’s arbitration ends

Fired HPD Captain Mark Aguirre’s arbitration hearing has ended with a little media bashing.

Fired Houston police Capt. Mark Aguirre’s civil service hearing ended Wednesday with testimony from Executive Assistant Police Chief Chuck McClelland, who called media footage of the infamous Kmart arrests an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of the Houston Police Department.

Referencing video footage of numerous youths handcuffed and sitting in a Kmart parking lot in the 8400 block of Westheimer, McClelland said, “I don’t think that was an accurate portrayal of the Houston Police Department, of the hardworking men and women that were involved in that operation, and it’s unfair.”


McClelland, who approved an initial plan for the raid, also was disciplined and given a seven-day suspension. He is appealing that disciplinary action, which is pending.

You can draw your own conclusions about that, but first let’s go to the Wayback Machine and see what some other police officers said at the time:

“I couldn’t believe we were being told to arrest all those kids. It was just utterly, utterly senseless,” said one officer involved, who violated department policy by discussing the arrests and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Captain [Mark] Aguirre was put in charge, and it went to hell in a handbasket,” said a police supervisor who was at the scene, also violating department policy and requesting anonymity.


The two supervisors said police had “scout cars” and undercover officers working surveillance at the gathering spot for weeks in preparation for Sunday’s raid.

“But we got out there, and no one was racing,” said one of the supervisors. “So Aguirre just said, `Arrest them all for trespass.’

“It was like, `Kill them all and let God sort them out,’ ” said the other supervisor. “I guess we’re just lucky he didn’t order us to fire warning shots into the crowd or anything.”

Both supervisors said many of the people arrested were not in cars. Many were eating food from the Sonic, which was open until 2 a.m., or had been shopping at Kmart.

Like I said, draw your own conclusions.

Aguirre’s attorney, Terry W. Yates, said he thinks Aguirre will be vindicated.

“This is the only appeal that’s really going to be heard and fully bring these facts out. We’ve shown this arbitrator, we believe, that what those men and women did that night, they were justified in doing,” Yates said.

If that’s all he’s got, I wouldn’t put money down on that proposition. We’ll know what the arbitrator thinks soon enough.

Aguirre in arbitration

Former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre, fired for his role in the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup fiasco of 2002, is in arbitration and seeking to be reinstated.

During emotional and sometimes angry testimony Tuesday, former Houston Police Department Capt. Mark Aguirre claimed he was wrongfully fired and was betrayed by his co-workers.

During a hearing before an independent arbitrator, Aguirre said he wants his job back and the pay he has lost since he was fired almost two years ago for his handling of Operation ERACER, a controversial raid at a west Houston Kmart parking lot that became a legal fiasco for the city.

“Sir, you can’t put me back together — I know that,” he told the hearing examiner. “You have no idea what’s happened to me, how I was betrayed by my co-workers and my Police Department. … They destroyed me financially. They destroyed me reputationwise. You can’t give me my reputation back. But I want that back pay, at the very least. … I want my job back, and I want to be given some measure of dignity.”

An attorney for the city, calling Aguirre the “mastermind” of the raid, claimed the fired police captain has no recourse.

Aguirre, 47, said he did nothing wrong and violated no rules or department policies when he embarked on the sweep, designed to crack down on racing enthusiasts and spectators clogging west Houston parking lots. Aguirre also said HPD’s administration had approved plans for the operation, but scapegoated officers when the controversy became a political firestorm.


Aguirre speculated Tuesday that former Mayor Lee Brown directed all charges be dropped to protect former Police Chief C.O. Bradford, who publicly disavowed knowledge of the raid. When pressed, Aguirre could not provide proof, saying only, “That’s my gut feeling.”

What I know is this: That raid was a FUBAR of the first order. Someone, probably several someones, needed to be accountable for it. It’s possible that Aguirre is being railroaded, though if there’s any injustice here it’s much more likely to be the case that Aguirre didn’t have enough company on the unemployment line. For sure, a “gut feeling” on his part isn’t enough to convince me that the fix was in.

I will be surprised if Aguirre wins his case. If he does, then it’s highly likely that former Mayor Lee Brown and former HPD Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford got off way too lightly. That may be the case anyway, of course, but until someone like an arbiter agrees with Aguirre that he got shafted, the official story will remain in effect.

Aguirre wants his job back

Former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre, fired for his role in the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup fiasco, has filed an appeal with an arbitrator to get his old job back. He claims that his firing was personally motivated.

Houston police officials on Monday defended their investigation of a 2002 raid that became a legal fiasco for the department, denying that then-Police Chief C.O. Bradford influenced the probe.

Attorneys for former Capt. Mark Aguirre, who was fired in January 2003 for his handling of the botched raid at a west Houston parking lot, argued that long-standing hard feelings between Aguirre and Bradford may have motivated Aguirre’s downfall.

In a hearing before an independent arbitrator, Aguirre’s attorneys tried to spotlight a feud between him and Bradford that worsened significantly in the months before the captain’s termination.

But Assistant Police Chief Vickie King, who led the investigation while she was a lieutenant in the Internal Affairs Division, said Bradford did not influence the investigation.

“Anyone who tried to manipulate something of this magnitude, there’s no way. We had over 500 people giving statements,” King said during a hearing before an independent arbitrator, who will decide whether Aguirre should be reinstated. “You’d have to be an incredible puppet master.”

King made her comments while being questioned by Aguirre’s attorneys. The Aguirre team has promised to unveil some “surprises” about HPD’s command staff when the hearing resumes next Monday.

This could be a lot of fun. Stay tuned.

Bye bye, BAMF

Houston Police Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford has announced his resignation in September, saying he needs to spend more time with his pregnant wife. It’s been a rough year for Bradford, and it’s hard to imagine the next mayor keeping him on – both Sanchez and Berry had pledged to get rid of him – so this is just as well. I suppose his departure before the start of heavy politicking may blunt his tenure as a campaign issue, but not too much. He’s just a proxy for Mayor Brown in that regard anyway, and the problems associated with his service will still be plenty fresh in people’s minds.

You can mark this as the beginning of the end of the Brown Administration, a prospect that is no doubt being celebrated about now.

Aguirre mulling City Council run

I thought that when the trial of former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre ended in an acquittal that I wouldn’t have anything more to say about the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup. Thankfully, that’s not so:

Minutes after having the infamous Kmart raid wiped from his record, former Houston police Capt. Mark Aguirre said Monday that he is considering running for City Council.

“Essentially, I’ve been dealt a lot of lemons and I’m going to make some lemonade,” Aguirre said on the criminal courthouse steps. “And it’s going to be sweet.”

But he stopped shy of making an official announcement, saying he will decide by Aug. 1.


Aguirre denied Monday that he was seeking revenge by running for office, saying, “I need a job.”

He discussed his possible run for office after state District Judge Carol G. Davies granted an order to expunge his record in the Kmart case.

sniff…It’s like a gift that keeps on giving. I must be the luckiest blogger in the world.

If at first you don’t succeed

Hey, here’s a great idea: Let’s crack down on illegal street racing in Houston, and this time let’s do it (this is the best part) by arresting people who are actually caught while racing illegally.

Lt. Shannon Broze, who oversees HPD’s traffic enforcement, was told by Police Chief C.O. Bradford to implement the plan to deal with the street-racing problem. She wouldn’t give specifics, but she said patrol officers from every patrol division in Houston were placed on Westheimer on Saturday and will be there indefinitely.

“Drag racing on Westheimer has been an ongoing problem that’s been addressed by units here at Westside, but they’re needing more help, and that’s why the chief’s sending more units to help them out,” Broze said.

She said police are basically running high-visibility traffic enforcement. The strategy is to scare street racers and would-be racers with the threat of tickets and arrests.

“First and foremost, we’re focusing on racers; second, aggressive driving; and third, any moving violations that we see,” she said.

Why, that’s so crazy it just might work. What will they think of next?

Lawsuit says Chief knew about K-Mart raid

Just when you thought it was safe…A federal lawsuit filed by 62 plaintiffs alleges that Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford knew and approved of the K-Mart raid last August. Among others, it names former Captain Mark Aguirre and Council member Michael “Boy Wonder” Berry as defendants.

The suit alleges Bradford was aware of a plan for making indiscriminate sweeps as long as four months before the Kmart mass arrests.

Aguirre, whom the suit calls the mastermind of the sweeps plan, outlined his idea in a memo as early as May 13, 2002, the suit states.

It says Bradford again was informed of the plan in an Aug. 13 memo titled, “Anticipated Mass Arrests from Operation ERACER.” The chief “ultimately approved of, or at the very least, acquiesced to the plan,” the suit alleges.

It says the 1 a.m. raid at the Kmart in the 8400 block of Westheimer was part of an effort to curry political favor with area residents and businesses.

Aguirre first devised the mass arrest technique in response to complaints about crime near the Greyhound Bus Terminal in the 2600 block of Main and street people camps under the Pierce Elevated, the suit says.

Police carried out several sweeps in the areas, the suit says, and “numerous innocent, law-abiding citizens were unlawfully detained, seized and / or arrested in the roundups.”

“Despite its blatant illegality, the plan was popular with residents and businesses, and Capt. Mark Aguirre won praise from them and civic leaders,” the suit says.

It says police and city officials knew that the raids meant that innocent people were being arrested and their constitutional rights violated, but continued to support the raids.

Berry accompanied officers on a “dry run” raid in which 25 people were arrested at James Coney Island the night before the Kmart raid, the suit says.

It describes Berry as a strong supporter of Aguirre’s tactics.

The suit also names John Jennings as representative of Sage Interests, manager of the Kmart and Sonic property, accusing him of falsely telling police that those arrested were trespassing.

I wonder if the commenter on this post is involved in some way with this lawsuit.

Charges dropped against Wenzel

All charges against Sgt. Ken Wenzel, the second former HPD officer indicted on five counts of official oppression stemming from the botched K-Mart raid last august, have been dropped in the wake of former Captain Mark Aguirre’s acquittal.

Prosecutor Tommy La Fon said a jury’s acquittal Monday of the raid’s commander, Capt. Mark Aguirre, after two weeks of trial was a key reason why he asked state District Judge Carol G. Davies to dismiss the five misdemeanor counts of official oppression against Wenzel.

La Fon said he also consulted with District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal about the matter.

“The strongest evidence we had was against Capt. Aguirre,” La Fon said. “The jury heard that and concluded that no criminal wrongdoing occurred, and acquitted him.”

No surprise there. Meanwhile, HPD Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford is under heavy fire due to the crime lab problems and other issues.

A majority of council members said a series of problems beyond the crime lab at HPD has damaged their confidence in Bradford, including last summer’s mass arrests at a westside Kmart and his trial on aggravated perjury charges, for which he was acquitted.

“He should take the high road and resign,” said Councilman Gabriel Vasquez, who has consistently raised questions about mismanagement in the Police Department. “He deserves an opportunity to explain himself to council and the public, but short of that, he should (go).”

Eight of Vasquez’s 13 fellow council members told the Chronicle they agreed.

The Houston Police Officers Union, which has long expressed its dissatisfaction with the chief, also called for his resignation.

“It’s time for him to step down,” said union chief Hans Marticiuc.

The three declared mayoral candidates are staking out their positions on the chief and HPD’s recent woes.

One candidate — City Councilman Michael Berry — said Thursday that Bradford should be asked to resign as a way to rebuild confidence in the Police Department.

Another — former Councilman Orlando Sanchez — has said previously that one of his first acts as mayor would be to replace Bradford.

The two other candidates — businessman Bill White and state rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston — are less pointed about Bradford’s future.


Berry said the Police Department suffers a “crisis of confidence among its police officers” because of the crime lab and other issues.

“I would bring him in and ask for his resignation,” Berry said. “He’s given too many good years to fire him. I would tell him that a resignation would help restore confidence in the police department.”

Sanchez said he would not speculate about how term-limited Mayor Lee Brown should handle Bradford. But Sanchez noted that he has already pledged to replace Bradford if elected.

“I happen to like Chief Bradford personally,” Sanchez said. “But as I have said, the Police Department needs new leadership.”

White said Bradford should be given the opportunity to explain his side of the story.

“In my administration, the chief would be held accountable for any serious management failures,” White said. “I’d give anyone an opportunity, then I would assess the evidence and make a prompt decision on management.”

A spokesman for Turner said he would not comment about campaign issues until he announces his candidacy July 9.

There are two dynamics at work here, both of which are mentioned in this article. One is that Chief Bradford is popular in the African-American community, which makes criticizing him easier for Sanchez and Berry and tougher for White and Turner. I fully expect Sanchez and Berry to hammer on this somewhat, since it not only causes discomfort for the other two candidates but it plays to their anti-Lee Brown base and to anyone else who might be looking for a real change from Brown’s tenure.

On the other hand, as noted in the Houston Area Survey (see Figure Three here), traffic is the big concern this year. By harping on Chief Bradford, Berry and Sanchez run the risk of spending too little time addressing what voters want to hear. There’s a limit to how often they can go to this well. Likewise, White and Turner can turn this around on them – “OK, we get it, they don’t like Chief Bradford. What do they plan on doing about traffic once they’re done firing him?”

Anyway, to get back to the original topic, this should be the last we hear of the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup until one of the civil cases comes to court. Let’s hope the city does a better job with that than they did in proving Aguirre’s criminal intent.

Aguirre acquitted

Former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre was acquitted on all counts of official oppression stemming from the botched K-Mart Kiddie Roundup raid last August.

Forewoman Elaine Sayers said the jury, which began deliberating Friday, was unable to find evidence Aguirre tried to arrest anyone illegally.

“It was very hard,” she said. “In reading the charges, we had to show intent on his part to make an illegal arrest.”

I guess the jury decided that indifference – and I do believe Aguirre was at best only slightly concerned about who got arrested – is not the same as intent, a conclusion that I find defensible. This pretty much wraps up everything except for the pending lawsuits – the only thing stupider than going ahead with the trial of Sgt. Ken Wenzel was the previous trial of Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford for reckless cussing. Of course, this is Chuck Rosenthal we’re talking about, so don’t count on anything just yet.

Aguirre was mostly classy in his triumph, though he couldn’t help taking a quick victory lap:

Asked about the next step in his life, Aguirre quipped, “I’m gonna run for mayor. I want to fix potholes.”

Heh. Better hold on to the euphoria, those civil trials won’t be nearly as much fun.

UPDATE: Ginger and the Chronicle make their assessments of the verdict. I do think it was appropriate for Aguirre to get fired, but I can’t disagree with the Chron’s contention that there needs to be more firings at higher levels.

Defense passes on calling Bradford

Well, shoot. The defense attorney for former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre has rested its case without calling Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford as a hostile witness. Closing arguments are today, with jury deliberations expected to start today as well. What a huge letdown!

I guess the strategy is to say that the state didn’t make its case. Might be a bit of a tough sell after a week of testimony, but then that may be part of the point – “They droned on for a week and they still have nothing!” Seems risky to me, but there wasn’t a lot of reporting on the defense cross-examinations of the prosecution witnesses, so maybe they have reason to feel confident. We’ll see.

UPDATE: It’s in the jury’s hands now.

Prosecution rests, defense opens

The prosecution rested its case against former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre yesterday, going with a witness who said he felt “duped” by his former mentor instead of with Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford as I thought they might.

“He was a mentor of mine,” Sgt. John Zitzmann said during questioning by the defense. “This whole event completely turned me against him.”


After the raid sparked a public furor and led to a police internal investigation, Zitzmann said, Aguirre tried to make him talk about the in-house probe, a violation of department policy.

Zitzmann said Aguirre wanted to know what questions Zitzmann was being asked, then offered to write the answers for the probe. Zitzmann said he did not comply with Aguirre’s request. Instead, he called a union lawyer and reported the incident.

“It’s my opinion that, because he wasn’t getting the support he was expecting, he was very concerned with his career,” Zitzmann said.


Zitzmann testified Tuesday that he felt “duped” by Aguirre. The raid was supposed to target illegal street racing, but the focus shifted to trespassers just a few days before the arrests. Zitzmann said some of the officers questioned the change but were assured by Aguirre and [Sgt. Ken] Wenzel that they had researched the law.

After the prosecution wrapped up its case, the defense began its task of putting Chief Bradford on trial.

Defense attorney Terry Yates began his case Wednesday with a captain who testified that Aguirre suggested the raid after a meeting with Police Chief C.O. Bradford last spring.

“Aguirre made a recommendation that we make a mass arrest, tow vehicles and take it out of their pockets,” Capt. J.P. Mokwa said. “The chief praised it.”

And finally, the moment we’re all waiting for:

Bradford is expected to be called as a hostile witness by the defense before the case wraps up.

Schweet! Pop the popcorn and settle in, that will be a hoot.

Prosecution presses on

The prosecution continues to makes its points in the case against former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre on five counts of official oppression stemming from the botched K-Mart raid last year. The DA has two main thrusts to its argument, which are that Captain Aguirre operated on his own, and that the arresting officers made no attempt to distinguish between actual offenders and innocent bystanders. Yesterday, Assistant Chief Charles McClelland, who approved the original plan, testified that he did not and would not have approved what Aguirre actually did.

“I didn’t prohibit anybody from making any lawful arrests, but clearly our target was illegal street racers,” Assistant Chief Charles McClelland Jr. testified.

McClelland said he “had no idea” that then-Capt. Mark Aguirre had changed the plan and that he never saw an Aug. 16 memo Aguirre sent to the dozens of officers involved in the raid instructing them to make arrests for trespassing.


McClelland told the jury in state District Judge Carol G. Davies’ court he signed off on a plan Aug. 1 that specifically dictated “those believed to be spectators should be directed toward the exit of the parking lot.”

If Aguirre had notified McClelland of the change in the plan, McClelland said, he would have called off the operation.

“I fully expected spectators to be released if they hadn’t done anything or weren’t wanted (on warrants),” McClelland said.

Defense attorney Terry Yates argued that a supervisor at the scene can change a plan. McClelland said the plan could only be changed for an extreme situation or “to protect someone’s life.”

You can be sure that the defense will revisit McClelland’s claims that he knew nothing about the modified plans when they put on their case. The defense has asserted all along that the top brass at HPD, in particular Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford, knew what was going on and that the denials are just CYA. They insist that Aguirre, who was greatly disliked by Bradford, became a convenient scapegoat for this snafu.

Getting back to the prosecution, Monday’s testimony by 17-year-old Jessica Paine was about the other prong in the attack.

As she was driving away from the Sonic drive-in next to a Kmart Super Center in the 8400 block of Westheimer, Paine testified Monday, a Houston police officer knocked on her window with gun drawn and told her and her best friend to “get out of the goddamn car.”


She had no idea why she was being stopped, she said. She and her friend had been there looking at all the souped-up cars, as they do every weekend.

About 12:15 a.m. Aug. 18, they ordered two cherry limeades and an ice cream sundae [at the Sonic drive-thru adjacent to the K-Mart] and were leaving for home in time to make Paine’s curfew.

Instead, she said, she was forced from her car at gunpoint, herded to the back of the strip center, placed in plastic flex cuffs and hauled to jail two or three hours later. She wasn’t released until that afternoon. When she got to her towed car, she said, the ice cream was melted and the two drinks sat full in the console.

The testimony about “souped-up cars” is interesting, since all along the reports have said there were no drag racers to be found at the parking lot. Not that having such a car makes you an illegal street racer, of course. Still, this is another point that I expect the defense to return to, since they have also claimed that the arrests were righteous.

Though it doesn’t say, I daresay the state is close to resting its case. A witness like the Assistant Chief is a high point, so unless they’ve got Chief Bradford himself lined up – and they very well may, since I’ll bet the defense will call him if they don’t – I’ve gotta think they’re done. It’s already amazing they had this much testimony in a misdemeanor trial, but then this was never an ordinary trial.

Aguirre trial update

The prosecution is still presenting its case against former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre. On Thursday, Sgt. (formerly Lt.) Frank Jackson testified that Aguirre made some changes to the original plan after it had been submitted for approval:

Jackson said Aguirre made key changes in plans for the Aug. 18 raid after superiors had approved them. The main change, he said, was to make mass arrests for attempted trespassing — a charge that does not require approval by the district attorney’s office.

The initial plan, he said, was to target lawbreakers for a variety of traffic and conduct offenses and release the crowd of spectators who gathered in the 8400 block of Westheimer to watch the racing and admire the cars.

But as the backlash mounted, Jackson said, Aguirre asked him whether superiors had approved a finalized plan or just a draft that he could change at his discretion.

“I said it was sent up as a draft but it came back with (Assistant Chief C.A.) McClelland’s approval,” Jackson testified.

On hearing that news, he said, Aguirre remarked: “Well, I’m f—– then.”

Yesterday, IAD Captain Vicki King testified that in doing so, Aguirre violated department policies:

Assistant Chief C.A. McClelland approved the plan, but “its entire focus shifted” under Aguirre, King said.

“When a plan has been approved by an assistant chief, it can’t be changed without going back to the assistant chief,” she said.

Asked if Aguirre could suspend a Police Department policy on trespassing arrests for purposes of the crackdown, King said only the police chief can do so.

She also said Aguirre was authorized to charge 278 arrestees with attempted trespassing — the lowest level of misdemeanor — without consulting the district attorney’s office. But, she said, the more serious misdemeanor of actual trespassing requires screening by a prosecutor.

Prosecutors Tommy LaFon and Vic Wisner contend the charges were invalid because police vouched for offenses they did not see committed. All were later dismissed.

Pretty straightforward so far – Aguirre did his own thing without approval, so the whole mess was his fault. Defense Attorney Terry Yates hasn’t done much so far; I suspect he’s saving the heavy artillery for after the prosecution rests.

First witnesses called in Aguirre trial

The DA called a few respectable suburban arrestees and the defense did its best to hogtie Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford to the defendant in the opening day of former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre’s trial on official oppression charges. Let’s go to the videotape:

The four witnesses said officers ignored their protests of innocence, bound them with plastic handcuffs and made them sit in the parking lot for hours before hauling them off to jail.

All said they were charged with attempted trespass, a misdemeanor, but the charges were later dismissed.

On cross-examination, each acknowledged hiring an attorney to seek compensation from the city.

Not sure why it matters if these folks are exploring a wrongful arrest lawsuit against the city. I guess defense attorney Terry Yates is trying to make them look greedy, which in turn may make the jury think they deserved to be arrested. Or something.

Yates said Aguirre had joined the police force in 1980 and climbed the ranks, earning praise and trust from superiors, including Police Chief C.O. Bradford.

Aguirre had cleaned up crime in other areas, Yates said, so Bradford sought his help in devising a plan to stop street racing.

Aguirre’s plan called for a “zero tolerance” sweep of problem areas — arresting, rather than merely ticketing, lawbreakers. Department superiors approved the idea, Yates said.

“Captain Aguirre never ordered anybody arrested,” Yates said. “He went through the crowd and released several people.

“From what he could see, the officers were making arrests based on probable cause.”

Yates said Aguirre was made a scapegoat because of an unrelated conflict with Bradford.

Boy, if the defense calls Bradford as a witness, that oughta be more fun than OJ’s testimony.

I’m curious about the claim that Aguirre personally released several people. For one thing, that’s the first mention of it that I’ve seen. Second, on what grounds was he releasing people? Did he have personal knowledge that they alone were not involved with the alleged drag racing but everyone else there was? This sounds awfully fishy to me. I presume that if Yates mentioned this in his opening statement that he’ll produce witnesses to that effect when he presents his case. I’m looking forward to that.

This case is a day old and already it’s meeting my expectations for entertainment value. I’d like to thank the DA’s office for waiting until the summer rerun season began before commencing with the trial. Very thoughtful of them.

Wanted: People who don’t follow the news

Jury selection has begun in the trial of former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre on five counts of official oppression, and everyone involved is having a hard time finding jurors who don’t already have an opinion on the case.

At the end of the day Monday, only 45 of 97 original members of the jury panel were left. Some had schedule conflicts and other reasons for not being able to serve, but many said they had formed opinions that would affect their verdict in the case.

I’ll say it again: if Andrea Yates can get a fair trial in Houston, so can these guys.

Preview of coming attractions:

Potential jurors also were interviewed two days last week, and today they can expect to be queried “ad nauseam” about other HPD problems, such as its faulty crime lab reports, said Aguirre’s attorney Terry Yates.

Yates said the Kmart lawsuits, including one seeking $100 million from the city, provide a motive for arrestees to lie.

News reports, he said, painted Aguirre as persecuting innocent bystanders when he failed to find any drag racing going on. But in fact, Yates said, the plan was to arrest spectators who had gathered to watch the racing.

“Chief Bradford knew what was going to happen,” Yates said.

Aguirre won’t be the only person on trial here. Stay tuned.

Separate trials in K-Mart case

District Judge Carol Davies has granted a motion by K-Mart Kiddie Roundup defendant Sgt. Ken Wenzel to sever his trial from that of Captian Mark Aguirre.

In requesting the severance, [Wenzel’s defense attorney Joe] Bailey argued several points that he said could prejudice the jury against Wenzel if he were tried with Aguirre. They included the fact that Wenzel did not participate in formulating or directing the police raid from which the charges arise; that Wenzel did not participate in a raid the day before at another location; and that Wenzel might not be able to call Aguirre as a witness if they were tried together.

Wenzel and Aguirre “have inconsistent and incompatible defenses,” the motion stated. “When evidence is admitted against one co-defendant, but is inadmissible against the other co-defendant, severance is necessary … ”

Two items of interest here. One is that Wenzel clearly fears that Aguirre, as the designated villain of this drama, could sink him by association. Wenzel’s name never came up in any of the news stories until the original indictments were handed down, while Aguirre’s been in the news repeatedly from the get-go. Frankly, I think Wenzel is wise to be concerned. Idle thought – might he plead out in return for testimony against Aguirre? Probably not, especially since Aguirre’s trial appears to be first, but you never know.

Second, as Aguirre’s trial is set to begin on Monday, we might finally get the answers to some questions about the raid itself and Chief C.O. “BAMF”‘s involvement in it. Well, maybe it’ll be wild speculation and assorted allegations, but that’s even more fun. Stay tuned, hijinx will surely be ensuing in short order.

New venue denied for K-Mart trial

The attempt by attorneys for former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre and former HPD Sergeant Ken Wenzel to get a change of venue in their upcoming trial on five counts of official oppression has failed. State District Judge Carol Davies made essentially the same point I did back then:

“We have certainly seen many high-profile cases in which we’ve been successful at getting jurors,” Davies said in handing down her ruling. Earlier this year Davies presided over the murder trial of Clara Harris, the dentist convicted of running over and killing her adulterous husband. That case drew national media attention.

She’ll let the defense team raise the issue again during voir dire if need be, which is reasonable enough. Now let’s get this show on the road!

Change of venue?

The attorneys for former HPD Captain Mark Aguirre and Sergeant Steve Wenzel are requesting a change of venue for their upcoming trial on five counts of official oppression, claiming that the local coverage has poisoned the jury pool against them.

Aguirre’s attorney, Terry Yates, said “the amount of coverage and the negativity of the coverage” would prejudice a fair trial in Houston. Wenzel’s attorney, Joe Bailey, said “day to day coverage” of the case will likely continue.

The lawyers did not ask for any particular location for the trial.

Whatever. Personally, I think that if Andrea Yates can be tried in Houston, then these guys can, too. Nice try, fellas.

Chief gets a clean record

The judge who gave a directed verdict of “not guilty” to Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford in his perjury trial has now expunged the arrest from his permanent record.

State District Judge Brian Rains, the judge who called off the chief’s trial on Jan. 23, granted Bradford’s request to have his record expunged, which means that chief can legally deny the matter except when testifying in a court. In that case, he would be obligated only to say that the case had been expunged.

Emphasis mine. Boy howdy, wouldn’t that be the king of all ironies?

Now if only we could expunge everyone else’s arrest record in this incident that easily…

Rosenthal finally responds

It took an op-ed piece written by a couple of defense attorneys, but Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal has finally commented on the perjury trial of Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford with a letter to the editor in today’s Chron. I’m including it in full below to More link for my own ease of retrieval later. I have no desire to rebut any point the DA makes, but I will say this: It sure took him long enough to say something about this case, and it’s more than a bit craven in my book to do so in a way that doesn’t allow any questions to be asked of him. Maybe if he’d spoken to reporters around the time of the case (I recall the news stories saying he was “unavailable” when the verdict came in), he wouldn’t have smartass defense attorneys taking such potshots at him in print in the first place.


Let’s not be hasty here

Whatever else you may say about this op-ed piece in the Chron that comes to the shocking conclusion that the recent perjury prosecution of Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford may have been a waste of time and/or politically biased, you can’t say they rushed to their judgment, since the trial ended a month ago. It mostly recapitulates the points that have been noted here and elsewhere (the best reporting on the case comes from this Houston Press article), though it does contain one nugget to file away the next time you hear an assistant DA insist that they “had” to take this case to trial:

Very few cases of disputed testimony between two or more witnesses testifying under oath in an evidentiary hearing end with a grand jury indictment for perjury, even when those witnesses have completely opposite versions of the facts. For example, a judge referred Anna Nicole Smith to the Harris County district attorney for allegedly lying on the witness stand in the will contest of deceased oil tycoon, E. Pierce Marshall’s estate, but the district attorney has not taken any action.

I’d love to hear Chuck Rosenthal’s answer to that assertion. Perhaps they didn’t want to appear to be grandstanding.

Anyway, the next sounds you’ll hear from this case will be when Captain Aguirre goes to trial in a few months.

Hail to the chief

Police Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford is back at work amid handsprings and huzzahs from supporters, and he gave them a good demonstration of his political skills:

Asked whether the ordeal caused him to fear for people wrongly charged and without his resources, the chief said, “Clearly, part of the system failed me, but eventually, the system worked.”


“I don’t know why it was pushed forward,” Bradford said of the perjury case against him. “It couldn’t have been the evidence they were looking at.”

Nevertheless, he said, “I expect (Harris County District Attorney) Chuck Rosenthal and myself to work together professionally” in the future.

Such magnaminity. I’m getting goosebumps.

But seriously, is he a candidate for mayor as some have speculated?

As for rumors that he may run for mayor, Bradford asked the large crowd of well-wishers in his conference room, “What do you think of that?” and received a round of applause.

“I have not made that decision,” he said. “There are people out there who want me to, people who believe this ordeal has put a burning fire in my belly.

“What I’m doing right now is wearing the badge of the Houston police chief,” he said. “I will make that decision later.”

Tease. I will say that he better make up his mind soon, before all of the downtown power brokers settle on someone else. According to John Williams, they’re leaning towards Orlando Sanchez, unless Ned Holmes decides to get into the race. Not that there aren’t other avenues of support, but the you-snooze-you-lose risk is high when there are this many candidates sniffing around. Get in or get out of the way, Chief.

The last word on the Bradford trial

The Houston Press has weighed in on the perjury trial of Houston Police Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford, and it’s almost embarrassing how much more detail they have than the Chron did. I could quote large bits of it, but you should really just read it. If you live in Harris County and weren’t already convinced that District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal is a clown, this will go a long way towards doing so.

Here’s my favorite section, in the Strange Bedfellows Department:

As it was, the chief’s trial had already made allies of such unlikely folks as former mayor Bob Lanier, former HPD chief Harry Caldwell, Nation of Islam Minister Robert Muhammad and Quanell X, accompanied by members of his New Black Panther Party done up in uniforms and shades. Caldwell, who gave Bradford his sergeant stripes back in the early ’80s, called the charges “a travesty of justice” and “a crying shame.” He admitted he was not altogether comfortable with his newfound activist comrades. Quanell X, a schoolkid during Caldwell’s tenure as chief, was simply puzzled by this new ally. “Who’s Harry Caldwell?” he asked blankly.

Obviously, Quanell X is objectively pro-police, and former Chief Harry Caldwell and former Mayor Bob Lanier are pawns of the Nation of Islam. It sure isn’t easy picking sides these days!

He’s gone

Didn’t take long to find out Captain Mark Aguirre’s fate: He’s fired.

Acting Police Chief Tim Oettmeier announced Aguirre’s firing during a briefing to City Council on the Kmart raids.

“What we witnessed was nothing more than the political lynching of Aguirre and they used Oettmeier as the henchman,” said Aguirre’s attorney, Terry Yates.

Aguirre, who had his first chance to speak out today, said the department is using him as a scapegoat and HPD is trying to paint him as a rogue.

“They treated me like a department pinata,” Aguirre said. “This department is hopelessly corrupt and this is a grotesque charade posing as justice.”

It should get more fun from here, now that Aguirre has no reason not to speak up. I don’t expect any bombshell revelations from Aguirre, but the bluster ought to be worth a few giggles.

One thing not mentioned in this story but noted on the Channel 11 newscast is that the union is not standing by Aguirre. Given that they vocally backed all of the other officers who were up for discipline, that says something to me. I don’t know what will happen at Aguirre’s trial, but it’s pretty much him against the world at this point.

Will he stay or will he go?

Now that we know that while Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford may have a potty mouth, he at least doesn’t lie about it (and I for one am sleeping better at night with the security that this knowledge brings), we can safely turn our attention to the disposition of Captain Mark Aguirre, who will find out this week if HPD plans on terminating him.

Aguirre, indicted on five counts of official oppression in connection with the raid on a Kmart parking lot, attended his Loudermill hearing in acting Police Chief Tim Oettmeier’s office.

Lawyer Terry Yates, who represents Aguirre in the department investigation into the raid, said Oettmeier told Aguirre he will announce his decision soon.


Loudermill hearings take the name of a Cleveland, Ohio, school bus mechanic who was fired after he failed an eye examination. The mechanic appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1985 that tenured employees must be granted a hearing before being terminated.

After Oettmeier read the allegations against Aguirre, “we spoke our piece,” Yates said. “Our position is, we did nothing wrong, either criminally or administratively.”

Oettmeier listened attentively to his points, Yates said. “I’m going to take him at his word,” he said. “He said his mind was open.”

All well and good, though apparently no one has ever come out of a Loudermill hearing at HPD with his job intact. Fellow indictee Sgt. Ken Wenzel chose to resign rather than go through with it. But we’ll see.

Politics, schmolitics

Ginger says the following in the comments to this entry about the decision to prosecute Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford for perjury:

Anyone who didn’t think this was all about HPD internal politics wasn’t paying attention. At least it didn’t result in arresting hundreds of people the way other parts of the Aguirre-Bradford feud have done.

Today, Chron metro politics columnist John Williams speculates on that very topic and decides that there’s at least a little smoke, if not a raging fire as he compares Bradford’s treatment to that of Republican activist/kingmaker Steven Hotze, who was nobilled on a drunk driving charge awhile back:

On Oct. 26, 2000, Hotze failed a field sobriety test after his car was seen weaving and crowding several vehicles, including a police car that veered onto a curb to avoid a collision. He refused to take a breath test.

While humiliating for almost anyone, drunken driving charges could have been politically devastating for Hotze, who believes that biblical teachings should play a bigger role in government. He has said that laws against drunken driving are among the moral laws derived from religion.

The DWI case lay dormant in Rosenthal’s office until last summer because the officer who administered Hotze’s field sobriety test was accused, in an unrelated case, of tampering with a document. Prosecutors were concerned that the cloud could damage his credibility in cases requiring his testimony, such as Hotze’s.

After the officer was cleared, Rosenthal’s office took the unusual step of presenting Hotze’s misdemeanor DWI case to a grand jury because of the high-profile suspect.

Hotze’s attorney, Terry Yates, said at the time that Hotze was innocent and suggested he was the victim of selective prosecution. Last July, a grand jury threw out the DWI case, saying it lacked sufficient evidence for an indictment.

Since grand jury proceedings are secret, we don’t know exactly what evidence prosecutors presented or whether they made a recommendation. We do know that grand juries typically follow the lead of the district attorney, and nothing suggests the Hotze grand jury was an exception.

Similarly, nothing suggests there was a runaway grand jury in the Bradford case.

To the contrary, Rosenthal’s office has said it had enough evidence to justify an indictment and conviction against the chief, who was accused of lying under oath.

Note that Hotze’s attorney is Terry Yates, the same man who is representing Captain Mark Aguirre in his official oppression trial, which was a result of the K-Mart case. Recall that Yates has alleged that the charges against Aguirre were the result of personal animus between him and Bradford, and you might begin to see some possibilities.

Williams concludes that while there may have been different standards for Hotze and Bradford, the more likely result is that neither man should have been indicted. Maybe. I still think Hotze’s treatment was easier than Bradford’s was rough, but since grand jury proceedings are secret, we’ll never know. Only Rosenthal can say for sure, and either you trust his impartiality or you don’t. This certainly won’t make him look good in the eyes of those who believe that the appearance of impropriety is at least as important as actual impropriety.