ADA still on job despite admitting she may have committed crime

December 20, 2011 4:56:45 PM PST
An assistant district attorney is still on the job despite admitting she may have committed a crime. Last week, Harris County Asst. DA Rachel Palmer pleaded the Fifth, claiming that testifying before a grand jury could incriminate her. And on Tuesday, a judge agreed.

It's all part of a grand jury investigation into possible misconduct within the DA's Office.

The Fifth Amendment is absolutely Rachel Palmer's constitutional right and it applies to her no matter what job she has in all of America. But by pleading the Fifth, it means grand jurors won't get answers from one of their last witnesses.

It's unclear exactly what this means to the grand jury investigation, but maybe more importantly, what does it do to the image and public trust in the Harris County District Attorney?

Palmer said the fix was in, that the system was stacked against her, and that she was scared of a judge who might make her testify in front of a grand jury.

When we tried to ask Palmer why she was or continued to be scared of the judge, Palmer's attorney said, "She's not answering questions. Please get out of my way."

But on Tuesday, Palmer won. That judge she is so scared of ruled Palmer won't be forced to talk to a grand jury investigating possible criminal activity inside the DA's Office.

"We're just gratified that the court ruled our way," said Palmer's attorney, Clay Rawlings.

But she only keeps her silence by pleading the Fifth, insisting that her answers to the grand jury may implicate her in a crime. Think about that -- a prosecutor fighting for three days in two courts to avoid the possibility of implicating herself in a crime.

"I didn't ever think I would ever live to see this day... that a DA feels like they have to take the Fifth on an investigation by their office. It's kind of disturbing," said Jim Mount, special prosecutor to the grand jury.

"All this has been tough to deal with for everybody," said Jim Leitner, 1st Asst. District Attorney.

For the third day, the elected District Attorney Pat Lykos has refused to even respond in writing to the situation. She was at work on Tuesday, but instead we heard from her top assistant Leitner, who in a lengthy interview, insisted nothing has been done wrong inside the DA's Office, and even defended keeping Palmer on the job.

When we asked him if he saw a cloud over Rachel Palmer at all, Leitner told us, "That's not for me to even talk about at this point. My issue right now is I want to get before the grand jury, answer their questions and get this over with."

But allowing Palmer to prosecute before her possible criminal activity is cleared up is a move our legal analyst says could lead to trouble.

"You want to put the politics aside and say I am looking into this matter and the people that are involved, if they're not prosecuted, they will be disciplined," said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy.

Jim Leitner will testify on Thursday in front of the grand jury. He is expected to be the last witness, unless the special prosecutors are willing to give Rachel Palmer immunity to testify. They've said she's not the target of this investigation and they may just consider giving her immunity to get her answers. We'll should find out on Thursday morning.


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