Rosenthal on the defense in contempt hearing

January 31, 2008 2:25:38 PM PST
He's in charge of putting the bad guys behind bars, but now District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal is in the hot seat himself, and could be sent to jail. Rosenthal appeared in court Thursday, but rather than prosecuting a case, he was on the defense, as a judge considers whether or not to punish him for deleting thousands of emails that had been subpoenaed for a lawsuit.

Rosenthal said nothing as he headed into federal court Thursday morning. He's facing a contempt hearing. It was brought on by a case represented by attorney Lloyd Kelly, who's accusing the DA of deleting more than 2,500 emails after they had been subpoenaed. [MORE ON WHY THE EMAILS HAD TO BE TURNED OVER]

"If what we have, he found not offensive or OK, then what he deleted must be outrageous," said Kelly. "So we won't know unless they make some efforts to recover them."

First on the witness stand was Harris County technology chief Gary Zallar, who was grilled by Kelley and Judge Kenneth Hoyt on the intricacies of email retention and deletion in Harris County.

"I've done the best I can to restore as many emails as I possibly can," he said.

While on the stand, Zallar admitted that on November 5, he noticed several emails he sent to Rosenthal had been deleted. It's also the same day Rosenthal's counsel, Scott Durfee, had met with the district attorney. Whether or not emails were deleted on November 5 was the focus upstairs in the courthouse while downstairs, there was a protest by community activists.

"I hope the truth comes out. I hope justice is served," said Eric Carr with the NAACP. "Justice is not a black or a white thing. Justice is a right or a wrong thing. If he has done wrong, he himself will be prosecuted for the wrongdoing he's done."

Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler was also on the stand Thursday. She says she had no knowledge of any of the email deletions. Durfee was on the stand, being grilled by both the judge in this case and the attorneys about whether or not he knew about the email deletions

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