Sex assault victim's immigration status put into question by prosecutor

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- An assistant district attorney with the Harris County District Attorney's office has been fired after allegedly questioning a sex assault victim's immigration status and refusing to file charges on the suspect.

"I'm glad the D.A. finally took action on one of her top appointees picked by her," said Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union.

Gamaldi said on Halloween night, an HPD officer witnessed DWI suspect Karl Bonner expose himself and pull another inmate toward him. That victim yelled out for help.

However, Gamaldi explained, when the HPD officer spoke with John Denholm at the district attorney's office, Denholm was more interested in the victim's immigration status instead of the sex assault incident.

"Our officer reached out to us immediately," said Gamaldi.

Soon after, Denholm was reassigned pending an internal investigation, but as of Friday, he was let go.

"Other officers were able to follow up on this case. They were able to get charges on that suspect," Gamaldi added.

Bonner is now charged with sex assault to go along with the DWI count.

"As it turns out (Assistant) District Attorney Delhom did violate a policy," said Carlos Doroteo, attorney for Houston-area immigration advocacy group FIEL.

Doroteo said he contacted the D.A.'s office and was told this should have never happened and will never happen again.

"At the end of the day, criminals count on people being afraid. We don't want you to be afraid," said Doroteo.

It's a sentiment Gamaldi agrees with and hopes the immigrant community is not discouraged by this isolated incident.

"Please, please, if you are the victim of a crime, come forward. We will help you. We are not going to question your legal status, nor should anyone in criminal justice question their status," said Gamaldi.

Following the termination, District Attorney Kim Ogg released the following statement:

"It is wrong to ask about a victim's immigration status; it is against our policy, and it won't be tolerated. We treat everyone equally under the law, no matter how they came to be here."

Denholm, who had been with the office since January 2017, is also a retired Harris County Sheriff's Office lieutenant.

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