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Fort Bend County, At Large
By Cheryl Skinner

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.


 

One of my favorite sayings has always been “Silence isn’t always golden—sometimes it is just plain yellow.”

As a journalist for some odd 30 years, I have often wondered why people put up with atrocities from government, neighbors, bosses and coworkers and refuse to speak out against illegal or immoral acts.

My grandmother used another adage when I was growing up in reference to speaking out in the work place: “They can fire you, but they can’t eat you.”

So, what is this leading to, you might ask?

Last week, immediately after the trial of Mayor Jamie Roberts, there was an outcry by the public and some media outlets on the way the case was prosecuted.

I, like most of the media, had the opportunity to interview Mayor Roberts and his lead defense attorney Rusty Hardin. They were outspoken and extremely critical of Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey and his lead prosecutor Mike Elliott.

I also interviewed John Healey, who maintained that Elliott had done no wrong and basically the entire resources of at least one division in the DA’s office, plus a couple of federal prosecutors were thrown at this piddley little case and he had no idea why the judge and jury would have found Roberts innocent of those misdemeanor charges.

I did not attempt to call Mike Elliott to get his response to the accusations that he pressured, manipulated and harassed everyone in the case to get his way and try to remove Roberts from office—come hell or high water—by instigating the case.

Why did I not try to call, those of you who don’t regularly read this column might ask.

Because two years ago when this all began I attempted to call Elliott to find out about the case and he did not respond. And, later when he was accused, in an unrelated case, of filing criminal charges that basically had no business in a criminal court because it was a civil action on behalf of one of his high profile clients (he does work as a private attorney too), he did not return phone calls or answer his office number.

I have mentioned this several times in the past. So, after two years of waiting for that elusive return phone call, I simply went to the head honcho (Healey) and asked the pertinent questions.

Well, I was quite shocked when last Tuesday, Healey called me wanting to know if Elliott could respond to all the adverse comments. Being somewhat miffed because of the lack of feedback from this prosecutor, I had to tell Healey that after two years this guy probably didn’t have my phone number.

Well, low and behold Elliott did call. His only excuse for not calling back on this case and the other unrelated one is that he doesn’t discuss cases that are under investigation or pending.

While this sounds good, it doesn’t fly. I’ve dealt with prosecutors and police all of those 30 years I’ve been interviewing, investigating and writing stories. Except for a small handful, these public servants have had the common sense to return a phone call and at least speak “off the record” about issues that are pending. Most have enough savvy on Texas law to know that under investigation or not, some things are, by this great law, public information regardless of how the officer or prosecutor feels about disclosing it.

Anyhow, Mike wanted to have his say. I told him to speak up and it would be in the next issue of the paper. He said he was just too busy with his job to talk on the day he called, but he would call back or submit a written response that he would like printed in its entirety that would fully explain the good cases he had against Mayor Roberts and why he pressed forward. He vehemently denied there was any political motivation on his part, as critics have alleged, to “get” the mayor.

OK,I’m waiting for the return call and interview. I’m waiting for the explanation letter.

My only guess is that this paper came out Wednesday with the interview of Hardin and Roberts and some pretty scathing editorial comments from Bev Carter and yours truly in our individual commentaries.

I guess he is looking for someone, somewhere, who maybe didn’t know about the case or follow the case, or talk to both sides. I assume if this news organization exists, they will be getting a phone call from Healey screening for his boy and/or a once in a lifetime phone call from Elliott wailing about his innocence!

Come to think of it .. that is really funny, all things considered.

Silence truly isn’t always golden and sometimes it is just plain yellow!

State District Judge Jim Shoemake has, in the past, faded some editorial heat in this paper for the way he conducted one trial.

I’m not saying it wasn’t warranted. From all I read, it was.

However, in the case against Mayor Jamie Roberts, Shoemake was exemplary in his professional adherence to the law. The defense attorney and the defendant both commented on his professionalism.

He held the assistant DA’s feet to the fire; didn’t allow any shenanigans, denied motions and objections that could have produced an unfair advantage for prosecutors and generally kept things rolling smoothly. He also ultimately made a directed verdict on one of the charges against Roberts.

I think he proved real well he doesn’t belong to the “good old boy” organization. And, if he ever did, he must have quit.

 He did an outstanding job and should be commended for a job well done in a highly political case.

A lot of the supporters of Mayor Roberts are talking about the abuse of justice they feel Healey and his merry men committed in this case.

Many citizens, if the local blogs are any true indication of the current feeling, believe Healey should fire Elliott or Healey himself should be removed from office and there should be a “house cleaning” at the DA’s office.

Fort Bend County went through that with former DA Jack Stern, so it can be done. But I personally think the citizens outraged by this should speak up loud and often until the next election.

After all, Healey was chosen to replace Stern ... so what was accomplished?

Let the next DA be chosen by the voters. Sometimes they do a better job, then again, sometimes they don’t.

 

 

Contact skinnerc1@tconline.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:
March 13, 2009