Saturday, July 04, 2009

Too many Texas bribery cases to ignore

"The wicked accept secret bribes to pervert justice." Proverbs 17:23

Maybe it's really the case that bribery and public corruption are becoming more commonplace, or maybe I'm just paying closer attention, but here's yet another instance of drug-war related corruption, this time involving an El Paso-based DEA Agent:
A former DEA agent who pleaded guilty to bribery charges was sentenced to a year in federal prison on Thursday, acting U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy announced.

George H. Brunner pleaded guilty in April to accusations he accepted money and gifts in exchange for helping Mexican nationals to obtain U.S. visas. Brunner was assigned to the DEA office in Juarez.

Brunner must surrender to authorities by Sept. 14 to begin serving his prison term. He must also pay a $3,000 fine and be placed under supervised release for three years after finishing his term, officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
This is not exceptionally surprising, given that the FBI has been sounding the alarum now for a couple of years regarding increased corruption among US drug, immigration, and border patrol employees. What is surprising, though, is how commonplace serious bribery allegations in Texas have become.

In just the last month Texas has seen a Houston-based waste management company accused of bribing the wife of the US House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers to get her to change her vote in their favor on the Detroit City Council. Another Houston company, Kellogg Brown and Root, paid more than $500 million in fines and fees this spring to get out from under federal bribery allegations related to Nigerian contracts.

County employees in Houston processing urinalysis results were allegedly taking bribes to alter documents in two separate county departments. Last fall, in Bexar County (San Antonio) accusations arose regarding low-level graft influencing bail bond referrrals. (Haven't heard an update on where that investigation stands.)

The Dallas school district, the Dallas City Council, Dallas state Rep. Terri Hodge, the San Antonio Housing Authority and the El Paso District Clerk, a newly elected El Paso District Judge, other El Paso county and school district officials, not to mention the Sheriff of Starr County, all currently face or have already seen convictions stemming from bribery allegations.

I spent quite a bit of time last year reporting how Sheriffs in Bexar and Potter Counties were hounded out of office over allegations of commissary-related bribery. In Bastrop, the Sheriff recently was convicted of corruption including bribe taking to protect illegal gambling operations, a habit that also took down the Laredo chief of police based on similar charges.

Some of those accused may turn out to not be guilty, but even looking only at the ones who already pled guilty or where the government secured a conviction, this is a boatload of recent corruption cases in one state, even for a big one. And since I mostly track just criminal justice cases, there's little question I'm barely scratching the surface with the incidents listed above.

Rooting out public corruption doesn't seem to be high on anybody's priority list with the exception of the FBI, but the feds can't do it alone. State and local resources and attention must also be focused on the problem if we ever want to see systemic change instead of just a few symbolic heads hoisted on the occasional federal pike.

20 comments:

Soronel Haetir said...

I have a lot of trouble with the US government enforcing bribery statutes against ostensibly foreign behavior. If other governments wish to curb such acts let them prosecute the offending party.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"foreign behavior" like that of the Detroit City Council? ;)

As for KBR, they also violated US laws and SEC regs. That enforcement action IMO was WELL deserved.

doran said...

Grits, I may be missing it, but your Jan 08 post about the Bastrop County Sheriff does not support your statement that he was convicted of taking a bribe.

Can you clarify this?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Doran, perhaps the formal charge wasn't bribery, but he pled guilty in the corruption case in part for "a scheme to pay for a new pickup for his personal use that he arranged with a convicted drug dealer who is accused of running an illegal gambling operation in Bastrop County."

I interepret paying for his truck in exchange for protection of a gambling operation as a "bribe."

Boyness said...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Doran, perhaps the formal charge wasn't bribery, but he pled guilty in the corruption case in part for "a scheme to pay for a new pickup for his personal use that he arranged with a convicted drug dealer who is accused of running an illegal gambling operation in Bastrop County."

I interpret paying for his truck in exchange for protection of a gambling operation as a "bribe."

7/04/2009 08:58:00 PM
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OMG - PLEASE, if this isn't Texas, what is? This is the MOST corrupt state of the 50.

doran said...

Of course. It was a bribe. But the Sheriff was not convicted of taking a bribe. Seems like he should have been, but he was a very popular Sheriff and well-liked personally. I think the Grand Jury gave him a break.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Doran, you're technically correct. I clarified the language in the post to say he was convicted of "corruption including bribe taking." You're right they pled it down from full-blown bribery charges, but that was the main corrupt act he was being prosecuted for.

Anonymous said...

Here's a story that Grits would never cover:
"NYPD rookie makes arrest moments after graduation..."

Grits' stories are always one sided.

Anonymous said...

Only a year? How many people were affected by the drugs that this guy has let in? How many died? I see though that business as usual is still in force as only the COMPANIES were being grilled and not the more powerful wife of Coryn... Typical.

Until all who are in on these schemes are brought to justice, we are only seeing lip-service being paid to corruption in our government.

Anonymous said...

"Here's a story that Grits would never cover:
"NYPD rookie makes arrest moments after graduation..."

Grits' stories are always one sided."

He would except he would have to preface it with NYPD rookie busted for shooting unarmed street vendor..

Why is it that he must cover stories about people that are doing their jobs?

The idea here, and read slowly so you don't get lost, is to shine light on corruption, and misuse by government. If you are hired as a cop and make good arrests, you are doing WHAT YOU WERE HIRED FOR.. If you are a cop that gets caught up in a corruption scheme, you broke the trust and thus deserve a story here to show the world..

Anonymous said...

Any news on former Bastrop County Sheriff Richard Hernandez and his corruption case?

Boyness said...

Anonymous said...

"Here's a story that Grits would never cover:
"NYPD rookie makes arrest moments after graduation..."

Grits' stories are always one sided."
--------------------------------

Yeah, a one sided against liars and cheats and others who manipulate the system. Maybe, like a lot of folks, you hjust keep your head buried in the Texas dirt and couldn't or wouldn't recognize corruption if it slapped you in the face.

Anonymous said...

01:51
Does Grits want to reform the system? You really believe that? I believe they want to thow out every aspect of the current system and replace it with a nightmare of a left wing authoritarian state. We are seeing that develop on the national level. It's as plain as day - oh, I forgot you can't recognize things.

dirty harry said...

Boyness said:
"OMG - PLEASE, if this isn't Texas, what is? This is the MOST corrupt state of the 50."

Have you spent much time in Louisiana or Illonois?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:42, your comments ignore reality and tell us more about your politics than mine. For starters, since you want to link me to what's going on at the "national level," search this blog and you'll find posts about Barack Obama going back to the campaign period have been almost exclusively critical. I disagree with much of his crimjust policy since he took office and am not a fan of his SCOTUS nominee.

As for me desiring a "left-wing authoritarian state," you and I must define "authoritarianism" differently. Most people, for example, would consider SUPPORT for mass incarceration a characteristic of authoritarianism, not opposition to it. And is it now anti-authoritarian to ignore bribe taking and totalitarian to oppose it? That seems to be the bizarre logic you've employed.

Perhaps you can point to specific things I've written that indicate I want to "throw out every aspect of the current system and replace it with a nightmare of a left wing authoritarian state." Put up or shut up.

Dirty, IL and LA certainly give Texas a run for its money, but they've been that way for years. IMO it's getting worse here, quickly.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:42, I've known Grits for several years, although unfortunately our paths have not crossed recently. And I've followed his blog since he started it. It's beyond my ken how anyone could describe him as authoritarian. Libertarian would be much more accurate. But I doubt he could be nailed down by any political label.

Rev. Kiker in Tulia

Boyness said...

dirty harry said...

Boyness said:
"OMG - PLEASE, if this isn't Texas, what is? This is the MOST corrupt state of the 50."

Have you spent much time in Louisiana or Illonois?

7/06/2009 06:47:00 AM


-----------------------------
I have always felt that the level of corruption in Texas makes the Chicago-esque corruption of the elder Daley look like kids play. It seems as no matter where you look or dig, there is ALWAYS something crooked in Texas.

A friend of mine, from Louisiana, was discussing which state had the most corruption. Studying both, I said Texas is head and shoulders above our friends in the swamp to the east. Louisiana's corruption extends mostly to Governors who the feds eventually put in prison, like Edwin Edwards and there always the lunatic fringe like David Duke.

I wonder what would happen if the feds really started sniffing out Rick Perry or ANY of his inept appointees.

Anonymous said...

Illinois corrupt? The elder Daily administration corrupt? No question about it, but for all of our reputation, we didn't get tagged “the city that works” for nothing. But we're still 17th on the list of most corrupt states. Not to mention for all the problems we've had over the years, I have yet to see the general public react to our police with the same fear and mistrust I've seen in several cities in Texas. I've been treated better by Chicago police during a public protest than I have by Texas police while having a cup of coffee in an outdoor cafe. I've also never before in my life seen an entire restaurant, filled with patrons, families with children, go silent and feel such tension rise when two police entered and “walked” the place before taking seats and ordering lunch. Not even when dining in third world countries where people were pulled off the streets and disappeared on a regular basis.

I love my friends and family in Texas. I love many things about Texas, but I've never felt less “safe” as a law abiding citizen than when in Texas. Don't get me wrong, there are a good number of law enforcement personnel in Texas who act with great honesty and integrity and I applaud both them and their efforts. But there also seems to be a good number who treat the world like their own little police states and seem to get off on the fear they inspire.

Boyness said...

#17? Not sure where you got that. Texas ranks #3 in public officials found GUILTY of corruption followed only by Florida and New York. (SOURCE NY TIMES)

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