Former DA takes stand in civil rights case

February 26, 2008 11:20:55 AM PST
It was a regular who's who of current and former Harris County leaders in a federal courtroom. The officials are slated to testify in the civil rights trial that sparked the e-mail scandal at the DA's office.Recently resigned DA Chuck Rosenthal took the witness stand this morning. Testimony began with former DA Chuck Rosenthal answering questions related to this civil rights case.

In fact, it was the search for emails regarding this case, which led to the discovery of the unrelated questionable emails, which ultimately forced Rosenthal to resign as Harris County DA.

Among those called to testify today were former County Judge Robert Eckles, current Judge Ed Emmett and Sheriff Tommy Thomas.

Six years ago, county officials conducted a drug raid at this house. During the course of hat raid, next door neighbors used a camera and took pictures to document it all.

But brothers Sean and Erik Ibarra say deputies later stormed into their home, stole their film, and arrested them for resisting arrest. Those charges were later dropped. But the brothers say their complaint letters and allegations of civil rights violations were never addressed by Rosenthal's office.

Ibarra's attorney, Lloyd Kelly asked Rosenthal the following.

"It is not illegal for anyone to take a picture of a police officer," he asked.

Rosenthal answered, "Generally, yes."

Kelly went on to ask

"Despite all the letters the Ibarra sent to him over the years, Well, you didn't order an investigation -- is that true," asked Kelly.

Rosenthal answered, "That's true."

Eyewitness News spoke to Robert Eckles before today's court proceedings.

"We talked for a long time about the need for more disclosure, more transparency in government and I think you are seeing some of the folks understanding today the need for that transparency," said Eckles.

Rosenthal was then asked why an investigation was never ordered. He responded by saying that he had given all of the letters from the Ibarras to his subordinate, Joe Owenby for him to review.

No answer was fully given in that regard and there have been questions about 2,500 deleted emails allegedly committed by Rosenthal that was addressed but never answered either.

They took a recess and will start back up this afternoon.

- Headlines at a glance