The 2020 elections

It’s that time again. Four years later, and along with the big one (the presidential election), here in Harris County, Texas, the major law enforcement-related positions are once again up for election.

I’m going to just comment on the races I know about, some of them from the standpoint of the party primaries, some of them mainly in the context of the general election, in no particular order.

First up, Harris County sheriff. Both parties have multiple candidates vying for the position. The Democrats have incumbent Ed Gonzalez, running against Harry Zamora and Jerome Moore. I personally see no reason to replace Ed Gonzalez, plan to vote for him in the primary, and also expect him to easily win the primary.

If only things were so simple on the Republican side. Randy Rush got the endorsement from the Houston Chronicle. His challengers are Paul Day, who might not be so bad… and of course, two-time losing candidate for Precinct 1 Constable Joe Danna, who I just now found out actually got fired from his deputy constable position right after the 2012 election (for falsely stating he served someone with papers at an address later shown to be a vacant apartment at the time). His LinkedIn listed his occupation as self-employed; the Community Impact Newspaper lists it as deputy sheriff which means either someone failed to check him out or chose to ignore what they found. I’m encouraging my Republican readers to vote for Randy Rush, the most fit for the office of the three.

The Precinct 1 Constable election also looks interesting, with three Democratic challengers to incumbent Alan Rosen, those being “Ced” Collier, Perry D. Wesley, and Gilberto Reyna. Nobody is running in the Republican primary, so this may well be a de facto election of a new constable. I don’t see any reason to unseat Alan Rosen as of now.

My choice for president is pretty easy: Bernie Sanders, probably the most electable of the field. Though, there are a lot of good choices; if you are voting Democrat and just can’t bring yourself to vote for Bernie, please choose wisely among the remaining candidates. On the Republican side, there are challengers to the incumbent but I’m not expecting any of them to carry Texas. (I will probably discuss this more as the general election draws closer, but we need to slam the brakes on the country’s ride straight to hell, and that means voting for whoever wins the Democratic primary come November.)

There’s a US senator seat up for election in Texas, too. On the Democratic side, I’m not sure who the front-runners are in the field of eleven, but Sema Hernandez seems to be a solid choice. On the Republican side, it would be nice to see someone oust John Cornyn, but I’m not counting on it by any means. I do think Cornyn needs to go. Beto O’Rourke almost beat Ted Cruz in 2018; I’m hoping higher turnout this time around means we will finally get rid of Cornyn.

More as we get closer to election day…

 

 

A disappointing turn of events: in re Victor Trevino

(Due to technical problems during editing, this post was not able to be posted until today, Tuesday 2014-11-18. It was written in its entirety before the sentencing, and the original text has remained unedited since the night of Sunday 2014-11-16.)

This will be one of the more difficult posts to write for this blog. But it needs to be written. For the new people, it’s honestly quite rare I feel comfortable putting in a good word for a good cop. And this post, not surprisingly, is going to be about one of those cops I had a reason to say something good thing about, at one time.

If you haven’t read my post Nightmare on Shepherd Drive from 2010 November (just a little over four years ago to the day!), you may want to go back and take a look at it. In that post I quote then-Precinct 6 Constable Victor Trevino where he rips the cops running a questionable speed trap on North Shepherd Drive and North Durham Drive. Some months later, Constable Trevino gets indicted on four criminal counts: two counts of tampering with a governmental record, one count of abuse of official capacity, and one count of misappropriation of fiduciary property. It was this last count that he was being tried on until a few days ago when he changed his plea to guilty and shortly thereafter, he resigned as constable. Basically, you can stick a fork in Mr. Trevino’s law enforcement career because it’s done.

If you think I now feel like a bit of an ass for having said something good about him, you’d be at least partially right. I take a pretty dim view of those who divert money from a charitable cause for their own ends. In this regard Mr. Trevino is no better than the likes of the WordCamp Houston 2010 organizers who I have already written about at length. The difference here is, that was attempted theft, and Mr. Trevino’s actions are closer to an actual theft (“misappropriation” is really just a nicer and/or legal term for theft when it comes down to it). To say I expect better of those who work in law enforcement is an understatement. While I don’t think the charge to which Mr. Trevino pleaded guilty reflects the entirety of his career, it’s certainly going to be the main thing that many remember him for.

I didn’t know he was going to be accused of these kinds of crimes at the point in time when I wrote my post. And in the specific context where I commend him in my post from 2010, I stand by what I said; I’m not going to retract it now. I really wish some other constables or even the sheriff had spoken up about the speed trap and said the same thing that then-Constable Trevino did.

I drive through there once in a while, and it seems HPD has finally abandoned the speed trap in/near the 700 block of North Shepherd/Durham. There may be another reason for that (which I may address later) but either way, good riddance. So the story, and then-Constable Trevino’s words, may well have had a lasting impact.

Regarding Mr. Trevino’s criminal case, I may make another post in about a week after he’s sentenced, I may not. It depends on how I feel. I will say I am glad I felt well enough to write this post today (Saturday); it would have hit the wire earlier had I not been ill.

“And it goes without saying, what we do is always about justice”

I’m so glad we have people to help bring things like this to light. Remember, these are your tax dollars at work.

Mark Bennett recently blogged about an email he received from a source he identifies only as Mr. X. In it, several “competitions” for the assistant district attorneys are announced. I’ll quote just one of them here so you can get an idea what I’m talking about (I’ve left typos/spacing/punctuation errors intact):

Trial Court Award
If a court tries and completes THREE jury trials in a single week, the prosecutors in that court can comp. out by lunch time the following Friday. It is encouraged that the members of the court do something together….lunch, movie, bowling. Who will cover their court in their absence…keep reading. The court (that has a 2 and a 3) that does not try any cases the same week the winning court(s) tries three cases, will have to cover the duties for the winning court. If all courts , that have a 2 and a 3, try cases it will be up to Justin, Rachel, and I to cover. We have excluded five courts from this competition for equity purposes.

The email concludes with a paragraph starting with the quotation I chose for the title:

And it goes without saying, what we do is always about justice. Hopefully this will allow us to have some fun while we strive to achieve it…..

I don’t know how getting the most trials done inside of a week is about justice. Mark is right on when he rips the DA’s office for what he calls “summer-camp contests” and a “fratboy game.” I concur with Mark’s opinion here, and hope that we can shine more light on what is at best a dubious “contest” among attorneys we pay with our tax dollars to achieve justice. And justice is not always about getting the most convictions, or getting through the most trials in a week.

Mark also links to a post from 2009 March about trying “whales” or cases the prosecution thinks are sure wins (“Whales are cases that the State thinks it couldn’t possibly lose–like shooting whales in a barrel.”). Seriously, if the assistant DAs need to take cases like this to trial (especially if a defendant is willing to plead guilty) then I’m uncomfortable with such assistant DAs practicing with real cases. They need to go back to law school and get their practice in moot court.

Who ordered the plane?

Some of you may remember a post from 2009 September entitled “A tale of two perjuries” about Robert McClendon who was wrongfully convicted after those testifying against him perjured themselves (over 150 times, if Robert’s story is to be believed) and were not prosecuted, versus a similar case also involving perjury where those perjuring themselves on the side of the defense (once) were nailed to the wall. (Unfortunately the link to KHOU-TV in that post is dead and the story appears to no longer be online.)

This followup is long overdue, and primarily concerns new developments in Robert’s case. In the year and change since my blog post, more evidence has been uncovered to prove that Christine and Paula Trent did in fact commit perjury when testifying to convict Robert. The Harris County District Attorney’s office has turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the new evidence.

Hopefully, that is going to change Wednesday morning, as Robert and his supporters give an entirely new meaning to airing one’s grievances: an airplane with a banner reading “HCDA allows perjury to convict the innocent” will fly over downtown Houston on Wednesday, 2011 January 19, from about 11:00 am to 2:00pm. I am encouraging everyone in the area who can make it downtown to join us to do so. There is also a contest for the best video of the event, which will win a T-shirt as well as be published on americaswrongfullyconvicted.com.

I don’t have details on a specific meeting place in or near downtown as of yet; I will update this post with new information as I receive it.

Red light camera tickets and bully tactics

A recent KTRK-TV news story investigates the Houston Police Department’s red light camera program and the delinquency letters which recently went out to scofflaws who have not paid the fine. These letters threaten a hold on the vehicle’s registration if the fine is not paid, and that is where the issue lies.

Quoting from the Web version of the story:

“That’s just a false statement,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

Harris County commissioners have refused to let the city use its tax assessor collector’s office to withhold registration renewals for delinquent red light violators. There was a unanimous vote a few months ago. Commissioners said it was based on issues, some said it was politics. HPD’s chief financial officer doesn’t understand.

Now, I’d like to make it clear I support the obedience of most traffic laws, and that specifically includes properly timed and warranted traffic signals. On the whole, disregarding (running) a red light is dangerous, both for the violator and the cross traffic at risk of a collision. Don’t do it. (Some of you may already wonder why I say “most” and not “all” and I’ll address those in a later post.)

That said, I have a huge issue with red light cameras. It would appear to me that HPD is trying to send a message to the people who whiz through at the last tenth of a second, sometimes at 10 MPH or more over the speed limit, trying to beat the change to red. However, I have observed some intersections with a camera and noticed the vast majority of presumed violators are those poking through at the tail end of a large group of vehicles–hardly the real danger to safety when one hears or reads “red light runner.” Unless you have someone who bolts out at the first sight of a green light–not a wise idea in Houston or any other large city–these drivers rarely pose a real risk to safety and are more of an annoyance. (The case could be made the driver who gives a traffic signal the race track treatment is the bigger risk to safety.)

Someone I know got a ticket for failing to come to a complete stop before a right turn on red. Originally, these types of violations were not going to be ticketed. Apparently, someone saw the dollar signs and said “Who cares if the city doesn’t get the money and it all goes to hospitals? Let’s max it out anyway.”

We already know HPD is willing to lie and usurp the FAA’s authority over airspace when it suits their best interests. It is not surprising to me at all that HPD is also willing to bully red light camera ticket recipients with an outright lie about vehicle registration.

Local traffic ticket attorney Scott Markowitz decries the misleading warning as “at best a hollow threat, at worst is fraud.” And I’m inclined to agree. Until HPD realizes red light cameras rarely if ever catch the real risks to safety and on the whole don’t work, the best we can hope for is at least some semblance of truth in the delinquency letters.