- Galveston, TX Weather :: 60F Overcast December 18, 201760F Overcast
- Galveston, TX Weather :: 60F Overcast December 18, 2017
- Jaguars thump Texans 45-7 for 1st playoff berth since 2007 December 17, 2017The Jacksonville Jaguars are returning to the playoffs for the first time in a decade thanks to a 45-7 drubbing of rival Houston on Sunday.Once the NFL's poster child for futility and a punchline for potential relocation, the Jaguars (10-4) are now one of the league's top turnaround stories.Blake Bortles threw three touchdowns passes, including […]
- Houston sports mascots come together for the holidays December 17, 2017The holidays bring a lot of family members together, but this year Houston sports mascots decided to link up.Orbit (Astros) posted a group photo with Clutch (Rockets), Foxy (Dynamo) and Toro (Texans)."I got the boys together to celebrate the holidays!" Orbit tweeted.It's been a busy season for all the mascots, but they all made time […]
- Harden, Paul lead Rockets to 13th straight victory December 17, 2017James Harden scored 31 points and Chris Paul had 25 in the Houston Rockets' 115-111 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night for their 13th straight victory.The winning streak is the Rockets' longest streak since a franchise-best 22 straight in 2007-08.Harden hit a step-back 3-pointer over Malcolm Brogdon and was fouled, giving Houston an […]
- Paul, Rockets rout Spurs for 12th straight victory December 16, 2017Chris Paul had 28 points, eight assists and seven steals to lead the Houston Rockets to their 12th straight victory, a 124-109 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.Paul became the first player in NBA history to post 28 points, eight assists and seven steals in a game against the Spurs. In the […]
- World Champion Astros sign reliever Hector Rondon to 2-year deal December 15, 2017The World Series champion Houston Astros have bolstered their bullpen by signing free agent relief pitcher Hector Rondon to a two-year deal.The Astros are making good on their commitment to re-shape their bullpen this offseason after the team signed righty reliever Joe Smith Thursday.Rondon has spent each of his five major league seasons with the […]
- MD Anderson honors legendary sports reporter Craig Sager with Craig's Court December 15, 2017MD Anderson Cancer Center just honored former patient and NBA sideline reporter, Craig Sager Sr.MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital named its pediatric basketball court "Craig's Court" in a ceremony Thursday honoring the legend. WATCH: Craig Sager speaks about cancer battle, family"Craig's Court" is where pediatric patients and young adults at MD Anderson spend time playing […]
- Joe Smith, champion Houston Astros agree to 2-year contract December 14, 2017Right-hander Joe Smith and the World Series champion Houston Astros have agreed to a two-year contract.The 33-year-old was 3-0 with one save and 71 strikeouts over 54 innings in 59 relief appearances this year for Toronto and Cleveland, which reacquired him for a pair of minor leaguers at the July 31 trade deadline. Smith pitched […]
- Richmond 2-year-old buys Tic Tacs for firefighters December 14, 2017A little boy's good deed for a group of Richmond firefighters is going viral! Two-and-a-half-year-old Dawson usually gets a little reward for good behavior during shopping trips with his mom, Summer Aldridge.Last Thursday, during a trip to the Walmart on FM 1640 in Richmond, he earned $5 to spend on a toy or snacks.But after […]
- Doping: Russia backs Winter Olympics athletes December 13, 2017Russian athletes wanting to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea will have the unanimous support of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), the body said Tuesday.Last week Russia was banned from taking part in February's Games after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) found the country had engaged in "systemic manipulation" of anti-doping rules, […]
- Chris Pezman introduced as University of Houston athletics director December 12, 2017Officials at the University of Houston introduced Chris Pezman as the school's new athletics director during a news conference Tuesday.Pezman, who served as the assistant athletics director for football operations at UH during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, comes back to Houston after spending four years as senior associate athletics director at the University of […]
- Jaguars thump Texans 45-7 for 1st playoff berth since 2007 December 17, 2017
- TX Houston/Galveston TX Zone Forecast December 17, 2017National Weather Service Houston/Galveston TX. 212 PM CST Sun Dec 17 2017. TXZ211-181000-. Austin-. Including the cities of Bellville and Sealy. 212 PM CST Sun Dec 17 2017 .TONIGHT...Mostly cloudy. Patchy fog in the evening. Areas of fog. after midnight. A slight chance of showers and isolated.
- TX Houston/Galveston TX Zone Forecast December 17, 2017TX Houston/Galveston TX Zone Forecast for Sunday, December 17, 2017. _____. HGXZFPHGX. FPUS54 KHGX 171527. ZFPHGX. FPUS54 KHGX 171526. ZFPHGX. Zone Forecast Product for Southeast Texas. National Weather Service Houston/Galveston TX. 926 AM CST Sun Dec 17 2017.
- TX Marine Warning and Forecast December 17, 2017TX Marine Warnings and Forecast for Sunday, December 17, 2017. _____. SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY. URGENT - MARINE WEATHER MESSAGE. NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HOUSTON/GALVESTON TX. 505 AM CST SUN DEC 17 2017 ...ELEVATED SEAS WILL PERSIST OFFSHORE ...
- Special Weather Statement December 17, 2017TXZ213-227-237-238-170415- Brazoria TX-Galveston TX-Harris TX-Fort Bend TX- 927 PM CST SAT DEC 16 2017 ...STRONG THUNDERSTORMS MOVING ACROSS GALVESTON...EAST CENTRAL FORT BEND...BRAZORIA AND EASTERN HARRIS COUNTIES UNTIL 1015 PM CST... At 925 PM CST ...
- TX Houston/Galveston TX Zone Forecast December 17, 2017
Travel through time!
- COM TRUSTEES LEASE TRAINING SPACE TO ADDRESS SHORTAGE OF CONSTRUCTION WORKERS December 15, 2017College of the Mainland Trustees have approved a one-year, $54,264 lease with the Community Family Center at 2000 Texas Avenue in Texas City.
- Truman Taylor Insurance Joins Galveston Insurance Associates December 15, 2017Texas Senator Larry Taylor from Friendswood, president of Truman Taylor Insurance, is closing his agency after 55 years of operation and joining Galveston Insurance Associates, effective Dec. 15.
- City of Galveston December 15, 2017The City of Galveston will host the 6th Annual Santa Hustle 5K and Half Marathon on Sunday.
- H-GAC Transportation Policy Council December 15, 2017The Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council today voted unanimously to approve a set of amendments to the 2017-2020 Transportation Improvement Program and the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.
- Galveston City Council December 15, 2017Galveston City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to appoint Council Member Dr. Craig Brown and Assistant City Manager Rick Beverlin to the Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council and Public Works Director Kyle Hockersmith and City Engineer Daniel Christodoss to the H-GAC Technical Advisory Committee.
- Galveston Welcomes Hale as Next Chief of Police December 15, 2017Galveston City Council on Thursday officially welcomed Vernon Hale as the city's next chief of police.
- Santa Fe City Council December 15, 2017Santa Fe City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to approve a collective bargaining agreement with the Santa Fe Police Officers' Association.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation December 14, 2017The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking the public's assistance in gathering information regarding the case of a boy whose body was found on a Galveston beach in October.
- Galveston City Council Workshop December 14, 2017Galveston City Council, during its workshop today, talked about an ordinance to add provisions for the regulation of substandard buildings in Chapter 10 of the city code.
- COM TRUSTEES LEASE TRAINING SPACE TO ADDRESS SHORTAGE OF CONSTRUCTION WORKERS December 15, 2017
- Trump Plans Shift to U.S. Security Strategy 18 Dec 2017 15:51 wsj.com WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump will put his domestic economic and trade policies at the heart of a new national-security strategy that depicts the world as one of heightened rivalries and potentially dangerous competition. The new strategy, with an …
- Trump to Declare China 'Strategic Competitor' in Security Speech 18 Dec 2017 15:49 News Max President Donald Trump will declare China a "strategic competitor" to the U.S. in a speech that lays out an official national security strategy heavily influenced by his views on trade and economic relations, senior administration officials said …
- Partial list of acts against Trump by Massachusetts’ Healey 18 Dec 2017 15:49 The Republic A partial list of legal and other actions announced by Democratic Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey targeted at President Donald Trump’s administration in 2017: JANUARY — Four days after Trump’s swearing-in, announced her office was intervening …
- 'Mean' Time: Greenwich Council Bans Donald Trump From Visiting 18 Dec 2017 15:46 Sputnik International Europe 18:31 18.12.2017(updated 18:35 18.12.2017) Get short URL The move is yet another episode in the prolonged row that British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing at home over her decision to invite the US president. This Tuesday, the councilors at …
- Putin thanks Trump for intel that thwarted terror attack 18 Dec 2017 15:46 Washington Times Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked President Trump in a phone call Sunday for U.S. intelligence agencies providing a warning that thwarted a major Islamist terrorist plot against a cathedral and other sites in St. Petersburg, Russia. The White House …
- Trump reverses Obama, eliminates climate from list of national security threats 18 Dec 2017 15:46 Washington Times President Trump will announce Monday his new National Security Strategy, putting his own stamp on a defense plan that reverses an Obama administration policy by eliminating climate change from a list of threats to national security. Senior administration …
- Trump Administration Dropping Climate Change As National Security Threat 18 Dec 2017 15:46 New York Magazine The year 2017 has seen a supercharged hurricane devastate Puerto Rico, wildfires raging out of control in California, and a catastrophic rainfall event in Houston. While it is notoriously difficult to link any one weather disaster to the effects of …
- Donald Trump is calm about the Russia investigation. For now. 18 Dec 2017 15:44 KITV Honolulu's Channel 4 Analysis by Chris Cillizza CNN Editor-at-large (CNN) -- Nothing has irritated President Donald Trump more in the first year of his presidency than the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russia. He has called it a witch hunt. A hoax. He's …
- Putin Thanks Trump For CIA Tip-off That Foiled Terrorist Attack 18 Dec 2017 15:41 RTTNews A tip-off by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) helped Russian security services foil a series of terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg. Russian President Vladimir Putin called his US counterpart Donald Trump to thank him for the unprecedented gesture of …
- Barron Trump Missing From Family Chrismas Card (Photo) 18 Dec 2017 15:40 Opposing Views President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have revealed their official Christmas card for 2017. The first lady debuted the card on Twitter on Dec. 14, reports Empty World. In the caption accompanying the Trump's Christmas card photo, the …
- Arrests along border dipped sharply under Trump, according to federal data
- Woman with criminal history accused of setting Galveston man on fire turns herself in
- Man’s body found near Seabrook highway
- Officer kills burglary suspect in shootout in La Marque
- Deputy shoots teenage driver after driver attempts to run deputies over
- Gorilla escapes barrier into hog exhibit at Houston Zoo, officials say
- Meet the man who took his daughter out of school early for deer season
- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: Texas churches need to know they can have guns
- In Texas, you probably won’t get welfare benefits; even if you qualify
- Texas reform advocates want to close all state-run youth lockups
- Man exposes himself at tanning salon, League City police search for his identity
- Free Press Summer Festival is changing its name to this
- Assault charge against Johnny Manziel dismissed
- How Texas curtailed traditional welfare without ending poverty
- Texas parents wait in limbo as policymakers struggle to save Children’s Health Insurance Program
- Harris County man wanted for 2006 murder arrested in Mexico
- Members of street gang linked to series of burglaries of Apple products, police say
- Arrest expected soon after Galveston man set on fire, police say
- How Breitbart, Trump and Texas Politicians Spun a Tale out of a Border Patrol Agent’s Death
- Man accused of killing teen with whom he had inappropriate relationship appears in court
- Here’s what’s happening in Harris County now that the sheriff issues bail bonds
- Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halts state’s last execution of 2017
- Houston church threatened by gunman at Sunday’s service
- As Bayer and Monsanto push for merger, Texas farmers fear rising prices
- Civil Offenses: Those Calling for Political Civility Often Have the Least to Lose
- Without recovery funds, more than 50 Texas day cares close after Harvey
- 13-year-old robbery suspect shot in the head by apartment tenant, police say
- Man Mistaken for Burglar, Shot by Police then Shackled to Hospital Bed and Barred from Seeing Family
- Coyote attacks increasing: What you should know
- Postal worker accused of kidnapping, choking and fatally shooting co-worker girlfriend
- Medical marijuana in Texas: What you need to know
- Harris County deputy suspended after striking handcuffed man after chase
- Woman with F-Trump sticker adds Sheriff Troy Nehls to display on truck
- Abbott calls White House’s latest disaster aid request “completely inadequate”
- Former United Airlines pilot pleads guilty to running prostitution ring
- Abbott, Patrick push back on TxDOT’s plans for financing new toll projects
- Trial dates set for ex-deputy, husband charged in John Hernandez’s death
- Cities race to annex land before new Texas law goes into effect Dec. 1
- A “glitch” on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s website asked for visitors’ Social Security numbers
- Greg Abbott Declares War on Moderate Republicans
- He thought he had a free court-appointed lawyer. Then he got a bill for $10,000
- Man fights to prove he’s alive after bank reports him as deceased
- Scam costs Friendswood man thousands of dollars
- At the Texas Capitol, victims of sexual harassment must fend for themselves
- Human Rights Lawyer on How Government is Complicit in Mexico’s Drug War
- ‘Sean Hannity Show’ fans smash Keurig brewers over pulled ads
- Another woman accuses former President George H.W. Bush of groping
- Student sent home from school bruised, claims PE teacher slammed him onto concrete
- Gov. Greg Abbott endorses primary challenger to state Rep. Sarah Davis
- Analysis: A media exec in Texas politics, not quite ready for prime time
- Police dogs trained to ignore marijuana
- Former HPD officer accused of tampering with evidence makes first court appearance
- Rent-to-own complaints spur investigation by federal agency
- HPD officer accused of tampering with evidence
- Joel Osteen impersonator breaches security at Los Angeles event
- Former ‘All My Children’ star arrested in Galveston
- Cornyn and Cruz under pressure over allegations in Alabama Senate race
- Family’s beloved pony shot to death in Liberty County
- Coastal officials say feds failing Harvey victims on short-term housing
- 22 Houston gang members indicted for multiple violent crimes, officials say
- The Faith-Tinged Fatalism of Greg Abbott’s Response to Texas’ Deadliest Mass Shooting
- Execution date set for Sugar Land man on death row
- Trump in Japan…
- Free of criminal charges, state Rep. Dawnna Dukes says she was victimized
- With no state-approved textbooks, Texas ethnic studies teachers make do
- Texas back in federal court over anti-“sanctuary cities” law
- Clara Harris granted parole for husband’s murder
- Coast Guard searching area near Freeport after boat catches fire, sinks
- Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez emerges as potential challenger to Gov. Greg Abbott
- With Trump Cuts, Obamacare Enrollment is a Volunteer Affair in Rural Texas
- Explosion at vodka distillery burns 3 in north Harris County
- Documents: Texas National Guard Installed Cellphone Spying Devices on Surveillance Planes
- Police increase reward for information in case of child’s body found on Galveston beach
- Meet Nueces County’s New DA, a Self-Professed ‘Mexican Biker Lawyer Covered in Tattoos’
- Leon Jacob, man accused in murder-for-hire plot, faces new charge
- The Brief: The deadliest mass shooting in Texas history
- Counterprotesters say white supremacists, not Russian Facebook ads, drew them to rally
- What we know about Texas church shooter
- Harris County Precinct 4 deputy constable shot several times, officials say
- $500 million in Ike relief is still unspent. Will Texas do better after Harvey?
- Prosecutor asks for current medical standards in death penalty evaluations
- How to earn quick cash by flipping items
- Rick Perry ties fossil fuel use to sexual assault prevention
- Abbott Supports Removing Inaccurate Capitol Displays. Do Slavery-Denying Plaques Count?
- A Russian Facebook page organized a protest in Texas. A different Russian page launched the counter-protest.
- 24 Texas Dairy Queens closing after franchise company files for bankruptcy
- USDA Rolls Back ‘Fair Practice’ Rule That Would’ve Protected Texas Chicken Farmers
- Trump nominating Ryan Patrick, son of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to be U.S. attorney
- Fired in 2009, football coach Mike Leach still rages at Texas Tech and Texas law
- Texas Toxicologist Who Rejects Basic Science Appointed to EPA Science Board
- Abbott presses Congress for an extra $61 billion to rebuild after Harvey
- The ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Ban Has Already Reshaped Some Police Department Policies
- Hurricane Harvey flood looters exposed
- U.S. Supreme Court examines investigatory funding in Texas death penalty case
- Who’s Defending Texas’ Confederate Monuments?
- Kicking in doors and crushing credit: How a Texas-based retailer torments customers
- Harris County jailer accused of letting prisoner attack fellow inmate
- House Democrat: Abbott supports removing Confederate plaque from Texas Capitol
- Legislators mull changing Texas law allowing criminal charges against rent-to-own customers
- Houston woman’s daughter stranded at sea with another woman for 5 months
- ‘Fail State’ Delves into the Shadowy World of For-Profit Colleges
- Grambling State student charged in double homicide
- How renting furniture in Texas can land you in jail
- ‘Wedding crasher’ says she never attacked guest, apologizes to bride and groom
- Something Yuuuge was Missing From Franklin Graham’s Waco Revival
- Family: Florida deputy caught on camera breaking into dying man’s home
- Federal government rolls out eight border wall prototypes
- In ‘The Second Coming of the KKK,’ a Timely Lesson in the History of American Hate
- US launches ‘most advanced’ stealth sub amid undersea rivalry
- Houston man identified as victim of barge explosion near Port Aransas, officials say
- Controversial Halloween decoration in Katy leads to threats against homeowner
- What does boycotting Israel have to do with Hurricane Harvey relief?
- Rep. Dawnna Dukes cleared of criminal charges, attorneys say
- $5,000 reward being offered in shooting that caused man to lose his legs
- Tornado leaves trail of damage in two Dickinson neighborhoods, NWS says
- Former HPD officer indicted in 2016 shooting of unarmed neighbor
- State Rep. Victoria Neave pleads no contest to June DWI charge
- Texas attorney general opens investigation Into Harvey debris removal companies
- Police: 3 Texas men arrested after shot fired at Richard Spencer protesters
- Perry pursuing policy on coal, nuclear power at odds with Texas record
- Cornyn: Trump assured me more Harvey aid for Texas coming in November
- Dallas Fed CEO: Technology, not trade or immigration, is main reason for job loss
- Immigrant Workers in Texas Could Fill Farm Vacancies, but They’re Trapped in the Valley
- Texas Cities Embrace a Softer Approach to Pot Possession as State Reforms Stall
- This man robbed woman who was 9 months pregnant, shot her husband, authorities say
- Ex-KIPP Explore Academy staffer arrested after accusations of child indecency
- U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson walks back comments on sexual assault
- Who is this mystery man? Galveston woman begins search to find apparent veteran’s identity
- U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders face off in tax code debate
- A look back at Colt Stadium, the home of the Colt 45s
- After Failing to Prop Up Coal in Texas, Rick Perry is Trying Again Nationwide
- Potential new murder confession delays Texas serial killer’s execution
- Texas court halts execution to review claims that co-defendant lied at trial
- How much are property taxes in Houston going down next year?
- Cruz presses Sessions on Trump administration’s “catch-and-release” policy
- Federal Prisons Don’t Even Try to Rehabilitate the Undocumented
- Three teens charged with murder after missing teen’s body found
- Houston serial killer faces execution this week
- Insurance company accused of delayed response to storm claims
- Some Texas Republicans in Congress again outraised by challengers
- To fund bid against Ted Cruz, former mayor puts up building as prize in “essay and rib contest”
- U.S. House passes hurricane relief bill after tense day for Texas delegation, Abbott
- It’s Time to End Austin’s Failed Experiment in Police Oversight, Activists Say
- Prosecutors drop 1 of 13 felony charges against Rep. Dawwna Dukes
- League City mayor hospitalized after heart attack
- ICE Detained a Pregnant Rape Survivor for Six Months, Records Show
- Husband, wife each lose leg after hit-and-run crash in Waller County
- Temporary bans placed on fishing near site of busted cap
- Texas man travels to Orlando to sexually assault 9-year-old girl, police say
- Mom, older brother charged after 11-year-old found smoking meth
- Days from execution, man convicted in prison guard’s murder insists on innocence
- Truck involved in multiple accidents leaves 1 dead, 1 injured in Texas City, police say
- $1M worth of iPads mostly unused after being purchased for local elections
- Woman caught on camera stomping small dog inside elevator
- How much has been raised for Harvey relief — and how’s it being spent?
- The Case to End Assembly Line Justice for Poor People in Harris County
- Mother, son charged in murder-for-hire plot
- How scammers are using homeowners to defraud FEMA
- Police find man’s body stuffed in closet after victim ‘tortured’ to death
- In historic win, charters getting state funding for facilities for the first time
- Dreamers greet DACA renewal deadline with anxiety and unanswered questions
- Attorney General Ken Paxton’s trial is delayed for a third time
- Judge blocks Texas secretary of state from giving voter information to Trump commission
- East Texas county sues drug companies, alleges role in opioid crisis
- North Korean workers prepare seafood for U.S. stores, restaurants
- 3 Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees indicted in assault cases
- Reward raised for man on Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offenders list
- Texas business mogul Mark Cuban offers details for hypothetical 2020 presidential run
- Woman accused of killing taxi driver appears in court
- Texas death row inmate Duane Buck has sentence reduced to life after Supreme Court orders retrial
- Hearing in Paxton case to consider delaying trial for third time
- Appellate judges show concern over Harris County bail practices, court ruling
- 28 organizations that got money from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
- Pasadena drops appeal, will remain under federal oversight of election laws
- Almost 400,000 Texans’ insurance at risk after Congress fails to renew CHIP
- How Harris County’s federal bail lawsuit spreads beyond Houston
- HHS Secretary Tom Price resigns amid criticism of his travel on private planes
- Houston mayor calls off property tax hike after Abbott delivers $50 million
- ‘I’m just gonna shoot him if things go sideways,’ cop tells college student during traffic stop
- Hearing set for Friday in wrongful death suit in John Hernandez case
- Aide found half-naked after sexual contact with student, deputies say
- Thousands of Poor Texans Could Lose Health Care With Congress Distracted by ACA Repeal
- Slideshow: For southeast Texas, recovery after Harvey is slow
- Even Hurricane Harvey Can’t Temper GOP Hostility Toward Texas’ Big Cities
- Murder suspect arrested in 27-year-old ‘killer clown’ shooting married to victim’s husband
- Texas attorney general now accepting complaints on “sanctuary” jurisdictions
- Abbott: Houston has enough funding for Harvey recovery
- U.S. House passes tax breaks for victims of Harvey, Irma and Maria
- New state law seeks to reduce the number of child brides in Texas
- Texas can enforce more of ‘sanctuary cities’ law
- Florida trooper accused of showing porn to child
- Town mayor facing assault charges
- 13-year-old accused in kidnapping and rape plot
- Hensarling to flood victims: ‘God’s telling you to move’
- Body Cam Policies in Texas Exacerbate a System Designed to Protect Police, Critics Say
- Army vet shown walking after claiming he couldn’t owes government $434K
- Analysis: X-factor in 2018’s Texas elections might be Harvey, not Donald
- Federal appeals court to hear arguments on Texas “sanctuary cities” law Friday
- Texas teens to be trained next year on police interactions
- Newlyweds say DJ robbed wedding cash
- How Galveston is offering a free beach weekend
- Lyft ride leads to hate crime charge for Houston man
- Florida woman makes ‘sexy’ plea to get power back after Hurricane Irma
- Report: Indicted state Rep. Dawnna Dukes spent $51k on online psychic
- Report: Trump’s judicial nominee from Texas called transgender kids part of “Satan’s plan”
- Hospital workers in hot water over Snapchat video, picture calling newborns ‘mini Satans’
- How some see Texas as the “gold standard” against wrongful convictions
- New leak discovered on Battleship Texas
- Texas House Speaker Joe Straus calls for removal of “inaccurate” Confederate plaque
- Hey, Texplainer: How is FEMA distributing money to areas hit by Harvey?
- Friendswood man accused of raking in nearly $2 million in decadelong pay-phone scheme
- Mayor Sylvester Turner has strong words for Red Cross after problems surface
- Trump Nominee to FEC Tried to Shred Texas’ Already-Weak Ethics Laws
- Dad in clown mask shot at while chasing daughter through neighborhood
- As a result of Hurricane Harvey, 600 more Texas prisoners getting AC
- Trooper fired for Sandra Bland stop: “My safety was in jeopardy.”
- Mysterious sea creature that washed up on Texas beach after Harvey identified
- Within days, this Austin company hopes to start legally growing marijuana
- Former officer accused of stealing $2,400 from dead man indicted on theft charges
- 135,000 gallons of sludge released into Galveston Bay after equipment failure, officials say
- Post-Harvey, Houston officials hope Congress is up for funding Ike Dike
- Ex-husband strangled Baytown realtor while children in next room, prosecutors say
- Pizza Hut manager threatened workers evacuating for Irma
- The Road to Huntsville
- Now you can carry any knife (almost) anywhere in Texas
- In beleaguered La Marque schools, Harvey stirs up old anxieties
- Flooded cars already being put up for sale
- Trump Nominates Lawyers from Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Group to be Texas Federal Judges
- Man survives being shot 16 times outside southwest Houston home
- Floridians jam highways to flee wrath of Hurricane Irma
- U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul again top contender to be Trump’s homeland security chief
- Experts: Much of Harvey-Related Air Pollution was Preventable
- Texans in Congress aim for united front ahead of long fight for Harvey aid
- Texas churches damaged during Harvey sue FEMA for federal funding
- Amazon wants to open $5 billion second HQ in North America
- New law allows hunting hogs from hot air balloons, but few balloonists will offer it
- New texting while driving ban full of loopholes
- Woman urinates herself, yells racial slurs during DUI arrest, police say
- Police shoot, kill tiger running loose in neighborhood
- What to do if your vehicle flooded during Hurricane Harvey
- House overwhelmingly passes $7.9 billion Harvey aid bill
- Selena’s family mourning the death of Houston relatives killed in Harvey flooding
- Trump ending immigration program that has impacted more than 120,000 in Texas
- Cinco Ranch flood victims demand buyout from federal government
- The Impossible City
- Our Lady of the Underground
- Texas officials see long road from Harvey for state transportation network
- Officials are starting to grapple with the costs of Harvey. Here’s what you should know today.
- Thanks to their State Rep, Friendswood Family Rushes to File Insurance Claim for their Flooded Home
- President Trump to visit Houston today to survey Harvey destruction
- As floodwaters continue to rise in Lake Jackson, crews come in to help with evacuees
- Residents being warned of people impersonating city of Houston, FEMA inspectors
- Renters find issues with flood-damaged units, property
- Crosby plant explosion highlights state efforts to block access to chemical information
- Where the government spends to keep people in flood-prone Houston neighborhoods
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: No special session needed for Harvey aid
- Five days after Harvey, here’s where things stand in Texas
- Harvey brings catastrophic flooding to Houston; 5 reported dead
- Trump pardons former Sheriff Joe Arpaio
- Why Houston isn’t ready for Hurricane Harvey
- Judge Emmett, Mayor Turner say ignore ‘rumors’ about Hurricane Harvey
- Galveston Island prepares for Harvey’s impact
- Former Galveston ISD teacher accused of having sex with high school student
- Galveston deputy accused of assaulting girlfriend, investigators say
- In San Antonio, Cops Punch Down
- The Brief: Battle lines are (curiously) drawn in Texas’ redistricting fight
- Analysis: Firing the opening shots in the 2018 GOP primaries
- As Houston plots a sustainable path forward, it’s leaving this neighborhood behind
- Harris County emergency officials preparing for tropical system Harvey
- Federal court puts hold on Houston ordinance aimed at homeless camps
- Puppy attacked by pet store owner’s dog
- Mother left kids in hot car while she drank at bar, police say
- Angela Paxton, Texas attorney general’s wife, eyes Texas Senate run
- US imposes sanctions on Russian, Chinese firms over North Korea
- Parents’ plea for help in finding teenage couple missing for 48 hours
- 2 women claim they were groped by local massage therapist
- Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller criticizes Six Flags’ removal of Confederate flag
- El Paso City Council votes down city ID program
- League City Man Sentenced to 6 Years for Online Solicitation of a non-existent Minor
- UT-Austin removing Confederate statues in the middle of the night
- Galveston County Deputies Prevent Jumper on Bridge at 646 & I-45
- Dickinson Cops use Facebook to Catch a Burglar Named Jesus
- Evading Theft Suspects Taken Into Custody After Causing Accident in League City
- Father faces charges after he and missing boy found at hotel, authorities say
- Confederate Monument Protest Draws Hundreds in Houston
- Former HPD officer among those arrested in prostitution sting
- Mother charged with murder after child ejected during drunken driving crash
- Over 250 sex buyers, traffickers arrested on prostitution charges during sting
- Remember the Alamo (Differently)
- Your phone’s Bluetooth can locate illegal skimmer devices
- With Supreme Court appeal, Texas wants to keep congressional map intact
- Dallas, Houston Protests Planned as Confederate Monuments Under Fire in Texas
- With Trump’s Infrastructure Plan, Rural Texas Could be Left in Disrepair
- Body found in Bayou Vista while searching for woman who disappeared under ‘suspicious circumstances’
- South Florida woman accused of DUI with 3-year-old unbuckled in back seat
- Deputies: Mother tells son to buy her drugs
- HPD officer relieved of duty after DWI charge, officials say
- Abbott: Removing Confederate monuments “won’t erase our nation’s past”
- Prosecution rests at trial of woman accused in 2012 death of husband
- Confederate statue controversy hits Houston
- Selena’s brother taken into custody after landing on most wanted list
- In special session rubble, spotlight shines bright on Straus
- President Trump disbands White House business councils as CEOs leave
- Video shows deadly jailbreak; Man who pleaded guilty in deputy’s death sentenced to life
- Fisherman hooks gator in Buffalo Bayou
- Squatters or scam victims? Homeowner finds another family living in home
- Charges sought against those who toppled Confederate statue
- Houston group asks mayor to remove Confederate statue from downtown park
- Federal court invalidates part of Texas congressional map
- Texas to receive millions in federal funding for wildlife conservation projects
- How a total solar eclipse created France, Italy and Germany
- Deputies Go Unpunished for Invasive Cavity Search on Houston Roadside
- Florida man gets 6 years for firing gun during strip club selfie
- Map details where Texas hate groups are in 2017
- Man blames ‘hookah-smoking caterpillar’ for wrecking liquor store, police say
- ‘I feel like I was raped,’ woman says of invasive roadside strip search
- New Mexico Bandidos members held in Texas in firearms case
- Man, 57, commits suicide after shooting juveniles during road-rage incident, police say
- Mother charged with child abandonment after newborn found in flower bed
- President Trump condemns KKK, neo-Nazis as ‘thugs’
- Woman hit, killed by Houston garbage truck while crossing street
- Legislature advances annexation bill to Gov. Abbott
- 2 Teens Who Attacked Man Shot After Auto Accident in Galveston
- White nationalist rally, counter protest planned at Texas A&M on Sept. 11
- Hundreds Clash over Confederate Monument in San Antonio
- Greenspoint Mall to close in 60 days, sources say
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- Deadly dare: 8-year-old girl dies after drinking boiling water
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- 4 officers taken to hospital after 2 patrol units run into each other, police say
- STATE LEGISLATURE PUTTING THE BRAKES ON TEXAS CITY ANNEXING SAN LEON WITHOUT SAN LEON RESIDENTS APPROVAL:
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- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick calls city governments the source of “all our problems in America”
- Man, 25, arrested for DWI after crashing into patrol car, deputies say
- Texas man snags “bucket list” 12-foot tiger shark off Padre Island
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- NASA looking to hire officer to protect earth from alien harm
- In Texas House, property tax proposals range from minor tweaks to abolishment
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- Family reunited with dog 3+ years after it went missing
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- Woman finds evidence bag full of marijuana at neighborhood park
- State Rep. Dawnna Dukes declines deal from Travis County District Attorney
- Report: Texas could lose billions if new immigration enforcement law stands
- Texas’ War on Local Control is Part of National Trend
- Wife of accused gunman dies after double shooting that led to innocent woman’s death
- ‘Ghost forests’ appearing from Canada to Texas
- Man charged after leaving crash that left motorcycle rider in critical condition, police say
- Flight in Vegas delayed by naked passenger, officials say
- Galveston’s Pleasure Pier ride Revolution shut down temporarily
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- Naked bank robbery suspect tosses stolen money
- Harris County officials continue crackdown on unlicensed after-hour bars
- Wife: Disagreement over Trump contributed to divorce from state attorney
- Kingwood native torches 8 cars after wedding called off, police say
- HPD officer hit by car, plunges 16 feet off Southwest Freeway
- Texas executes man who claimed his lawyers committed fraud
- Woman arrested on suspicion of posting ‘revenge porn’ online
- Statue honoring Alvin’s hometown hero, Nolan Ryan, topples
- Man arrested after showing porn to child at supermarket, authorities say
- Underage woman claims she was raped after being served at Houston-area restaurant
- The Woodlands teens accused of Florida crime spree after posting Snapchat videos
- La Marque residents asked to boil water after order issued
- Man who fled to Mexico after murder charge 21 years ago arrested trying to re-enter US
- Texas Senate passes bill to allow people to vote on whether a city can annex them
- Spring man caught filming up skirts arrested on child porn, invasive photography charges
- One-armed, machete-wielding clown arrested, police say
- Despite Knowledge of Climate Change in 1970s, Texas Utility Companies Funded Climate Denial
- Venus Williams accuses 78-year-old man killed in crash of not wearing seat belt
- Scammers target college students eager for scholarship money
- Woman accused of kidnapping baby while hitchhiking
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- Man accused of producing child pornography
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- Man accused of beating dog with crow bar
- 2 charged with prostitution after offering sex acts to undercover constables, authorities say
- Senate votes to start debate on health care bill
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- Trump’s New Immigration Lockup Draws Local Opposition in Conroe
- Set for execution, death row inmate alleges legal fraud in hopes of a stay
- Concerns raised over new Harris County bail system
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- 5 arrested after drugs, gun, money seized from Magnolia home
- 15 years later, Clara Harris remains in state prison for husband’s murder
- Woman, 91, kicked out of Sunnyside home
- Congressman: If female GOP senators were South Texas men, I’d challenge them to a duel
- Turning Tail
- Death toll in San Antonio immigrant-smuggling case rises to 10
- Ex-Mexican drug cartel leader gets 30 years in US prison
- Kushner’s statement on Russia: What to know
- Analysis: In special session, Texas Senate’s the hare, House is the tortoise
- Texas Senate panel targets mail-in ballot fraud after high-profile case
- Drunk Driver Sentenced to 50 Years for Fatal Crash
- Tanker Crew Rescues 5 In Capsized Boat
- Man Sentenced to 45 Years on Drug Charges
- After Texas “human trafficking crime,” Lt. Gov. Patrick lauds sanctuary city law
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- Texas Senate committee OKs bill to outlaw city cellphone restrictions
- Texas Senate panel approves teacher bonuses, retirement benefits
- Carjacking suspect opens fire on officer during chase in SW Houston
- Man, 2 children killed in crash in NE Houston
- Katy woman arrested for DWI after man follows, records her erratic driving
- Mickey Mouse mask-wearing burglar caught on camera breaking into 2 stores
- Houston pastor Victoria Osteen says she does not endorse skin care product
- Senate committee passes bills on private school choice and school finance study
- Bill limiting city, county spending fuels war over local control
- Woman, 93, dragged during carjacking at church, police say
- Trans Texans, Advocates Swarm Texas Capitol to Oppose ‘Bathroom Bills’ (Again)
- Man admits to killing 14-year-old half-brother, authorities say
- Monkey on the loose in south Houston after attacking girl, police say
- ‘Million Dollar Ho’ arrested in Florida prostitution sting
- Turner reopens bids for recycling contract to 4 companies
- District attorney to pursue death penalty against 4 suspects
- Houston woman charged in connection with ransom scheme
- Pastor in The Woodlands accused of prostitution
- Academy Sports + Outdoors laying off 100 employees
- 1 dead after shooting at NW Harris County apartments
- Kay Bailey Hutchison vows toughness on Russia as NATO ambassador
- Conroe horse-riding trainer accused of sexually assaulting child
- Environmental groups sue EPA over lax Texas air pollution permits
- Abbott adds school finance, retired teacher benefits to special session
- Bodycam allegedly shows Baltimore cop planting drugs
- Key events in OJ Simpson’s fall from sports hero, movie star
- Heat is part of life at Texas prisons, but federal judge orders one to cool it
- Growing health trend bypasses doctors’ offices for diagnosis, treatment
- HPD chief answers questions about Josue Flores murder case
- Sarah Davis wants more information about “misconduct” at TABC
- Texas Bill Would Revoke Medical License of Doctors Who Perform Abortions
- Senate gives early OK to must-pass “sunset” legislation
- Lead singer of The Suffers featured in national campaign
- Man wanted in 2016 fraud case
- Couple arrested for second time for impersonating Adele’s manager, police say
- Mexico says electronic device checks on US flights begin
- Dancing with Denial
- Teen shot at high school party at AirBNB house in southwest Houston
- Toll road drivers getting fed up with erroneous charges
- Trump administration: Trust Texas on voter education spending
- Baby dies after being infected with cold sore virus through kiss, parents say
- 24 firearms stolen after Texian Firearms robbed twice in one day
- Texas Republicans in Congress process health care bill’s collapse
- Florida man arrested after reporting cocaine stolen, deputies say
- Teens arrested after Facebook Live video of 23-year-old woman’s assault
- Girl, 17, fires shot at intruder while chasing him out of her house
- Police: Aunt charged after leaving young neice, nephew in hot car outside grocery store
- Texas Senate moves to fast-track special session agenda
- President Trump: ‘Let Obamacare fail’
- Why the murder charge against the Texas police officer who killed Jordan Edwards is rare
- What happens if Congress fails to repeal Obamacare?
- Four Texas Republicans in Congress were just outraised by Democratic challengers
- This crazy thread got deleted off /pol/ and subsequent threads were 404'd trying to carry on the convo... December 18, 2017https://archive.4plebs.org/pol/thread/153674689 An alleged 33rd degree mason talking about a major happening in the next few months possibly regarding aliens. Someone posts a picture of a Mossad stamped handgun, and the thread 404's shortly afterwards. Picture: https://img.4plebs.org/boards/pol/image/1513/58/1513581194133.jpg /pol/ has way more threads than usual currently, users are saying in threads something weird is happening shortly before […]/u/Fusion7778
- Netflix's "Wormwood" - a series that delves into the "suicide" of Dr. Frank Olson, an Army biological warfare scientist involved in the CIA's Project MKUltra. What did everyone think of the docudrama? December 18, 2017For clarification: Dr. Olson was himself an unwitting subject of Project MKUltra while he worked with the CIA in another capacity. submitted by /u/thesadpumpkin [link] [comments]/u/thesadpumpkin
- So i'm lying in bed with my long skinny black phone and it hits me.... December 18, 2017submitted by /u/russianbot01 [link] [comments]/u/russianbot01
- We have video footage from US military documenting an encounter with UFO's but we STILL don't have a shred of video from Mandalay Bay before or during the Las Vegas false flag. December 18, 2017submitted by /u/SixVISix [link] [comments]/u/SixVISix
- Operation mockingbird in real time December 18, 2017submitted by /u/NOTT-kgb [link] [comments]/u/NOTT-kgb
- WTF is this doing in the NY Post? X post from r/WTF December 18, 2017submitted by /u/deeznootz [link] [comments]/u/deeznootz
- For the anybody that hasn't seen this amazing and complex documentary by Adam Curtis called "HyperNormalization", do yourself a favor and spend 2:40 hours witnessing the puzzle of the world today. Is confusion the real goal behind everything happening right now? December 18, 2017submitted by /u/mentallo [link] [comments]/u/mentallo
- Whatever it takes to get Google Home or Amazon Alexa in your home. Hmm wonder why?? December 18, 2017submitted by /u/Jocramid [link] [comments]/u/Jocramid
- Someone scratched "666" into the car on the Fox Live showing of "A Christmas Story" tonight. Why add a blatantly satanic message into a live Christmas special, Fox? December 18, 2017submitted by /u/HehTheUrr [link] [comments]/u/HehTheUrr
- I left in love, in laughter and in truth; and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit. ~ Bill Hicks December 18, 2017submitted by /u/dreamslaughter [link] [comments]/u/dreamslaughter
- Q Said 10 Days of Darkness, Has It Begun With Power Outage At Atlanta Airport? December 18, 2017submitted by /u/WeAreTheResistance [link] [comments]/u/WeAreTheResistance
- There’s no way in hell that the busiest airport in the world just went total blackout. This is a beta test for something. December 18, 2017I’ve been to Hartsfield dozens of times. That place has got to have multiple redundant power systems in different locations so that something like fire can’t knock it all out at once. I’m calling BS submitted by /u/rbsams72888 [link] [comments]/u/rbsams72888
- New York Times 1902: "GIANT SKELETONS FOUND.; Archaeologists to Send Expedition to Explore Graveyards in New Mexico Where Bodies Were Unearthed." December 17, 2017submitted by /u/Question_History [link] [comments]/u/Question_History
- I know what is happening to Terry Crews. IDK why it's not talked about much here. December 17, 2017Targeting and Gang Stalking is a massive set-up by TPTB & Deep State. This is/was prevalent in Scientology communities to silence dissenters, etc. They may be the originators. It involves government agencies, Private detective but also regular citizens, neighborhood watch groups led to belie they are doing something good. These tactics have been used on […]/u/positiveascension
- Brittany Murphy and her husband had serious conflicts with Weinstein and his people. Tried to blame husband? December 17, 2017submitted by /u/aquamansneighbor [link] [comments]/u/aquamansneighbor
- This crazy thread got deleted off /pol/ and subsequent threads were 404'd trying to carry on the convo... December 18, 2017
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Author Archives: Michael Barajas
Man Mistaken for Burglar, Shot by Police then Shackled to Hospital Bed and Barred from Seeing Family
After mistaking him for a burglar and shooting him twice, police charged Lyndo Jones with evading arrest, shackled him to his Dallas hospital bed and blocked family members from visiting him for six days.
At first, Mesquite police erroneously called Jones, 31, a “burglary suspect” because of a 911 caller who’d spotted him in a parking lot on November 8 while he was struggling to turn off the alarm in his truck. Police say officer Derick Wiley arrived around 7 p.m. to investigate the possible burglary and shot Jones in a “confrontation” that ensued. A press release the Mesquite Police Department issued afterward offered no details on the confrontation but seemed to endow Jones with almost superhuman strength — claiming it took three officers to subdue the unarmed, 130-pound man with two fresh gunshot wounds. After police learned the vehicle indeed belonged to Jones, they still called him a suspect and charged him with evading arrest.
Authorities barred Jones’ family from visiting him at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, where doctors treated him this month, because of his misdemeanor charge. At one point, deputies escorted Jones’ attorney, Justin Moore, out of the hospital after he tried to stop Mesquite police investigators from questioning Jones alone. According to Moore, Jones’ family didn’t even get to see him until six days after the shooting, when police dropped the misdemeanor charge against Jones just as he was being discharged from the hospital.
“They shot this guy because of a mistake and then chained him to a hospital bed away from people who care about him, people who are wondering whether he’s going to survive,” Moore told the Observer. “Victims of police brutality and their families should not be treated this way.”
Mesquite police won’t say much about the “confrontation” that led to Jones’ shooting, but in a press conference with reporters last week, Lieutenant Brian Parrish blamed Jones for not giving the officer who shot him “ample opportunity to start an investigation.”
Moore, however, says that in Jones’ version of events, Officer Wiley approached him with his gun drawn, ordered him out of his truck and then fired when he got out of the vehicle. Moore says Jones blacked out from the pain sometime after that and doesn’t even remember the second gunshot, let alone any subsequent struggle with other officers. Moore told the Observer that police were wearing body cameras, and that Jones and his attorneys were scheduled this week to review footage from the shooting, which hasn’t been publicly released. The Observer requested the video under open record laws.
Mesquite police say that two days after the shooting they transferred Jones into the custody of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, which guards the county’s hospitalized inmates. Moore says he was eventually contacted by members of Jones’ family, who claimed they’d been threatened with arrest for trying to visit him in the hospital. Melinda Urbina, a sheriff’s department spokesperson, told the Observer that it’s “protocol” to deny family visits for hospitalized inmates in county custody.
Moore says he visited Jones in the hospital for the first time the night of November 11, three days after the shooting, but couldn’t exactly speak with him because “he was heavily sedated at that time, with tubes going out of his nose.” Moore says he visited Jones again a couple days later, just as doctors were starting to reintroduce solid food, but that he wasn’t yet well enough to discuss the shooting.
Moore says that on a conference call the morning of November 14 with Mesquite police and Dallas County District Attorney’s Office representatives, all parties agreed that investigators wouldn’t question Jones at the hospital without an attorney present. But when he arrived at the hospital a few hours later, Moore says two Mesquite detectives were questioning Jones in his room. Moore says he started shouting when it became clear deputies guarding the room weren’t going to allow him to stop the interview.
“I guess you could say I caused a scene,” Moore told the Observer. “I started yelling, ‘You’re violating his constitutional rights,’ just anything that he (Jones) might be able to hear and encourage him to try and stop that interrogation.” The deputies threatened to arrest him if he returned, he says. Urbina with the sheriff’s department says that deputies escorted Moore outside the hospital “as a result of his behavior.”
Later that day, the Mesquite Police Department changed course and announced it would drop the charge against Jones just in time for his release from the hospital. Sgt. Joseph Thompson told the Observer in a statement this week that the department would now rather “prioritize” the investigation into the officer who shot Jones over the misdemeanor evading arrest charge.
“It is more important to us to investigate and determine whether a more serious crime was committed,” Thompson said in an emailed statement. “If after the investigation is complete and the officer’s actions were found to be justified, then filing the evading charge will be reevaluated at a later time.”
Moore says subpoenas have already gone out for a grand jury investigation into the shooting. A spokesperson for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office said she wouldn’t comment on any pending investigation and wouldn’t answer our questions about the case. If the investigation leads to any charge against the officer, the case would be the third police shooting captured on body camera this year that Dallas County prosecutors shepherded to criminal indictment.
By the time Governor Greg Abbott appeared in front of TV cameras Monday morning, a sharper image of the country’s latest mass shooting was taking shape. Officials had already confirmed that 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley had a history of domestic violence, like many other mass killers. That should have prevented him from purchasing the Ruger assault-style rifle he used to slaughter at least 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Instead, Texas’ worst mass shooting in modern history represents yet another breathtaking failure by the federal background check system.
Abbott told news anchors on Monday that Texas had denied Kelley’s application for a state handgun license. But Texas, unlike some other states, doesn’t require a permit to purchase a rifle or handgun, making the feds the only real check on gun buyers in the state. When CNN’s Chris Cuomo pressed Abbott, the Texas governor invoked the spiritual realm, saying a prayer vigil with mourners in Sutherland Springs the night before had taught him “the best way to confront this evil is by using the forces of God to confront and overcome this evil.” When CBS’ Gayle King asked Abbott how he’d ensure those “evil” people don’t have access to firearms, he urged the country to return to “the fundamentals of our faith-based nation.” King cut him off mid-sentence, trying to bring the interview back to guns, but Abbott wasn’t swayed.
“The important thing is that if you go back to early times of this world, to the times of yesterday and last week, evil exists in this world,” Abbott said. In a later interview with Fox News, he raised Hitler, Mussolini, the Dark Ages and even “post-New Testament” periods of violence as signs that “evil is something that has permeated this world.”
Abbott wasn’t the only Texas politician to give the typical thoughts-and-prayers response to mass shootings a fatalistic, faith-tinged spin this week. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton abandoned his usual law-and-order bromides, instead questioning gun-control laws if criminals will just break them. Meanwhile, in a press conference Monday afternoon, Senator Ted Cruz labeled the massacre in Sutherland Springs a story of “inspiration and hope” before scolding the media for even asking about guns. “Evil is evil is evil,” Cruz insisted, “and will use the weaponry that is available.”
Bad people taking advantage of readily available weapons to carry out heinous crimes is actually the reason that calls for gun control follow each tragedy like Sutherland Springs, the country’s 307th mass shooting so far this year. Gun deaths in the United States eclipse those in other Western industrial nations, which researchers continue to connect to the widespread availability of firearms here. As Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center puts it, “more guns = more homicide.” Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Austin was among the chorus of liberal and progressive politicians blaming Republicans for their inaction on the issue in light of the shooting. As he wrote in a Sunday afternoon Facebook post, “Once again violence destroys lives, while this Congress, owned lock, stock and barrel by the NRA refuses to act.”
Kelley appears to have been able to buy the weapon he needed to gun down an entire church service because of a notoriously buggy background check system for gun purchasers, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. On Monday afternoon, the Air Force admitted it hadn’t properly entered Kelley’s 2012 court martial for domestic violence into the federal database. That means the Academy store in San Antonio that reportedly sold Kelley his guns never learned that he was convicted of beating his wife and step-child. In addition to kicking and choking his wife, Kelley “assaulted his stepson severely enough that he fractured his skull,” Don Christensen, a retired colonel and former chief prosecutor for the Air Force, told The New York Times on Monday. “He pled to intentionally doing it.” The shooting may even hint at a larger flaw. The U.S. military appears to have sent almost no records of domestic abusers to the federal database, according to The Trace, a gun-focused news outlet.
What’s come out already about the bloodshed in Sutherland Springs raises questions for state officials like Abbott. The military news website Task & Purpose questions why, if Texas’ gun-licensing system flagged Kelley and denied him a permit to carry a gun, that information never made it to the feds, who could have actually stopped him from owning one. (When asked, Texas Department of Public Safety didn’t immediately say when the agency denied Kelley a gun permit.)
By the time Abbott went on air with conservative talk radio host Mark Levin on Monday evening, his message had already started to shift from the Biblical version of “shit happens.” He was ready to talk gun control once the day’s news had proved to him that the country doesn’t need more firearms restrictions. Instead, he told Levin, our violence-plagued nation needs better enforcement of existing laws.
Abbott wasn’t even sure that would do much to end the killing. As he told Levin, “if someone is willing to break the law to kill someone, then that person is likely willing to break the law to get a gun illegally.”
The post The Faith-Tinged Fatalism of Greg Abbott’s Response to Texas’ Deadliest Mass Shooting appeared first on The Texas Observer.
Early this year, border agents ran a name-check and wound up briefly detaining Mark Gonzalez as he traveled home to Corpus Christi after a vacation in Mexico. That’s why Gonzalez says he gave the Texas cop that stopped him a couple of weeks later this disclaimer: “When you run my name, I’m probably going to be listed as a gang member. I’m also the DA of Nueces County. Do whatever you want with that information.”
When Gonzalez ran for DA last year, he personified the label “nontraditional candidate” — a defense lawyer with the words “not guilty” tattooed across his chest, someone whose connection to the Calaveras Motorcycle Club even landed him in a police database of known gang members. He vowed to become a lawyer at 19, after he pleaded guilty to drunk driving. The guy next to him in court, who could afford a private lawyer, got the same charge dismissed.
Gonzalez’s office no longer takes misdemeanor marijuana cases (a $250 fine and a drug class gets charges dismissed) and even worked with a local women’s shelter on a pretrial diversion program for people accused of domestic violence for the first time. He spoke with the Observer about his new approach to criminal justice in Corpus Christi.
Q: During your campaign, you talked about needing to restore trust and fairness in law enforcement. What did you mean?
It’s why one of our main objectives now is transparency. We don’t want anybody to say that prosecutors were hiding the ball or didn’t disclose something. We’re open with defense attorneys about what we find, whether it’s good, bad or ugly for us. That’s also how we try to deal with media. As much as we can be, we’re open about what evidence we have, and we only go forward on a case if we can prove it. If there’s a case there, we’ll build it. But we’re not hunting for convictions. It’s about securing justice.
You’ve only been on the other side of law enforcement as a defense attorney. Any trouble getting police to trust and work with you?
As far as the higher-ups, I haven’t had any struggle with them. But I can tell you that the patrolmen, they’re the ones that may have the strongest criticisms of me and the hardest feelings against me just because I’m this defense attorney and a biker.
For the most part, our work here at the DA’s office speaks for itself. And some of those who didn’t trust me at the beginning, I think they’re starting to come around. I get approached all the time by patrolmen telling me, “We were wrong about you.” We’re gaining their trust and confidence, and eventually the work will speak for itself. That’s all that I ask.
What does a reform-minded criminal justice system look like?
I think that every DA has their own ideals and values and idea of what that looks like. For us, it’s about fairness and transparency. But I think in a lot of other ways, these reforms are just about being smart and having common sense. People who have proven they’re dangerous need to stay in jail. But low-level misdemeanors? They don’t need to be there. We need to find another way to deal with those people and that behavior. On one hand, we need to look at the jail’s repeat visitors and see if there’s anything we can do to stop that cycle. But we also need to focus our resources on people who are actually out there criminalizing people over and over again and put them away.
You have a criminal record. You’re the first from your family to go to college. What’s the impact of having someone from your background in power in the criminal justice system?
I hope it brings some humanity back to the office. Realize, we’re not here to destroy people’s lives. We’re here for justice, and sometimes that’s not always going to require a conviction. Just because we can give somebody a conviction doesn’t mean we always should and need to. That’s why we need people who can take a step back and consider their own life experiences and other perspectives. That defendant standing there was me once. So when I look at a case, I’m also thinking, is there a way we can make this person better, some chance we can give them? Don’t get me wrong, some people are going to get an opportunity and mess it up and eventually run out of chances. But we can’t lose sight that there are people and situations where we can help.
What role do prosecutors play in either fixing or exacerbating the system of mass incarceration?
The DA is probably the most important position in every county courthouse across the state. If you have a good prosecutor or a smart prosecutor with common sense, they can influence more widespread change than a judge or anyone else. We decide what cases to take and how to prosecute them. It starts and ends here.
If you have a prosecutor who’s fair and honest and open to diversion, your race, gender and economic circumstances should not play a role in the outcome of your case. Period. It’s the prosecutor who gets to decide whether to treat those cases the same. It shouldn’t matter if you have a high-powered lawyer who’s friends with someone at the DA’s office versus the new guy who just got out of law school who might not have those same relationships at the courthouse. As a prosecutor, you must treat them the same.
You’ve taken pretrial intervention programs beyond just drug cases. Why try it with domestic violence?
For the longest time, there’s been a domestic violence problem in our community. The shelter’s been open for 34 years, and I don’t see them ever closing. Something obviously isn’t working.
Someone would have a misdemeanor case, and then it would happen again and again. There was no intervention after that first incident, just punishment. Now, working with the shelter, we’re making contact with people in these abusive partnerships after that first time to give them the education they need. If defendants sign a confession and attend a six-month family violence class, that charge can be dismissed. And this isn’t something I take credit for — it was the women’s shelter counselors who helped us with this. The goal is to make sure the abuse stops, but also so that it doesn’t escalate into a felony.
What’s your stance on the death penalty?
I am not anti-death penalty, but I wouldn’t call myself an advocate for it. My two first assistant DAs, one is very anti-death penalty and thinks the government should never play a role in ending someone’s life. I have another assistant who thinks an eye for an eye is the way to go. And I guess I’m in the middle. Now I want to see what our community decides. I’m about to present a death penalty case very soon. When the jury makes their decision, it will help us figure out how we handle those cases in the future.
What role do reform-minded DAs play now that federal justice policy has made a 180-degree shift on things like drug charges, mandatory minimums and pot?
Much of what they’ve done hasn’t had an effect on us yet and probably won’t. Nobody governs us and nobody really tells us what to do. We have discretion in how we run this office. But you can already see we’re taking very different approaches that could become a problem in the future.
When it comes to things like mandatory minimums and how you prosecute drug crimes and what to do with marijuana, I think common sense is honestly going to win out on that in the long run. On marijuana, I think legalization is where we’re headed, because honestly it’s the smartest thing to do. We still live in Texas, so it may be hard to overcome some of that old thinking when it comes to drugs. But I think the economic gains and economic efficiency will eventually win people over if the other arguments don’t.
The post Meet Nueces County’s New DA, a Self-Professed ‘Mexican Biker Lawyer Covered in Tattoos’ appeared first on The Texas Observer.
Representative Eric Johnson left Friday’s sit-down with Governor Greg Abbott confident that they agreed on two things. First: markers and monuments at the Texas Capitol should be historically accurate. Second: a plaque inside the Capitol that claims the Civil War “was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery” does not pass that test.
Almost immediately after the meeting, Abbott’s office half-denied, half-downplayed Johnson’s public statements that the governor was “supportive of the plaque coming down.” Abbott’s spokespeople insisted he simply asked the State Preservation Board to “look into the issue.” Johnson pushed back and, by Monday, Abbott’s office acknowledged that the governor thinks “substantially inaccurate” markers at the Capitol should come down.
What Abbott won’t publicly say is whether he thinks it’s “substantially inaccurate” to deny that the Civil War was fought over slavery. (We asked his office for comment and received no response.)
That’s not entirely surprising, considering that defending Confederate monuments has morphed into a sort of cause célèbre in some pockets of the conservative movement. After the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville this summer, Abbott resisted renewed calls to remove Confederate monuments and markers around the Capitol, cautioning that “tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past.” Only 9 percent of Republicans who responded to the latest UT/Texas Tribune poll support relocating or removing the state’s many Confederate markers. White House chief of staff John Kelly even pushed the slavery-denying Lost Cause narrative this week, telling a Fox News host that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”
Johnson, who says he’s “seriously considering” a run for speaker of the House next term, wants to see every Confederate monument on the Capitol grounds fall, but his focus in recent months has been on the so-called Children of Confederacy Creed. Last week, Johnson filed his official request with the State Preservation Board to remove the plaque, which was mounted just steps from the Capitol rotunda during the civil rights era. The marker denies slavery’s role in the Civil War, despite the state’s declaration of secession, filed nearly a century earlier, that claimed the country was “established exclusively for the white race” and declared that black people were “rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race.” The Texas Ordinance of Secession also states that “the servitude of the African race … is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator.”
“We have a legal document that is housed in our state archives that tells the world why Texas seceded from the union,” Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, told the Observer. “We have this document that says the Civil War, at least for Texans, is about slavery. Then you have a plaque up outside my office that says the Civil War’s not about slavery? It’s just patently false. That’s why the plaque needs to come down.”
Johnson claims that Abbott agreed the plaque was historically inaccurate. He says the governor then brought up an instance two years ago when he threw out a mock nativity scene that a church-state separation group had set up in the Capitol basement. It’s unclear if Abbott was joking, or whether he really thinks a cardboard cutout “winter solstice” display featuring the Founding Fathers, the Statue of Liberty and the Bill of Rights is comparable to a plaque that’s for decades told Capitol visitors that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War.
Johnson hopes an analysis of the plaque’s history, which Abbott has publicly acknowledged asking the State Preservation Board to do, opens the floodgates on the larger discussion about the more than 170 Confederate markers in Texas. “This conversation has to start somewhere in Texas,” Johnson told the Observer. “This plaque makes it clear what was going on in the late ’50s when some of these monuments went up. It clearly shows the propaganda campaign, the attempt to rewrite the history of the Civil War.”
When it comes to the plaque at hand, Johnson says Abbott’s hairsplitting doesn’t really matter so long as the preservation board does its job. “If the whole thing swings on historical inaccuracy, then that plaque’s doomed.”
The post Abbott Supports Removing Inaccurate Capitol Displays. Do Slavery-Denying Plaques Count? appeared first on The Texas Observer.
Remember David Simpson? He was a peculiar kind of conservative lawmaker, about as fundamentalist Christian as they come, while also passionately articulating the Christian case for legal weed at the Texas Legislature.
“The Bible warns about excessive drinking, eating and sleeping,” Simpson wrote, “but it doesn’t ban the activities or the substances or conditions associated with them — alcohol, food and fatigue. Elsewhere, feasting and wine are recognized as blessings from God.”
Simpson’s House Bill 2165, which would have purged any mention of marijuana from state law and left the plant totally unregulated, actually helped make 2015 a banner year for pot reform in Texas. While HB 2165 didn’t pass, Simpson’s bill was one of two measures decriminalizing cannabis that session that got enough votes to make it out of a legislative committee — the first time pot bills had ever cleared a major hurdle in the state lawmaking process. The most significant victory that session came when Governor Greg Abbott signed Texas’ first, extremely limited medical marijuana law. Reformers figured they’d build on those successes in the 2017 legislative session.
Instead, as Heather Fazio with the Texas Marijuana Policy Project put it, “2017 turned out to be a circus.” With the Texas Legislature fixated on “sanctuary cities” and “bathroom bills,” the clock simply ran out on marijuana reform, despite what Fazio called unprecedented support from conservative lawmakers.
But amid state inaction, and with much less notice, reform has finally started to take root at the local level. Over the past year, officials in Texas’ biggest counties and cities have embraced policies that blunt the impact of strict marijuana laws that Texas politicians won’t change. Prosecutors in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and elsewhere are increasingly refusing to charge or jail people caught with small amounts of pot.
“How harshly you’re treated for possessing cannabis in Texas now varies city by city, county by county,” Fazio said.
Even though criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Texas remain some of the most draconian and nonsensical in the country, lawmakers actually gave local law enforcement agencies the option to change how they handle small-time pot possession a decade ago. In 2007, the Legislature passed a bill allowing police to give people charged with certain misdemeanor crimes, such as marijuana possession, a court summons instead of taking them to jail. Austin adopted this policy early on, but years after it went into effect the city’s cops were still arresting and jailing three out of four people caught with marijuana.
The so-called cite-and-release law gave police departments the discretion of whether to arrest people for marijuana, but it didn’t erase the possible six-month jail sentence for low-level pot possession in Texas. Over time, however, that kind of punishment has become much less likely in Texas’ largest counties, where prosecutors now generally offer to drop or reduce your charge if you comply with community service, attend a substance abuse class or pay a fine. After mulling it over for years, Bexar County District Attorney Nico Lahood last month announced that the county — home to San Antonio — would couple pre-trial diversion with a cite-and-release policy that keeps low-level marijuana offenders out of jail. Dallas County commissioners voted to adopt the same policy earlier this week.
In Harris County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, marijuana has been a kind of gateway reform. After making it central to her campaign for office, Harris County DA Kim Ogg announced soon after her swearing-in this year that her prosecutors won’t charge people with misdemeanor pot possession if they take a class and pay a $150 fine. Local officials cheered the county for moving “away from wasteful and inefficient policies of mass incarceration.” Ogg followed up with even more sweeping reforms last month, saying her office would now stop prosecuting so-called “trace cases” involving miniscule amounts of any illegal drug. This week, she outlined even more plans to keep people out of lockup and find them help if necessary. As the Houston Press reports, Ogg called it “more diversion, less jail.”
Fazio sees Harris County as evidence that at least some officials in Texas are starting to see marijuana as the low-hanging fruit of criminal justice reform, something local cops and prosecutors don’t even want to waste their time on anymore. But the result of state inaction, Fazio says, is now an uneven and unfair patchwork of policies across Texas, where the consequences for possessing small amounts of a plant — one that more than half of states have legalized in some form — largely depend on where you live. She says her group will keep pushing for cities and counties to do damage control.
That is, until enough lawmakers in Texas agree with the words of their former colleague David Simpson: “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake government needs to fix.”
The post Texas Cities Embrace a Softer Approach to Pot Possession as State Reforms Stall appeared first on The Texas Observer.
Richard Munroe just wanted to talk to someone when he called 911 at 3:48 a.m. on July 5, 2015. Sobbing and drunk, the 25-year-old Austin man unloaded on the dispatcher. He hadn’t talked to his mother in months, he’d recently quit his job and had spent time in a mental hospital. He asked if police could track his address from the call, saying more than once he didn’t want the cops to come; the dispatcher assured him they couldn’t track him. “What you’re doing is what we teach people to do from the time they’re little,” the dispatcher told Munroe. “When you have an issue, if you need something, you call 911.”
Munroe realized police were outside his door when, 20 minutes into the call, his dogs started barking. He grew more upset when officers started shouting at him. Among the dispatcher’s last words to Munroe: “Let me tell them they need to slow it down.” Instead, one officer rushed Munroe with a Taser when he came out of the house wielding what turned out to be a BB gun. The officers claim they fired 23 bullets toward the house, six of which struck and killed Munroe, because they heard a popping sound and saw him raise what looked like a real gun. Just minutes earlier, Munroe and the dispatcher had talked about Fourth of July fireworks that were exploding across the city that morning.
A Travis County grand jury cleared all three officers who shot Munroe. The Austin Police Department’s internal affairs investigation concluded that they didn’t violate any department policies, and none were disciplined. The city’s investigation into Munroe’s death would have ended there if not for the Citizen Review Panel that Austin had created years earlier for an independent look at such incidents. The panel is supposed to identify problems and make recommendations the department can implement to prevent future tragedies.
The Citizen Review Panel’s analysis called Munroe’s case “an example of what not to do” during a mental health call. That’s in part because the three officers who shot Munroe only had a combined 26 months on the job. Police summoned a helicopter to fly around Munroe’s neighborhood but never called for a crisis response team or mental health officer trained to deal with people in emotional distress. Cops fired nearly two dozen rounds toward Munroe’s house without even knowing whether anyone else was inside.
In all, the city-sanctioned panel of police watchdogs submitted eight recommendations to former APD Chief Art Acevedo aimed at preventing future needless police killings. If nothing else, wrote review board chair Dominic Gonzales, Munroe’s death should be a teaching moment for the department.
Austin’s Citizen Review Panel made at least 18 different recommendations to reform policies, procedures and training at APD in letters sent to the chief throughout 2016. According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which obtained those letters and shared them with the Observer this week, none of those reforms have yet been incorporated. Some of them, such as revamping department policies in order to emphasize de-escalation in mental health calls, are recommendations that the board has made time and time again.
APD hasn’t responded to the Observer’s questions about the letters.
Gonzales says he’s frustrated that cases like Munroe’s continue to happen, despite the panel’s recommendations. “Actually, frustrating doesn’t go far enough to describe how it feels when you continue to see this pattern, particularly with people who are mentally ill.”
To Kathy Mitchell, a policy advocate with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, APD’s refusal to act on the recommendations suggest that Austin’s 16-year experiment in police oversight has failed. In 2001, the city created the Citizen Review Panel, along with Austin’s Office of the Police Monitor, as part of the city’s contract negotiations with the local police union. The bargain was supposed to create independent police oversight in exchange for a 22 percent pay increase for officers, according to the Austin American-Statesman. In a recent statement, Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said the agreement created “the most transparent police department in the state, hands down.”
Mitchell and others say that transparency has not led to accountability. Watchdogs insist that police oversight in Austin isn’t working, not because review board members aren’t doing their jobs but because APD higher-ups aren’t listening. “What good is citizen oversight if police won’t listen to it?” Mitchell told the Observer.
Citizen oversight boards exist in some form in most large police departments across the state, often as the result of contract negotiations between cities and their police unions. In addition to Austin, citizens sit on panels in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston that review police shootings and allegations of police misconduct but only make nonbinding recommendations that police officials are free to ignore. Activists say Austin’s track record demonstrates the limitations of that system.
For example, Austin review board members recommended that police interview all witnesses to a police shooting, not just other cops. (In several letters, the board questioned why police didn’t take statements from civilian witnesses at the scene of a shooting.) Mitchell says none of the recommendations have made it into APD’s policy manual for officers. Some suggested changes can likely only be addressed by changing the city’s police union contract, which currently includes a rule barring officer suspensions for misconduct after 180 days have passed.
That’s in part why Austin Justice Coalition founder Chas Moore and others are urging Austin officials to make radical reforms to that contract this year, such as ending a policy that effectively sweeps some officer misconduct under the rug after enough time has passed. City officials and police union reps are in a final round of negotiations for the contract this month. Otherwise, Moore and others want city leaders to blow up the contract.
That would end the Citizen Review Panel, which Moore says isn’t working anyway. “These people get to see their internal investigation after a person is killed,” he said. “If their urgent recommendations are simply ignored, then we need a completely new approach.”
The post It’s Time to End Austin’s Failed Experiment in Police Oversight, Activists Say appeared first on The Texas Observer.
On October 1, 2016, police arrested Andrew Goodson for carrying a knife just short of 6 inches long, a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. The next day, guards brought him and dozens of other inmates into a large room at the Harris County Jail, the nation’s third largest county lockup. One by one they walked to a red square tile situated below a screen that linked them, via video conference, to a prosecutor and a hearing officer who sets bail for the county’s misdemeanor courts.
According to court records, Goodson, 46, was living out of his car at the time and had only $29 to his name. He simply couldn’t afford the $250 bail bond payment that would buy his freedom.
In a video recording of the hearing, Goodson asked hearing officer Jill Wallace for a personal recognizance bond — an option for defendants too poor to make bail — but Wallace shut him down before he could even finish the sentence, citing a quarter-century-old arrest record out of Florida. (Court documents indicate he’s never been convicted of a felony, nor had he ever before been arrested in Harris County.) Wallace grew agitated when the defendant again tried to talk, telling him, “I’m not letting you talk because I’m going by what I feel is best for the community.” When he asked again if he could speak, Wallace yelled “No!” Wallace’s demeanor shifted once Goodson was out of sight. She laughed with the prosecutor after quipping that sending him back to jail “makes me feel better.”
Until recently, the bail process for low-level arrestees in Harris County functioned with the efficiency of an assembly line, sending poor defendants back to jail, sometimes for days or weeks, until they could resolve their cases. Last year, civil rights groups sued the county on behalf of those arrestees. In April, Lee Rosenthal, the chief federal judge for the Southern District of Texas, declared the county’s practice of using cash bail as de facto detention orders, regardless of someone’s ability to pay, an unconstitutional violation of poor people’s right to due process and equal protection.
Citing hearings like Goodson’s, Rosenthal found that Harris County’s attempts to reform the system haven’t gone far enough and this summer ordered that the jail release almost all misdemeanor arrestees on personal bonds after 24 hours if they can’t make bail. On Tuesday, lawyers for the county went to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to argue there’s no constitutional right to “affordable bail” and that Rosenthal’s ruling risks throwing pretrial systems across the country into disarray. The case could change the landscape of American bail practices in ways that reverberate throughout the criminal justice system. Some even say Rosenthal’s ruling could be the beginning of the end of cash bail in America as we know it.
“Wealth-based pretrial detention is a key driver of mass incarceration,” said Elizabeth Rossi, an attorney for Civil Rights Corps, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit. “Ending the practice of keeping people in jail due to their poverty would make it more difficult for prosecutors to coerce guilty pleas and would help ensure that, whether rich or poor, arrestees can exercise their right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.”
In her exhaustive 193-page opinion, Rosenthal found that Harris County jailed hundreds of legally innocent people because they were too poor to pay a bondsman. Rosenthal concluded that the practice “exacerbates the racial disparities” that already exist in the criminal justice system. She cited research showing that defendants who fight their cases from behind bars are much more likely to plead guilty, be sentenced to jail and face longer jail sentences than people who can afford to pay for their pretrial release. Rosenthal labeled it “sentence first, conviction after.”
In Harris County, there’s ample evidence of those perverse incentives. For instance, starting in 2013, local prosecutors began notifying hundreds of defendants who took plea deals on drug possession charges that lab tests conducted months and even years after their convictions proved negative for drugs. In her ruling, Rosenthal found that Harris County prosecutors even sometimes threatened to seek harsher sentences if defendants wouldn’t take a guilty plea.
It’s obvious why someone would want to get out of jail as fast as possible, even if that means eating a criminal conviction that could cost them their job, public housing or scholarships. Consider the case of Patrick Joseph Brown, the 46-year-old man beaten to death in the Harris County Jail two days after he was booked for allegedly stealing a guitar. As the Houston Press reported, Brown got stuck in jail because he couldn’t pay the $300 premium on his $3,000 bond and, like 90 percent of the county’s misdemeanor defendants, wasn’t given a personal bond.
Against this backdrop, Harris County has made reforms in recent years that Rosenthal called laudable, such as giving bail hearing officers a more objective risk-assessment tool and providing public defenders at bail hearings. However, Rosenthal also called those reforms insufficient. It’s ultimately still up to individual hearing officers to decide whether poor people get personal bonds. Hearing officers and county judges regularly give people charged with crimes that indicate poverty — begging, trespassing or sleeping under a bridge — bond amounts that are clearly beyond their reach. Rosenthal said courts had an “unwritten custom” to deny all homeless people personal bonds, even for the pettiest of charges.
Even some local judges are fed up. Judge Darrell Jordan of Harris County Criminal Court 16 says that too many courts automatically equate poverty with risk and set unattainable bonds that keep poor people in jail. Jordan, who was elected to his seat last year after the bail lawsuit was already filed, testified on behalf of the plaintiffs that the county cannot fix the problem on its own. Since taking the bench in November, Jordan says he’s granted personal bonds to almost every defendant who appeared before him and couldn’t afford bail.
“Other judges are basically saying that a person is potentially violent or unsafe to the community if they’re unable to come up with that $500 to pay on a $5,000 bond,” Jordan told the Observer. “Somehow, that’s what all of a sudden makes them too unsafe to release. So I guess around income tax time, when everybody has a little bit of extra money, everyone becomes safe then, huh?”
At the Fifth Circuit appeals court Tuesday, lawyers for Harris County argued that Rosenthal’s order went too far. Charles Cooper, the county’s appellate attorney, spent much of his time telling the judges that misdemeanor defendants can still contest their bail-setting through the proper legal channels.
Judge Catharina Haynes, one of three Fifth Circuit judges who heard the case, seemed to dismiss that argument, saying the lengthy process to contest bail would last longer than most jail sentences for misdemeanor convictions. “How can that really be a remedy?” she asked.
On the other hand, Haynes said she was “shocked” by Rosenthal’s order to release people on personal bond after 24 hours, calling it “chaotic.”
The Fifth Circuit could affirm Rosenthal’s decision, overturn it or send it back to her court for further evidentiary hearings on the impact of her ruling on the county’s ongoing reforms. Trisha Trigilio, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, told the Observer that Rosenthal’s ruling, if it stands, should lead to fundamental changes beyond Houston. “The legal issues that are raised in the Harris County bail case are the same constitutional issues that we run into in jurisdictions across the state,” she said.
The post The Case to End Assembly Line Justice for Poor People in Harris County appeared first on The Texas Observer.
The senator who drafted the sweeping-but-little-noticed body camera law that the Texas Legislature passed in 2015 called his bill a blueprint for other states wanting to establish baseline standards and help fund police departments that hadn’t yet adopted the technology. But one vaguely worded line in the law also gave Texas’ body cam-wearing cops this assurance: if they ever shoot someone, they get to review their own footage before answering any questions about the incident.
At least that’s how two of the largest Texas police departments, San Antonio and Houston, interpret it. Thanks to the law’s vague wording, Dallas police take the policy even further, letting cops who shoot people review footage taken from every officer on scene before they give a statement.
The discrepancy highlights an unexpected downside for police reformers championing body cams, which, depending on how departments use them, could actually help cops avoid accountability. Civil rights groups like the ACLU argue that letting officers review any body cam footage before investigators even ask them what happened amounts to “poor investigative practice” that departments would never use on other suspects. Some fear the policy lets cops get their story straight about a police shooting before putting anything on record.
On September 8, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson, whose office is currently prosecuting two cops for on-duty killings captured by body cam this year, sent a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton asking how far the law really goes.
In her letter, Johnson says she agrees with the policy most of her local police departments have adopted, which lets officers who shoot a person review their own body cam footage before giving a statement to criminal or internal affairs investigators. Unlike the ACLU, she calls that “a legitimate and fair memory enhancement tool.” Still, Johnson says other departments allow the officer who pulled the trigger, as well as “any other officer(s) present at some point” during an incident, to review everyone else’s footage before any of them give statements. Basically, everyone gets to see everything before any of them are asked to say anything.
Johnson’s letter to Paxton says this creates a clear “dilemma” for, say, prosecutors investigating police shootings. Cops who pull the trigger may see footage of things they didn’t witness firsthand before figuring out what to tell officials. Other officers get to see what everyone else saw before they go on record. Johnson said that “can result in, or at least the claim of, embellishment of individual statements based” on events an officer saw but didn’t personally experience. “Our concern is that this practice, if mandated, may actually detract from the officer’s credibility when testifying,” she writes.
While Johnson’s letter doesn’t name the department at the root of her inquiry, her first assistant DA, Mike Snipes, told the Observer that the Dallas Police Department raised the issue with their office. “Their policy is that officers get to look at everybody’s cameras,” he said. Snipes, who has called body cameras a “game changer” for investigating police shootings, insisted the request for an AG opinion isn’t specifically connected to either police shooting case his office is currently prosecuting, one of which involved a DPD officer. According to a Texas Tribune database, DPD officers fired their guns at people more than 100 times from 2010 to 2015.
DPD hasn’t responded to the Observer’s questions about its body cam policy.
Senator Royce West, a Dallas Democrat, authored and championed the body cam bill, known as Senate Bill 158, at the Texas Legislature, where it faced little opposition, though critics would later chastise the measure for effectively blocking the release of pretty much most important body cam footage. Kelvin Bass, West’s legislative aide who worked on the measure, said the office leaned heavily on a 2014 report on body cameras by the Police Executive Research Forum, an influential law enforcement think tank, and the U.S. Department of Justice when drafting the law. “For body cams, that was kind of the bible at the time, one of the most comprehensive things we could find on the topic,” Bass told the Observer.
Even that report, which recommended letting officers review their body cam video before making a statement, conceded that “there is some question” among police departments about whether that’s the right choice. As the ACLU points out, cities like Oakland prohibit officers from reviewing video before giving statements in serious use of force investigations, including shootings. During the 2015 legislative session, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights urged departments to prohibit officers from reviewing body cam footage before filing their initial reports.
“What the law allows is already problematic,” argues Daryl Washington, a civil rights attorney representing the family of Genevive Dawes, who in January was shot and killed by a body cam-wearing DPD officer who prosecutors have since charged with aggravated assault. “It gives an officer and his attorney the ability to review the evidence before they put anything on the record. They get to start tailoring their responses in line with the video evidence right off the bat.”
The AG’s office hasn’t yet issued an opinion on whether the 2015 law can be interpreted to allow Texas cops to review body camera footage from every officer on scene before making a report; per the agency’s website, that usually takes about 180 days. West’s office says the senator agrees with the Dallas County DA’s position that police should only be able to review their own footage prior to giving a statement. What Paxton decides will likely determine how departments across the state interpret the law.
Washington, the attorney, said he wasn’t aware Dallas police under investigation have access to other officers’ footage before answering basic questions about a shooting. If the AG sides with DPD’s reading of the law, Washington says, “That’s just one more thing in the system designed to protect the police as opposed to finding the truth.”
The post Body Cam Policies in Texas Exacerbate a System Designed to Protect Police, Critics Say appeared first on The Texas Observer.
Jeff Mateer and Matthew Kacsmaryk have worked to erode the firewall between church and state as lawyers for the First Liberty Institute, a Christian legal advocacy group that protects pastors who mobilize their flock to overturn local non-discrimination ordinances, county clerks who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses and anti-abortion centers that trick women into thinking they’re walking into actual medical clinics.
Trump’s nomination of the two religious-right legal activists to vacant federal judge seats in Texas has rattled LGBT rights groups, who call the appointments a gift to anti-LGBT activists.
“First Liberty Institute has used anti-LGBTQ policies to blatantly vilify our families and neighbors for two decades,” Equality Texas said in a Friday statement. “By nominating associates of this hate group, the president is using his office in an attempt to ensure policies will be created and spearheaded to advance anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing and places of business all under the guise of protecting religious liberties.”
Kathy Miller of Texas Freedom Network, which advocates for church-state separation, called the nominations “a clear signal that President Trump intends to make our federal courts the place where civil rights go to die.” Their nominations must still be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Mateer and Kacsmaryk aren’t typical judicial nominees. In his eight years as president, Barack Obama appointed 12 lawyers to vacant federal benches in Texas, eight of whom had served as judges. The other four Obama appointees had lengthy careers as government lawyers in the federal courts, either as law clerks for federal appellate court judges or long stints with the U.S. Department of Justice. One served as White House legal counsel to Bill Clinton.
By contrast, Mateer, who Trump nominated to fill a vacant seat in the Eastern District of Texas, has no judicial experience and most of his work has been in private practice. Mateer made headlines last year when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made him the state’s first assistant attorney general. Critics such as Miller bristled that Mateer had publicly eschewed the notion of church-state separation. As he told students during a conference at the University of St. Thomas in 2013:
“I’ll hold up my hundred-dollar bill and say, ‘for the first student who can cite me the provision in the Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state verbatim, I’ll give this hundred dollar bill. … It’s not there. … The protections of the First Amendment protect us from government, not to cause government to persecute us because of our religious beliefs.”
Before joining Paxton’s office, Mateer was First Liberty’s general counsel and executive vice president, representing people like Tom Brown, an El Paso bishop and founder of what the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an anti-gay hate group. A month after Paxton hired Mateer, the AG’s office filed a court brief supporting Brown in a lawsuit stemming from his attempts to overturn the city’s non-discrimination ordinance and recall local politicians who pushed for it.
In a statement Thursday, Paxton praised Mateer’s nomination, calling him a “principled leader” and “a man of character.”
Kacsmaryk, one of five lawyers Trump nominated to vacant federal benches in Texas this week, is currently deputy general counsel for First Liberty, according to the group’s website, and oversees its “policy advisory team.” Trump wants to appoint him to the Northern District of Texas,where, prior to joining First Liberty in 2013, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney mostly handling criminal appeals for five years.
First Liberty, formerly known as the Liberty Institute, is the Plano-based brainchild of Kelly Shackelford, who helped push for a statewide gay marriage ban in 2005 that was ultimately voided by the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality ruling a decade later.
After that high court ruling, as the Observer previously reported, Shackelford urged anti-gay Christians to shift their focus toward fighting for the “religious freedom” to, say, refuse to serve same-sex couples. “We’re going to shove that down their throat over and over again in all these cases,” Shackelford said.
If the Senate confirms Trump’s nominees, there’d be two Texas courts receptive to all that shoving.
The post Trump Nominates Lawyers from Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Group to be Texas Federal Judges appeared first on The Texas Observer.
The San Antonio Police Department’s use-of-force manual encourages officers to “attempt to de-escalate tense situations.” De-escalation apparently didn’t work for officer Gary Tuli, who in late May was caught on a bystander’s video punching an unarmed 14-year-old girl in the face at a quinceañera.
Not that Tuli did anything wrong, according to his department supervisors. In a use-of-force report first obtained by the San Antonio Express-News this week, two of his superiors signed a form saying Tuli’s actions were justified that night, that he violated no department policy and needs no further training. Tuli claims the girl hit him first, and the report says he suffered scratches or bruising to his face. The girl’s attorney adamantly denies that she swung at a cop (she doesn’t appear to on video), but she says the case would still be troubling even if she did.
That’s because SAPD policy also says that if cops must use force, it should be “proportional with the circumstances of the situation.” Artessia House, an attorney representing the girl’s family, questions why the officer didn’t just restrain the girl if he thought she threw a punch. House told the Observer Monday that justifying Tuli’s actions “sends the message that San Antonio police can punch young black girls in the face, on camera, and completely get away with it.”
SAPD wouldn’t comment on the case or the use-of-force report when asked on Monday. The Observer isn’t naming the girl because she’s a minor.
In a shaky video posted on YouTube after the encounter, the girl is standing near her mother, April Johnson, who can be heard yelling, “don’t talk to her like that,” before Tuli swings. The girl’s head immediately jerks backward, and officers then drag the mother out of view as she screams “let her go!” Tuli arrested the girl for assault on a police officer, a third-degree felony, and police took her to the local county juvenile lockup, where she stayed for the next day and a half. Prosecutors have yet to formally file charges against the girl, an honor-roll student who’s never before been in trouble with the police.
In its use-of-force report, SAPD claims that the teenager didn’t suffer any injuries. House says that’s not true, claiming the girl asked for medical attention in lockup but didn’t get it. Earlier this year, her mother told me that a doctor who examined the girl the day after her release diagnosed her with mild traumatic brain injury and trauma to her face and neck.
House argues that the case fits into a pattern of excessive force at the department — from the cops who beat someone they mistook to be a fleeing suspect so badly he needed back surgery to the officer who shot and killed a man last year after mistaking his cell phone for a gun.
“We are asking this police force to render reasonable decisions on these matters, even though they have shown time and time again they’re incapable of doing so.”
The courts have long ruled that warrantless body cavity searches are, in most circumstances, unconstitutional. Impromptu roadside anal and vaginal probes are prohibited by both state law and policies adopted by many of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies, including the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean cops who engage in warrantless roadside cavity searches will always face consequences. This month, Harris County prosecutors dropped criminal charges against two Harris County sheriff’s deputies accused of helping vaginally probe Charnesia Corley after they smelled weed during a June 2015 traffic stop in north Houston. The sheriff’s office has already cleared both deputies of any wrongdoing, and both are expected to stay with the department. One of them could even soon return to patrol duty.
That’s what prompted the attorney handling Corley’s federal lawsuit against the county to release dash-cam footage on Monday that he says proves she was subjected to an illegal search. The video, first published by the Houston Chronicle, appears to show the deputies forcing Corley face-first on the pavement near her car before spreading her legs and shining a flashlight around her genitals.
Corley’s attorney, Sam Cammack, also called for officials to appoint a special prosecutor to pursue charges against the deputies. In a phone call with the Observer this past weekend, ahead of the video’s release, Cammack called the footage “undeniable proof this woman was violated.”
The deputies’ attorneys have claimed they “never penetrated” Corley during the stop, something that the dash-cam footage released Monday doesn’t seem to prove or disprove. In a response filed in the federal lawsuit, Harris County attorneys deny the deputies ever conducted a body cavity search, but rather forced Corley to the ground during a “visual strip search.” Natasha Sinclair, chief of the DA’s civil rights division, which investigates allegations against police officers, told the Observer that while grand jurors didn’t think the deputies committed any crime, “We don’t condone this type of search at all. This is by no means us saying this is an appropriate way to conduct a search.”
The courts have long ruled that the kind of warrantless search Corley says she endured is only justified when police can show that waiting for a judge’s approval would have resulted in “imminent loss or destruction of evidence,” which the county hasn’t even argued in Corley’s case.
However, roadside probes like Corley’s have surfaced in state and federal courts across Texas in recent years. In 2014, a North Texas state trooper pleaded guilty to two counts of official oppression after sticking her hand inside the pants of two women on the side of the George Bush Turnpike while searching for drugs. Even after DPS updated its policy to ban warrantless roadside cavity searches, drivers still complained of deputies probing them during traffic stops. In 2015, state lawmakers passed a new law requiring cops to obtain search warrants before conducting roadside body cavity searches.
That law, which went into effect three months after deputies strip-searched Corley in a Texaco parking lot, carries no criminal penalties for law enforcement officers who violate it.
Citing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, Sinclair wouldn’t explain why her office dropped charges against the deputies in Corley’s case earlier this month, other than to say her office had discovered new evidence they presented to another grand jury, which on August 4 cleared the deputies of any wrongdoing. “I’m prohibited from commenting on exactly what that content was,” she told the Observer.
Cammack meanwhile bristles that the deputies, who were both cleared of wrongdoing by an internal sheriff’s office investigation, will likely remain with the department. In a statement published by the Chronicle on Monday, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said, “I understand and respect the community’s concerns” regarding Corley’s treatment. Gonzalez said both deputies are expected to remain with the department. One of them, he said, “will be allowed to return to patrol duties.”
Cammack says that’s an unacceptable outcome. “This woman was half-naked, handcuffed and face-down on the ground when they penetrated her,” he said. “That deserves some kind of accountability.”
The post Deputies Go Unpunished for Invasive Cavity Search on Houston Roadside appeared first on The Texas Observer.
Gilbert Flores was already taunting the cops when his mother called 911 the morning of August 28, 2015.
“My son, he’s gone crazy, I think he’s on drugs, I’m not sure but he’s crazy,” she told the dispatcher. She’d heard a woman screaming inside the house that morning, ran to Flores’ room and saw he’d bloodied his wife’s face in a rage. After he began cursing God and ripping up a Bible, she told her son the devil was living inside him. According to court records, the dispatcher could hear Flores shouting over his mother: “I’m going to suicide by cop, so bring a SWAT team, or whoever is going to be ready to pull the trigger because I’m going to die today.” Then he grabbed a knife.
Following a chaotic 12-minute struggle, two Bexar County sheriff’s deputies granted his wish. In sworn statements to investigators after the shooting, they said Flores “started advancing” toward them when they shot. Neither of their statements mentioned that Flores had his hands above his head. Bystander video that aired on local TV later that night, which showed his hands raised in apparent surrender, quickly went viral.
Flores’ surviving family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county and deputies two weeks after his death. In their defense, the deputies are now arguing that they were justified in shooting Flores because he was still an imminent threat. To make the case, they’re relying on Albert Rodriguez, the former director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) training academy, who this summer penned a report explaining why cops can rightfully shoot and kill someone, even if their hands are clearly raised.
In his report, Rodriguez writes that it’s “extremely naïve” to think Flores, even with his hands raised and standing at least 20 feet away, wasn’t an imminent threat at the moment officers shot and killed him.
Rodriguez is a familiar figure in police shooting cases. By his own estimate, he trained tens of thousands of the state’s licensed peace officers during his 16-year stint as DPS training academy director. According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, where he’s worked since retiring from DPS in 2009, he’s “investigated and/or served as an expert in over 250 police officer involved shootings.”
As I’ve written before, police frequently turn to Rodriguez to justify extreme police behavior.
For example, he was involved in defending two Harris County sheriff’s deputies who, in 2002, chased down a man videotaping a raid in his apartment complex, busted down his door, and roughed up and arrested some people inside before deleting the video. Rodriguez insisted the officers’ actions were justified because they thought the men would somehow “retaliate” against them with the footage.
The Houston federal judge on the case, Kenneth Hoyt, delivered a stinging rebuke of Rodriguez’s work, saying his notion of what constitutes justifiable police behavior “contravenes well-settled legal theories” and promotes “lawlessness.” He also excoriated Rodriguez after concluding that he’d coached the deputies to make sure their under-oath testimony would support his expert opinions in the case.
Here’s how Hoyt judged Rodriguez’s trustworthiness in that case: “It is like the cuttlefish squirting out ink in an effort to escape. Rodriguez’s testimony is just another stream of endless, irrepressible repetition of half-truths.”
Still, Rodriguez continues to testify in cases where people have accused officers of excessive force, such as Bellaire police sergeant Jeffrey Cotton, who on New Year’s Eve 2008 shot Robbie Tolan, an unarmed black man, in his parents’ front yard.
Cotton claimed he fired three bullets because Tolan rose to his feet, reached for his waistband and started to charge the officer. Tolan says he simply lifted his torso off the ground to shout “Get your fucking hands off my mother” when he saw Cotton shoving his mom. Experts hired by Tolan’s family said the downward trajectory of the bullet through his body shows Tolan was still on the ground when Cotton shot him. But Rodriguez would later write that his body position didn’t matter. Lifting up from the ground and yelling at a cop was, in the heat of the moment, indistinguishable from someone jumping to their feet and charging at an officer with a hand at their waistband. Or, as Rodriguez put it, “it equates to the same.”
Months later, a suburban Houston cop gunned down an unarmed teenager named Aaron Hobart inside his home, in front of parents who’d only called the police for help transporting their agitated, mentally ill son to the hospital. When the family sued, the police department summoned Rodriguez to explain why the officer’s actions were “consistent with established law-enforcement training.” He did the same for the off-duty Conroe officer who in July 2013 chased an unarmed teenager into the woods and put a bullet in the back of his head. The teenager’s crime: stealing $50 worth of iPad cases from a nearby Walmart.
In depositions recently filed in court, the Bexar County deputies who shot Gilbert Flores two summers ago said they were following supervisors’ orders to “by all means stop him.” During the intense, 12-minute struggle that preceded the shooting, Flores tried to stab one deputy, who blocked the attack with a riot shield, according to court records. Deputies had already tried to use a Taser on Flores, but he’d blocked the prongs with a metal chair he wielded as a shield. At one point, one of the deputies actually shot at Flores to keep him from re-entering the house but missed.
In depositions filed in court, both deputies testified they’d talked moments before shooting Flores and agreed on “ending this.” Video appears to show one deputy turning to face the other before they fire, almost simultaneously. That’s why lawyers for the Flores family argue that the officers’ own statements reveal there wasn’t an immediate threat when they shot. While the deputies guessed they were 6 to 8 feet away from Flores, court records show at least 20 feet separated the men.
“At the moment deadly force was used, there was no imminent threat to justify it,” the plaintiffs wrote in a court filing last month.
But Rodriguez says that you have to think like a cop to understand why, even with his hands up and far away, the deputies were justified in shooting Flores. In his report, he makes much of the fact that Flores “transferr[ed] the knife from his right hand to his left” in those final moments before he raised his hands above his head. He calls it a clear “pre-attack indicator” and gives a long treatise explaining why “Experienced law enforcement officers are experts at reading ‘Body Language,’ but not necessarily experts at articulating what they see and/or what they see means to them.”
In the end, he compares the deputies to bullfighters and Flores to a bull that was dangerous, even if it wasn’t charging. Ultimately, like so many things in policing, it boils down to a matter of perception. As Rodriguez writes: “[A] spectator may have that perception, however, there is no question that the bullfighter perceives the bull differently than the spectator.”
A White House spokesman has characterized the story as “fake news” and stated that President Trump believes it is nothing more than a “witch hunt”.
Hundreds of people formed a line that snaked through the Texas Capitol’s basement early Friday, waiting to testify as lawmakers continue to push a so-called bathroom bill targeting transgender Texans.
LGBT activists and allies swarmed the Senate State Affairs Committee hearing over Senate Bill 3 and SB 91, near-identical proposals authored by Brenham Republican Senator Lois Kolkhorst that would not only bar local governments and school districts from adopting bathroom policies that accommodate transgender people, but could also block trans students from playing school sports.
Kolkhorst, who championed similar measures that failed during the regular session, acknowledged that GOP lawmakers have already slogged through several grueling, hours-long hearings in their so-far unsuccessful attempts to strip local governments and school districts of nondiscrimination policies meant to shield transgender Texans.
On Friday, more than 250 people signed up to testify, and the overwhelming majority spoke in opposition. They carried signs reading “Classrooms not bathrooms” and “Don’t discriminate in the Lone Star State.” Supporters brought signs reading “It’s common sense; men shouldn’t be in showers with little girls.”
Patty Woodruff and her 16-year-old daughter, Izzy, drove four hours from Rusk to testify. Patty said Izzy, who is trans, has attempted suicide five times — an alarmingly common phenomenon that Patty said the “bathroom bill” would worsen.
“Dan Patrick should spend one day with a trans child and see if he still supports this bill,” Patty said.
Kolkhorst and supporters of the “bathroom bill” insist they’re safeguarding “dignity, privacy and safety,” despite no evidence of conservatives’ longstanding claim that nondiscrimination protections have been used as cover for sexual predators to assault women and children in public restrooms. Yet on Friday, Kolkhorst also seemed to acknowledge the debate’s culture-war overtones.
“This issue is about much more than bathrooms,” Kolkhorst told the committee. “This is about finding the balance between the right to declare your gender and the right of a parent to protect their child.”
Both bills — Kolkhorst said she filed two as a “precautionary measure” in the fast-moving 30-day special session — would mandate that restrooms, showers and changing rooms in schools or government buildings be “designated for and only used by persons of the same sex as stated on a person’s birth certificate.” That means someone like Ashley Smith, a transgender woman from San Antonio, would be required by law to use the men’s restroom.
“You know that transgender women encounter violence at a much higher level than the general public,” Smith told lawmakers. “I am scared to think about what some people will do to us if this bill becomes law.”
Rene Slataper, a transgender man from Austin, said such restrictions would “make it nearly impossible for me to do my job,” which sometimes requires work on school campuses.
“These bills would send me to the women’s restroom and locker room,” he said. “If the purpose of this is to keep men out of women’s bathrooms, with all due respect, you’re doing it wrong.”
This week’s hearing comes amid intense, multifaceted opposition, including from public officials, who say the “bathroom bills” strip communities of local control; the business community, which warns of damage to the state’s economy; and schools, which want to respectfully accommodate trans students and their families.
CEOs and top executives from more than a dozen Texas-based corporations, including American Airlines and AT&T, wrote state leaders earlier this week warning the legislation would “seriously hurt the state’s ability to attract new businesses, investments and jobs.” More than a dozen top IBM executives traveled to the Capitol to lobby hard against any “bathroom bills,” and 15 San Antonio-area school districts recently signed a letter urging lawmakers to back off.
Meanwhile, some conservative supporters have shifted their focus back to transgender kids. Before lawmakers even gaveled in the special session, Representative Scott Sanford, a McKinney Republican, said in a recent TV forum that letting trans children explore their gender identities is equivalent to “child abuse.” Some supporters who testified worried that without the new measure, schools would “encourage gender confusion.”
Ultimately, Kolkhorst’s bill passing out of committee is a foregone conclusion, as only two of the committee’s nine members are Democrats — and just one of them, Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini, even opposes the bill. Zaffirini questioned Kolkhorst about whether forcing trans Texans into bathrooms that don’t match their appearance puts them in danger: “How can we ensure their safety?” Kolkhorst’s response: “I think that’s what we’re debating today.”
Brad O’Furey, government relations manager with Equality Texas, said Kolkhorst’s bill will almost certainly sail through the full Senate. The real question at this point is what version of the bathroom bill lawmakers think they can push through the House. O’Furey has his eye on House Bill 50, which largely mimics a “compromise” bill lawmakers considered in the regular session. HB 50 would target trans-inclusive policies only at the school district level.
While narrower, that proposal is still plenty dangerous, O’Furey said. “We’re talking about 9-, 10-, 11-year-old kids who get bladder infections because they have to hold it throughout the day, or who get singled out and ridiculed because of who they are,” he said.
Staff writer Gus Bova contributed to this report. See video coverage from the Observer’s Facebook below.
The post Trans Texans, Advocates Swarm Texas Capitol to Oppose ‘Bathroom Bills’ (Again) appeared first on The Texas Observer.