On its front page today, the Houston Chronicle reports that an attorney in a civil rights suit believes Harris DA Chuck Rosenthal did not prosecute two Sheriffs deputies because he feared an affair with his executive secretary Kerry Stevens would be revealed. "The very next time I see you, I want to kiss you behind your right ear," Rosenthal wrote to Stevens on Aug. 10, 2007. Reported the Chronicle ("Judge seals Harris DA's revealing emails," Dec. 27):
Kelley is a friend and former law partner of C.O. Bradford, the former Houston police chief and Rosenthal nemesis who is running for DA as a Democrat, so the story has the appearance of a political hit. But that doesn't mean it's not a legitimate story. As one of many commenters on the Chronicle website pointed out, "If he were in the private sector, he would at least be severely reprimanded and most likely fired."
"It's five years later; why weren't they investigated?" [attorney Lloyd] Kelley asked. "The e-mails establish the reason why Rosenthal did nothing — you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."
When deposing Rosenthal on Nov. 29 for the case, Kelley asked if he was having an affair, a question Rosenthal's attorney wouldn't let him answer.
He also wasn't allowed to answer Kelley's question about whether his friends, Sheriff Thomas and Harris County commissioners Jerry Eversole and Steve Radack, were aware of his relationship with Stevens.
Kelley then asked, "Mr. Rosenthal, is it because you are engaged in activities that you want to keep quiet, is that why you won't rock the boat and investigate the sheriff and his activities?"
"No," Rosenthal responded.
During discovery for the case, Kelley asked for all of the e-mails sent or received by Rosenthal, his first assistant Bert Graham and his general counsel, Scott Durfee from July to Oct. 15.
In court documents protesting the release of the e-mails, attorneys for Rosenthal argue they "relate to private expressions of affection between Rosenthal and Stevens."
While the 51 e-mails between the two contain the phrase "I love you" more than a dozen times, and Rosenthal asks Stevens to let him hold her, the messages are not explicit.
Rosenthal said Wednesday he is not having an affair with Stevens, but that he had an affair with her in the 1980s when he was married to his first wife. He said the affair did not end that marriage, but he did later divorce.
Rosenthal later remarried and said he told his current wife about the affair before hiring Stevens as his executive assistant when he took office in 2000.
Another commenter summed up my own feelings: "Hiring your former paramour as your executive assistant, giving her a County car to drive around town (so the car can receive preventative maintenance!) and using the County's computer system in the manner he did is just plain 'ickey'. ... Chuck Rosenthal really needs to do the honorable thing and resign so that another untainted candidate can run against C.O. Bradford."
UPDATE: See more from the blogosphere here, here, here, here, here, and here. In addition, here's a photo of Rosenthal and Ms. Stevens from the Harris DA's website: