Last Thursday, Lifesite News, Operation Rescue, Thomas More Society, and Texas Right to Life, joined in a press conference to denounce Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson and call for her to dismiss the indictments against citizen journalists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Operation Rescue presented 100,000 signatures gathered in just a few days in support of dismissing these indictments. Reverend Patrick Mahoney spoke eloquently and at length on the impact of silencing journalists opposed to Planned Parenthood’s operations. His message was that all journalists are at risk when the First Amendment is attacked. The press conference occurred at the same time that David Daleiden was in Houston to surrender himself and make a court appearance. Merritt appeared in court the previous day.
The local media coverage of the event missed the boat and failed to recognize Reverend Mahoney’s worldwide efforts to defend Christian journalists. Reverend Mahoney referenced the recent 60 Minutes piece, Anonymous, Inc., on lawyers and money laundering. This story followed a nonprofit group that secretly filmed 16 lawyers to see if they would consider moving suspicious funds into the United States. The secret videos depicted an investigator for the nonprofit group posing as a representative of a government official from a poor West African county who wanted to move millions of dollars in suspicious funds into the United States. This nonprofit spent time and resources creating the background and identity of the fake representative in order to investigate American lawyers.
How did we get here? In August 2015, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced that it would investigate Planned Parenthood after a series of undercover videos were released by the Center for Medical Progress – a group of citizen journalists, including Daleiden and Merritt. On January 25, 2016, the 232nd Grand Jury indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for the felony offense of tampering with a governmental record. Daleiden was also indicted for the misdemeanor offense of offering to purchase human organs. The felony cases were filed in the 338th District Court with Judge Brock Thomas, the former law partner of Devon Anderson.
Anderson was elected to the 177th District Court in 2004. Thomas served as judge of the 338th District Court from 2002 – 2008. Thomas and Anderson both lost reelection to their District Court benches in 2008 and formed Anderson & Thomas LLC and practiced criminal defense.
In October 2015, the grand jury that “investigated” Planned Parenthood and indicted Daleiden and Merritt was impaneled by Mary Lou Keel, presiding judge of the 232nd District Court. Keel is currently running for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the highest criminal court in the state. This is the court that will make the decision on Kelly Siegler’s misdeeds in the David Temple case.
At this point, there are more questions than answers. Some of the questions . . . How in the world did a grand jury tasked with investigating Planned Parenthood indict the two witnesses? Did the witnesses testify before the grand jury? Were they offered immunity? Were they given target letters to let them know that they were under investigation? And, most importantly, why didn’t the grand jury vote on whether to indict Planned Parenthood? Why did Mary Lou Keel extend this grand jury? And who asked her to extend it?
As you likely know, a grand jury presentation is one sided. The only people present in the grand jury room are the grand jurors and the prosecutors. The prosecutors may present witnesses. If they do, only the prosecutors and the grand jurors may question these witnesses. A witness goes into the room alone – without counsel.
The timeline is crucial to understand Devon’s lack of integrity.
On December 20, 2013, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, led by Devon Anderson announced that a grand jury no billed or refused to prosecute Douglas Karpen, an abortion doctor. Three whistleblowers came to Operation Rescue and alleged that Karpen was aborting babies beyond the legal time limit. These allegations were brought to the DA’s Office in May 2013 and were “extensively investigated” by the Houston Police Department Homicide Division, the Texas Rangers, and the DA’s Office. Following a two-month grand jury presentation, the grand jury declined to prosecute Dr. Karpen. The lead prosecutor in this investigation was Sunni Mitchell.
The filing deadline for the 2014 election was December 9, 2013; so, Devon waited until the filing deadline passed to announce the Karpen decision. If you don’t understand why this timing is important, ask Don Sumners – he defeated an incumbent in 2010. While defeating an incumbent is difficult, if a Republican Primary challenger can obtain the three major endorsements, Hotze, Lowry, and Polland, an incumbent may be defeated.
The filing deadline for the 2016 election was December 14, 2015. The 232nd grand jury was extended past their original December deadline and indicted the two whistle-blowers on January 25, 2016, which again gets Devon past the filing deadline. Again, it is important to understand this timeline because I guarantee you that Devon would have easily drawn a primary opponent if these indictments had occurred before the filing deadline. According to Planned Parenthood’s attorney, the grand jury did not even vote on whether to indict Planned Parenthood. So, what were they doing for four months?
Devon has been burning up the phones to pro-life political folks. She is trying to explain away her actions yet again. Comments by Karpen’s attorney, Chip Lewis, have assisted in the understanding of this situation: “I told them [DA’s Office] ‘Don’t hitch your wagons to this. They’re [Operation Rescue are] crooks, and it’s going to be exposed.” Lewis has donated over $30,000 to Devon Anderson’s District Attorney campaign. What kind of access does he get from these donations? Suppression of certain investigations? Favorable results?
Unfortunately for Devon, there is a fundamental flaw with the runaway grand jury argument that she is trying to spread with political pro-lifers concerning the Daleiden and Merritt indictments: if the grand jury produced a wrong result and meritless indictments, it is Devon’s obligation to dismiss the indictments as the elected District Attorney of Harris County. It is really that simple.
Devon may soon create a pro-choice division at the DA’s Office led by Sunni Mitchell because Devon again put Mitchell, her ace abortion prosecutor, on the Planned Parenthood case. Yes, the same prosecutor who led the no bill against Karpen has now led a grand jury to indict Daleiden and Merritt. Word on the street is that Mitchell was assisted by Inger Chandler, Chief of the Conviction Review Section, and wife of disgraced former Houston Police Department detective Ryan Chandler who was fired from HPD after failing to investigate murder cases. Big Jolly has covered that scandal extensively.
At the end of last week, Daleiden and Merritt posted bond and made their first court appearance. At their first appearance, Mitchell announced that the DA’s Office is offering pretrial diversion to both Daleiden and Merritt.
Pretrial diversion is an informal agreement or contract between a defendant and the DA’s Office where the prosecutors agree to dismiss the case after a period of time if the defendant stays clean and abides by certain conditions, watch out for the conditions. Prior to 2008 in Harris County, pretrial diversion was limited to select private school students charged with possession of small amounts marihuana. Pat Lykos expanded the use of pretrial diversion to possession of marihuana, theft, and DWI first offenders. The Andersons criticized the DIVERT program created by the Lykos administration, which offered pretrial diversion to first time DWI defendants. Then, Mike and Devon offered the same program under a different name. All that being said, it is extremely rare for a pretrial diversion to be offered to a felony defendant; but, that is exactly what Devon is offering to Daleiden and Merritt. Dan Cogdell, representing Merritt, said it best: “I’ve never had an offer of pretrial diversion on a first appearance.”
Although Devon claims to be pro-life, actions speak louder than words. Devon refuses to answer this simple question: have you ever granted a judicial bypass? This question would not violate the privacy of children seeking to bypass the parental notification laws. When you see Devon ask her why she won’t answer whether or not she granted judicial bypasses. There is no judicial cannon preventing her from answering whether she reviewed a judicial bypass application. The Texas Supreme Court in no way bars her from answering whether or not she has granted a bypass application and you can cite this as your source.
Simply said, you are who you associate with and Devon seems to find herself in troubling company. In her re-election bid, Devon is touting her human trafficking efforts, which are led by Ann Johnson, the human trafficking “expert” hired by Mike Anderson. In 2012, Johnson was the Democratic Party’s opponent to Sarah Davis. After graduating from law school, Johnson served as a briefing attorney to Leslie Brock Yates when Yates was on the Fourteenth Court of Appeals. It is important to understand that the Democratic Party sought a more pro-choice candidate than Rep. Sarah Davis. Ann Johnson was that candidate and was heavily supported by Planned Parenthood and their board members. Chip Lewis, Karpen’s attorney, contributed to the Johnson campaign and hosted a fundraiser for her in the gay community with Justin Wood, a Harris County prosecutor and Devon’s legislative liaison. While human trafficking is a laudable cause, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is not providing results. It seems like there is a neon “massage” sign on every corner. We can certainly do better.
Leslie Brock Yates, Johnson’s former employer, lost her job in 2010. The dynamic duo of Devon and Susan Brown found a soft place for Yates to land – visiting judge in a special capital murder court. This court takes capital murder cases from the 22 District Courts for trial. How fair is it to a defendant to be tried by a judge with no accountability to the public? I digress. You may recognize the name Yates – the husband of Judge Yates, Terry, is Mr. Daleiden’s attorney . . . along with Jared Woodfill.
After Mike Anderson’s death, Woodfill, then Harris County Republican Party Chairman, nominated Devon to replace her husband. This was really disappointing to me because Woodfill was well aware of Devon’s reputation concerning judicial bypasses and he nominated her anyway. The executive committee of the Harris County Republican Party rejected her nomination 263-0. Two days later, Rick Perry appointed Devon to complete her husband’s term. The Executive Committee is to be congratulated for rejecting Jared’s nomination of Devon Anderson.
Devon’s hiring decisions are important to note because it demonstrates her true character and lack of integrity. In 2014, Devon hired Lauren Reeder, a Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast board member. Devon has created a pro-choice environment that is not only favorable to Planned Parenthood, it is now being used to destroy the pro-life movement. The damage nationally to the pro-life cause is tremendous and is fuel for the civil suits brought by Planned Parenthood against David Daleiden. Devon is willing to sacrifice the pro-life movement for votes in the general election.
The story gets worse, when Mike Anderson was elected, he immediately rehired Lester Blizzard and Bryan Vaclavik. Both men were charged with DWI offenses in 2011 and were represented by their buddy Chip Lewis. Devon has kept these folks and touts Blizzard’s work with money laundering operations. Contemporaneous with the indictments, Devon sent out a “vote for me in the bar poll” email that lists her “accomplishments”: (1) human trafficking efforts; (2) money laundering prosecutions; and (3) the prosecution of Harlem Lewis [a capital murder on video]. Yet, Anderson fails to provide specific details that demonstrate the successful prosecutions by her office and the feds are forced to prosecute people like Hortencia “Tencha” Medeles, who was convicted in April of operating a sex trafficking ring . It is also a bit odd that Blizzard’s investigations often involve defendants represented by Lewis. See Ricardo Baca, and Katherine Le.
In 2012, Lewis and Blizzard represented Dwayne Jordon and used Bryan Vaclavik as a witness. The issue is the appearance of impropriety. Just as his large donations provide access to the DA’s Office, the relationship that Lewis has with employees like Blizzard and Vaclavik provide access.
Following Judge Stacey Bond’s ruling about prosecutorial misconduct by two Harris County prosecutors, Ms. Merritt’s attorney, Dan Cogdell spoke to the media about his own interaction with these same prosecutors. Cogdell said “there is a cancer in that office that needs to be cut out.” Devon continues to defend these prosecutors even though their conduct is objectively inexcusable. For now, it is a good thing to be a Friend of Devon.
The Texas District & County Attorneys Association (TDCAA) certainly has Devon’s back. TDCAA is a non-profit organization that advocates for Texas prosecutors. Apparently Devon does not believe this organization does enough because she also sends her own lobbyist prosecutor, Justin Wood, to Austin for each legislative session.
The question here is one of judgment and integrity. The liberals are thrilled with Devon’s prosecution of Daleiden and Merritt. Lisa Falkenberg, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Annise Parker are tripping over themselves to support Devon. These indictments were no accident and targeted to this audience. The praises for the liberal elite continue to pour in for Devon and this was her intended purpose by the indictments. Devon thought that she had the Republicans wrapped up and needed to broaden her base and the prosecution of Daleiden and Merritt fit that bill. Ladies and gentleman, the verdict is in and Devon Anderson is pro-choice, no question about it. She certainly is willing to let the pro-life movement suffer in order for her to broaden her base.
In recent years, I have found myself in sharp disagreement with Terry Lowry over local political issues and his endorsement of certain candidates. This season, Brother Lowry invited me to write an Op-Ed in his Link Letter, which is mailed to 195,000 Republican households in Harris County. After some contemplation, I accepted this invitation and I told Terry I wanted to ask the readers to take action, which I never do on Big Jolly. My Op-Ed discusses Devon Anderson and her persecution of two brave anti-abortion activists, Daleiden and Merritt, and I ask the readers to skip Devon Anderson on the primary ballot. There is something that you can do – SKIP DEVON on March 1, 2016. Although Devon thought that she would box Harris County Republicans in to voting for her by delaying her conduct until after the filing deadline, you can still send her a message.
Harris County, we deserve better.