Sunday, August 09, 2009

Texas Ranger withheld evidence in sex abuse case, says Texas Monthly

Having just returned from Smith County on some sad business, I was pleased to discover that Texas Monthly is staying on top of an unraveling child sex-abuse case out of Mineola, most recently reporting that a Texas Ranger investigating the case allegedly withheld critical evidence. Here's how reporter Michael Hall's latest story opens ("Sex, lies, and videotape," Aug. 2009):
What does a district attorney do when the chief investigator in the biggest child sex ring case in state history turns out to have been hiding important evidence? If you are Matt Bingham, district attorney of Smith County, you try to get as far away from the case as you possibly can. You call in the attorney general’s office for help. And you hunker down and hope the resulting investigation doesn’t make your office look like one that casually convicts innocent people.

And that is a real danger for Bingham. The so-called Mineola swingers club cases, which I wrote about in April (“Across the Line”), were already pretty dodgy, even before the latest revelations. Three adults were convicted of running a sex kindergarten for kids and then putting them onstage for shows at a swingers club in Mineola (three more defendants await trial). There was no physical evidence against the adults, and there were no grown-up witnesses—just the inconsistent and often bizarre words of five young children.

The leader of the investigation was Texas Ranger Philip Kemp, who never even visited some of the alleged crime scenes and who broke all kinds of professional protocols in interviewing the alleged child victims. Now it turns out that Kemp was hiding evidence. A series of July pretrial hearings in Tyler for the next defendant, Dennis Pittman, revealed that in particular Kemp had not told the truth about an early interview with the first two child victims. At a July 2 hearing, Pittman’s attorney, Jason Cassel, asked Kemp about August 17, 2005, interviews with the two kids—interviews none of the defense lawyers in the first three trials had been told about. “I don’t know anything about those,” replied Kemp. “I’ve never seen them.” (He also claimed he had never seen or heard of two other interviews, also conducted in 2005.) Cassel asked him again about those August 2005 interviews at a July 30 hearing. But Cassel had in the meantime found some of Kemp’s handwritten notes that were made while watching a video of the interview. At that July 30 hearing Cassel held up the notes and asked Kemp if it was his writing. It was, said Kemp. Then Cassel revealed that the writing obviously referenced the August video. “So you watched the video from August 17, 2005, that you denied ever watching, correct?” Kemp replied, “I must have.”

This revelation capped a bad month of hearings for the prosecution, during which all kinds of evidence that never made it into the first three trials was revealed, such as the seven different interviews with those five children in which they either never mentioned a sex kindergarten or sex club or they denied that they knew anything about either one.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Innocent people sentenced to life in prison for “sex crimes” in Texas?
Who would have thought it?

I do think that if one were to dig further and look at more of these cases much more closely, you'd find many more instances of persons who are most likely innocent of all charges who have been falsely accused, convicted by a fast draw jury who go on a presumed guilty bias with all sex crimes and LE who conveniently forget to share anything that points away from a conviction.

How completely insane have they gone in Texas and why are they being allowed to get a way with it? Do they really hate their citizens so much there that they don't care that they are sending them to prison for longer and longer sentences or life on flimsy or made up evidence and the emotions of juries who seem to have lost all semblance of common sense? Or is it that so many Texans have invested into the private prison industry and they're just protecting their dividends?

The more I read these stories, the more I think God help us all and save us from our own stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Knowing Matt Bingham and the workings of the Smith County DA's office I would bet that Kemp was told to withhold the evidence by Bingham. It is common practice for the Smith County DA's office to withhold evidence and sponsor perjured testimony. It has been going on non-stop since at least the Kerry Max Cook case in the last 70's.

I have significant experience investigating child abuse cases. Several things about this case didn't smell right to me. One of the biggest indications that something was wrong was the fact that most of this supposedly occurred in Wood County but Wood County didn't prosecute. I know the officer with Mineola PD who investigated the case for them. She has a lot of experience investigating these types of cases. If there were something there she would have done something about it.

The fact that this Texas Ranger with no experience or training in interviewing children did the "interrogations" of the children was another big red flag.

The fact is the Smith County DA's office wanted to prosecute a sensational case that would get Bingham on the news. The truth does not matter to them. Guilt or innocence doesn't matter. They will lie, cheat and steal to win. The tactics in this case which include withholding evidence and perjured testimony by law enforcement are standard operating procedure for the Smith County DA's office. It makes one wonder if the self-righteous citizens of Smith County will ever wake up and do anything about it.

Another problem with these cases is the fact that they are being tried in Jack Skeen's court. Skeen still believes he works for the DA's office. The chance of anyone getting a fair trial in his courtroom are slim. He was the DA until he was appointed as a judge and unethical, dishonest and illegal tactics were standard practice in his DA's office. Bingham is Skeen's protege.

I'm glad these cases are finally getting the attention they deserve. I haven't checked but I'd be surprised to see anything about the issues raised in the Texas Monthly article in the local Tyler press. The people who run the Tyler paper are buddies of Skeens and will only print things that make the DA's office look good.

What do think the odds are of this Ranger being prosecuted for perjury? Slim and none in Smith County. The officer who committed perjury in the Kerry Max Cook case was not only never charged or tried but retired from Tyler PD as a captain. In Smith County perjury by law enforcement officers gets them promoted because they are "team players". The AG's office or someone else needs to step in and prosecute Kemp.

Anonymous said...

7:13, I have another theory about why a Ranger would make a blunder that leads to his committing perjury: The Ranger wanted to make a name for himself and/or allowed his emotions to run away with him. I've seen it close up in another, similar case. Rangers seem to have a vulnerabilty in sex cases, probably because of the publicity they generate. Citizens should stop regarding Texas Rangers as being ten feet tall, and if the magazine is accurate, this one should probably be prosecuted. Consider the irreparable damage done to people who don't deserve it.

Anonymous said...

This is Texas folks. If you want more funding for your county/city you manufacture as many sex crimes as you can. That is the truth of it. Although a number of real sex crimes do occur, it is easy to see that with the inclusion of Romeo and Juliet offenses are a registry level offense, as well as the taking out of language that would find innocence for a defendant, you have the Greatest Witch hunt this country has ever seen. The early research of 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 4 teens, and 1 in 5 males has all been disproven at this point, however the laws continue to get tougher, and the inclusions are getting even more broad. Today you have the parole board putting people on the registry even though they have no conviction for a sexual offense. WE created this monster, and until WE tell our elected officials that they back off of the BS and start understanding what they sign then we will have to replace them.

If you want one in the win column, just charge someone with a sex offense, DA's all know this, and so do those that wear a badge.

Anonymous said...

Folks,

Why would anyone think a Texas Ranger is competent as an investigtor? 10 years driving a sedan on West Texas highways is the requirement to apply for a Ranger position, last I heard. As I understand it, many of them learn criminal investigations from the local LE office that offers them a desk and parking space.

Anonymous said...

12:29 I agree. Why does anyone think 10 years of writing speeding tickets qualifies someone to do complex criminal investigations?

Many people may not remember but there was a very similar situation that occurred in a county just to the northeast of Smith County about 17 or so years ago. That involved the disappearance of Kelly Wilson in Gilmer. Overzealous foster parents (much like this Cantrell lady) combined with overzealous CPS workers and a special prosecutor led to the indictment of several innocent people for the abduction and murder of Kelly Wilson. Sensationalistic claims of ritualistic abuse were raised. It all turned out to be garbage.

Maybe it's time to rethink how these cases are handled.

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is that while all claim to seek justice, you only seem to find it when you stumble over it in the dark. I am hoping that a Keller-less CCA will find this prosecution the abuse that it was and correct this injustice. But I guess I'm just daydreaming again.

DEWEY said...

"Costodiat ipsos Costodies?" (Who will guard the guards?"

Anonymous said...

I think this was the same Ranger Kemp involved in the FLDS raid.

I think he was the one who investigated Rozita.

Maybe he is the go-to guy for corruption?

Anonymous said...

Have you looked at the website for Kemp's division. It's all white males (or at least what looks white).

Not one woman or minority!
I bet not one is gay. (or should I say not one would admit they are gay).

It's the good ol boy network.

texas mother prevails justice said...

Montgomery County is more than willing to cover up child related sex crimes. Yes their was a rape, yes their was a sexual assult, yes their is a eye witness, yes their was an out cry. The D.A. PCT. 1 Constable, Sheriff, County Attorny,choose to protect the crime, than the child. Why..to protect their interest in Don Van Orden. No crime is greater than to harm a child. A little girl 12 years old.

The Pharisee said...

Scott,

There are two new stories overnight on the Mineola Sex Club story. In the one at CBS 19 TV, we learn that the Woods County DA filed an Amicus Brief AGAINST the Smith County DA in favor of the defense. There is also a video at the link.

There is also a story in the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

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