Dear Judge Hoyt:
The decision could not have been made easier by a declaration Rosenthal recently made to the court, blaming prescription drugs for significant inconsistencies in his sworn statements. Perhaps you are aware that in a press release announcing his resignation from office he wrote this: "Although I have enjoyed excellent medical and pharmacological treatment, I have come to learn that the particular combination of drugs prescribed for me in the past has caused some impairment in my judgment."
Rosenthal hesitated, then said, "There is no medical reason that I would not have a recollection." But now Rosenthal claims that prescription medication impaired his judgment. He has seized on the only lifeline his lawyers could extend—an intoxication defense—to keep their client from drowning in a sea of inconsistent sworn statements. In the contempt hearing, there was no mistaking that the District Attorney had repeatedly lied to you about material facts regarding destruction of potential evidence. He was making a mockery of the court.
But now Rosenthal claims that prescription medication impaired his judgment. He has seized on the only lifeline his lawyers could extend—an intoxication defense—to keep their client from drowning in a sea of inconsistent sworn statements. In the contempt hearing, there was no mistaking that the District Attorney had repeatedly lied to you about material facts regarding destruction of potential evidence. He was making a mockery of the court.
I'm sure there are many defendants who wish they could have withdrawn their false statements. In a court pleading to you, the plaintiffs' attorney in the underlying lawsuit named three: Martha Stewart, Barry Bonds, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Rosenthal may believe he is above the law, but he should be no more immune to fines and jail time than Scooter Libby, the former Chief of Staff for the Vice President of the United States of America, who was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison. (President George W. Bush commuted the sentence.)
Eventually, Angleton, who is the subject of my book, faced you in court for tax evasion. In 2005, I attended judgment day for him in your courtroom. To refresh your memory, Angleton was the bookmaker and murder-for-hire suspect who failed to pay all of his taxes to the IRS, reporting a $2.6 million gross profit when his business had taken in around $64 million for the three-year period in question. You may recall that after Angleton swore to the court that he had no money, agents found cash he had stashed in offshore accounts.
You have seen that sort of psychology again with Chuck Rosenthal. He has felt above the law for the thirty years he served as a prosecutor in Harris County. The "might makes right" mindset has warped nearly the entire office. A number of these public servants seem to have forgotten just whom they are supposed to serve. The level of entitlement is alarming. And personally disturbing.
Rosenthal's latest sworn statement that prescription drugs caused him to violate your court order is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst. The fact is, Chuck Rosenthal has always been intoxicated. And I'm not referring to his pills or the bottle of whisky he kept in his desk at the office. "Prosecution [is] in his blood," Rosenthal once said, comparing himself to a colleague. "When you experience the joy of helping people who have been victims and get to do something about the perpetrators of crime," he told the Houston Chronicle, " it's so rewarding that it's intoxicating." To Rosenthal, the means always justified the end. In this case, the end—law enforcement getting off the hook for committing egregious civil rights violations—is an injustice. The deputies were not the victims here. The court has already exonerated the real victims whose civil rights were trampled upon.
Your examination of Rosenthal revealed his illegal act was deliberate. He not only selectively deleted 2,000 messages he did not want the court to see. He then deleted all those erased messages from his Deleted Items folder to ensure they would never be recovered. He succeeded. Now he thinks he is above the law because he understood that absent the contents of those messages, there would be no way to prove that evidence was destroyed. And that is precisely why he did it.
The former District Attorney for Harris County is acting like a knowledgeable criminal covering his tracks. No different from Angleton, as you recognized at his sentencing for tax evasion:
Like Angleton, Rosenthal has destroyed evidence. Now the ex-D.A. is claiming an intoxication defense, resorting to criminal defense tactics to reduce his punishment. Angleton did the same thing by claiming he needed treatment for alcohol abuse. His problem was not with alcohol, but with sentencing. Angleton was advised that claiming dependency would shave time off of his punishment. It saved him a little time, but he spent the first part of his sentence at the Federal Detention Center. The same jail that held me for contempt of court. The same facility where Chuck Rosenthal would serve his sentence for contempt, if he is jailed.
Deliberating on sending a former D.A. to jail for any reason is difficult enough. But a district attorney should be held to a higher standard. The public deserves reassurance that elected officials are not above the law. Whatever your decision, I expect you will state it eloquently and that your order will reacquaint Chuck Rosenthal with two key concepts he seems to have lost touch with: Justice and Mercy.
Sincerely,Vanessa Leggett Tweet