DA Pat Lykos launched examination of grand jury after ABC13 report

February 2, 2012 8:10:37 PM PST
There is news that our probe into the Harris County District Attorney's Office may have prompted the DA herself to conduct her own investigation.

We're learning more about an investigation DA Pat Lykos first said never happened. Within hours of our first report breaking the news of a grand jury probe, we now know Lykos launched her own examination.

It was the day after we first started reporting on her problems and now we know why and how and what some of those investigated think should be done next.

Keep your eye on the DA's evolving explanations. Two days ago, the DA said there was no investigation. On Wednesday, she called it a cursory Internet search. But now we know from sources directly involved it was much more than that.

This all started the day after we broke the news a grand jury was investigating DA Pat Lykos' office. According to people involved in the search, Lykos wanted details on the grand jurors because she thought they had become hostile to her. She wanted her chief investigator to find evidence of their political bias and plug the leaks to the news media -- especially Eyewitness News.

And yet somehow, the DA claims this wasn't an investigation, and it was the grand jury abusing its power.

"This politically motivated investigation -- I would submit to you -- is an outrage, it's an abuse of power and a corruption of the criminal justice system," Lykos said on Tuesday.

Lykos says this wasn't an investigation because, "investigations involve obtaining confidential information." But the names of those grand jurors are confidential information -- sealed by a judge months before -- and there isn't much more confidential than that.

"I certainly didn't authorize the investigation," Lykos said.

Using the confidential list of grand jurors' names, the DA's chief investigator looked at Facebook, Google, the state bar and then accessed a county paid for, password-protected database called Accurint -- which gave him a list of grand jurors' addresses, jobs, relatives, bankruptcies, all sorts of information and connections.

"It's more than just collecting information on people," said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy.

Our legal analyst says using those confidential names for a political purpose could now pose problems.

"There was no legal reason for me to be investigated, for my wife to be investigated," said Mike Anderson, a candidate for DA.

Now, the Lykos political opponent who was one of the targets of the DA's inquiry wants the Texas Rangers to look at what the DA did. He might be running against her, but he says is far more than politics.

"I don't mind the campaigning. What concerns me is are the allegations that the District Attorney is using her power to illegally investigate people that may just have a different point of view than she does," Anderson said.

The whole thing reminded us of not-too-distant Harris County history and the millions of dollars the Ibarra brothers won in court.

"If you've got the power to do something, doesn't mean you should do it," Erik Ibarra said.

In 2002 Erik and Sean Ibarra were falsely arrested by sheriff's deputies and sued Harris County. During the lawsuit, the sheriff's office secretly investigated and followed the brothers.

The county settled with them for $1.7 million; legal fees cost the county $2.5 million more. Their case and the DA's so-called cursory search aren't the same, but to Ibarra, the message is.

"I think to the general public it says, you investigate us, we'll investigate you," Erik Ibarra said. "People will say if you haven't done anything wrong, well what's the problem? But wait until the cameras are turned on you. Wait until the finger is pointed at you or wait until people are following you around. If that's the lengths they'll go, where does it stop?"

We asked the DA if she would agree on those calls for an independent investigation of her inquiry. She didn't directly answer, but said the grand jury that just concluded already looked those issues.

The FBI tells us at this point it is not investigating, saying there is no evidence of a federal crime.

The story is the result of a 13 Undercover investigation. Those stories are below