Friday, January 08, 2010

Bexar and Collin DA's races: Who gets to wear the bandoliers?

Having recently rounded up some of the more interesting criminal-justice related and appellate judicial elections in the offing in 2010, I should add two District Attorneys' races to the list that I failed to mention:

Bexar County DA: Dems' time?
A couple of different folks have now told me to watch Democrat Nico Lahood out of Bexar County as a strong challenger to incumbent Republican DA Susan Reed. Offhand, his bio looks solid, and from a campaigning perspective, the fact that he sits on a major hospital board and is active with St. Mary's alumni and the local criminal defense bar perhaps indicates he can raise TV money. He'll need it. Susan Reed will be a tough opponent and that would be a big Democratic get in a year when the county party is in disarray. In 2006 Reed won with 60+% of the vote, but she's also taken a few hits since then and the countywide vote tipped consistently Democrat in 2008.

Collin County DA: Who gets to wear the bandolier?
Meanwhile, at Frisco DWI Lawyer we find the most detailed account I've seen of the candidate field for Collin County District Attorney, which is open this year after John Roach decided to call it quits. The GOP primary race looks to be a highly competitive contest: Greg Willis, a Perry appointed judge who resigned to run for DA; Jeff Bray, the senior legal advisor to the Plano Police Department; James Angelino, who is a former ADA from Denton County; and criminal defense lawyer and former Dallas ADA John Reed. Democrats have a pretty qualified challenger lined up in Rafael de la Garza, a former Dallas ADA and Western District Assistant US Attorney, but his candidacy on paper is a longshot; he'd need resources, luck, and maybe help from an inept opponent to win.

Question One to all these Collin County candidates: Do you support incumbent John Roach's efforts to outfit and deploy a DA Office SWAT-like tactical team using asset forfeiture money? Question Two: Will you rescind his decision? Really. That's not a joke or misprint. The outgoing DA is putting together his own tactical team equipped for forced entry for which he recently sought to purchase:
2 DPMS "AP4" 5.56 caliber Panther Carbines
2 Remington Model 870 12 gauge shotguns with 7 round magazines, pistol grips and folding stocks.
2 LED lights for the shotguns
2 Tactical Ballistic shields
10 Ballistic helmets
2 shoulder ammo bandoleers (a la Pancho Villa?)
2 Blackhawk Tactical backpack kits, includes a heavy duty ram, a bolt cutter and a hooligan tool (for breaking down doors).
6,000 rounds of 5.56 caliber NATO ammunition.
Those are gonna be the best-armed prosecutors I've ever heard of, but it could be the source of intra-office jealousy: Which prosecutors do and don't get helmets? And who gets to wear the bandoliers? I wonder if, for liability purposes, using a ram, bolt-cutter or "hooligan tool" would qualify the DA's office for "absolute immunity"?

The Collin County Observer helpfully provides a link to the relevant agenda item and backup documentation.


Scott in South Austin said...

Just to clarify, it's a halligan tool, not a hooligan tool. The halligan is a forcible entry tool for doors and windows.

Given that the Collin County DA cannot even properly identify a common forcible entry tool used by the US Fire Service for over 150 years for gaining building entry during structure fires, it makes me wonder why the heck they need a Tactical Team. But what the heck, I live in Travis County so its no dollars out of my wallet. I'm sure the Plano soccer moms and dads feel safer...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Yup, I doublechecked - "hooligan tool" is how Roach's own funding request read.

That's friggin' hysterical! Talk about your Freudian slips!

Unknown said...

Sheee!! And here in the United Kingdom some people think it is strange that they wear horse hair wigs in court! Will the prosecutors get to wear their kevelar helmets in court?

Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys are hilarious.

Brody said...

Just so we're clear- the equipment has been requested for the DA's investigators, who are all licensed peace officers. It may still be a colossal waste of money and a dangerous duplication of force, but it's not as though trial prosecutors are going to be the ones loaded up with tactical gear.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Brody, there's this concept called "humor." Perhaps you've heard of it? ;)

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen any humor here.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Find a mirror, 2:23.

Anonymous said...

Grits, not meaning to rain on the party, but LaHood has a prior felony drug case, which he openly admits to and uses as part of his election strategy. Nobody really believes he has a chance even though he is a good lawyer and a darn nice guy, whose dad happens to be a newly appointed county court at law judge seeking election as well. It will definitely be interesting and I will be pulling for Nico.

Brody said...

While I can see that there was humor in the way it's presented, it's also presented in a way that's inaccurate. I'm fine with humor, but the post doesn't make it clear who the guns are actually going to. There's no mention of the investigators at all.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Brody, it was presented with a link to the primary source material so anybody who wants to can go read exactly what's going on. Nobody was misleading anyone and I don't think anybody believed prosecutors would show up for court in riot gear. It was just a snarky comment.

And who are the SWAT toys "going to"? Who do you suppose would make deployment decisions about the tactical team - investigators or the DA? It's the prosecutors' show, and the investigators work for them. It's not like they're an independent agency.

3:15, I don't know anything about Lahood beyond his campaign bio, but given the '08 election numbers, a D victory isn't out of the question. I was really just calling attention to a potentially competitive DA race, not predicting he would win.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't a SWAT team put them under qualified immunity, as opposed to absolute immunity, based on tghe new SCOTUS ruling?

Brody said...

Well, I think you're wrong in the factual reporting of this post, and were being intentionally misleading. Also, if you follow your own link to the Collin County Observer it doesn't mention that the weapons will be manned by qualified peace officers, and is in fact labeled "Guest Opinions" by the Collin County Observer. Any anything that's labeled "Opinion" seems hardly like a primary source. The Observer does at least rightly attribute the equipment purchase to the "Rapid Response Team" but again attributes it to "training some really bad ass prosecutors." You have to go to the Dallas Morning News (and any source not linked by you) to find any mention that the equipment would be handled by investigators, not attorneys. Hell, even the third commenter here asked "Will the prosecutors get to wear their kevelar helmets in court?"

Bottom line? I think you're being intentionally misleading, and are now backpedaling furiously that you've been called out on it and trying to label it a joke. But I'm a prosecutor, so I'm sure I'm biased.

I'm sure you're right in that the DA would have final say in the use of the tactical response team. And I agree that it's a really dumb duplication of resources. And I agree that reaction a larger and better trained SWAT team would be the more appropriate choice by far than anything the DA could put together. But I also think you're being intentionally misleading in order to denigrate all of the prosecuting attorneys who work in that office, and not their boss whose policy decision you disagree with.

I continually read Grits because I find quite a bit that's useful to me, mostly regarding alternatives to incarceration that I can try and put into practice in my own little part of the criminal justice system, but I'm often turned off by this "snark at any cost" attitude you have towards prosecutors.

Anonymous said...

Nico LaHood made an error in judgement as a young man. As his probation officer, I observed him to be extremely remorseful for having commtted the offense and for the pain it caused his family. He picked himself up, dusted himself off and busted his rear end to become a productive citizen of Bexar County. Unfortunately, his opponent has made numerous "Thinking Errors" as an educated(?) adult. When questioned about stolen Southwest Airlines tickets that were clearly marked "Not for resale", she said she was "ignorant or unaware" that they were stolen. Really? "Ignorance" never worked for any defendant in her court.
This woman thinks she is GOD! She treats people like they
are dirt, unless of course you have something she wants!

Now who do you want for DA in Bexar County? Someone whom has steered away from a bad decision as a young man, or someone whom claims "ignorance" for continued abuse of her office?

Easy choice for me, Nico has proven himself to be above board, approachable and someone whom will make the Bexar County District Attorney's office a place where ADA's will want to stay and make Bexar County safer.

Mark # 1 said...

I think the entire concept of yet another militarized peace (remember them?) officer unit is appalling, and the fact that it will consist of anybody from a District Attorney's Office to be ludicrous. So, yes, the entire concept must be reduced to comedy to even make the issue bearable, as disgust is not a healthy emotion.

Anonymous said...

Don't jump so fast on LaHood's band wagon. Ask him about his criminal record and his efforts to cover it up. For a journalist you will not be too happy to see how he tries to hide the truth. First degree felony drug delivery case that he calls a youthful mistake. Wait until the facts come out. Plus, his credentials are so puffed up and fake it is not even funny. Reed will crush him.

Anonymous said...


About LaHood, one of the comments claims to come from his probation officer. I don't believe it. LaHood got a sweetheart deal 'cause of his daddy. Normally, he would have gone to prison for a long time. Ask LaHood how long he was on probation -- not long enough for anyone to claim to know him. Also, ask why a guy who comes from a privileged family and had every break in the world given to him needs to turn to drug dealing. That gives you an idea of the guy's character -- shady and crooked. IS that who you want for DA?

Anonymous said...

Ok, last post your wrong! His officer knew him well then. I'm friends with his old officer and bunches of probation officers and they all want NICo!!! Reed is out of touch and disconnected with the public. The probation department went through He$$ and Reed did nada! I saw them take her proof of crimes from the old chief and other head honcho. Reed did nothing! The SW tickets have made her a lame duck. She can't do her job because she can't cast stones because she has done worse than charges she needs to place on others.

As a citizen that is a REPUBLICAN of Bexar County, I'm voting Nico.

I could care less if he did go to prison when he was younger or not. I could care less about his old crime. What he did as a teen that changed his life around is what America is made of. People who want to do better and change after a screw-up. Reed did her screw-up as an old hen in office who has become like a badger to protect her turf and ignore us little people.

I'm a small business owner who gets broken into and recieves bad checks all day long. Reed's tough talk has fallen short. Ready for a change!

Anonymous said...

I also will take a past probationer with puffed up creds over REED. GO NICO GO!!!

If there is more the public will not care. Take some polls and see.
He will win. She has caused tons of problems by slowing our criminal justice system down. Give a mj joint user a ticket instead of a bed with free meals please!!!!

RAS said...

DAs are too close to the police that they could end up prosecuting under normal circumstances, this is way too close.

Anonymous said...

Asset forfeiture is so evil that there have been Christian rock bands whose vans were stopped and where the cops simply used civil forfeiture laws to steal the band's musical instruments. Looks like John Roach has been smoking his last name.