Former Harris County assistant DA Sean Teare lays out promises in election fight with ex-boss

Teare, who was the chief vehicular crimes prosecutor under Kim Ogg, hits at case backlogs, jail overcrowding.

Courtney Fischer Image
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
'She's failing': Former assistant DA enters race to unseat ex-boss
Sean Teare, who served as the chief vehicular crimes prosecutor under Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, enters race to unseat his former boss.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Eyewitness News reported on the backlog in Harris County criminal courts, as well as the county's overcrowded jail. ABC13 Investigates searched for why some inmates are waiting more than half a year behind bars, nearly six times longer than the national average, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

They are all serious issues facing our community.

Now, a well-known former prosecutor says he can fix the problems.

Sean Teare announced ONLY ON ABC13 that he's officially running for Harris County District Attorney in 2024.

It's no big secret Teare wants his former boss' job.

Teare has hinted at it since his controversial departure from the district attorney's office in February, after more than 11 years as a prosecutor. But now, for the first time, Teare outlines his priorities and what he says must change in Harris County.

"She's failing at this job," Teare said of current District Attorney Kim Ogg.

Teare said his first focus would be on keeping strong prosecutors. Morale in the office is low, he believes, thanks to overwhelming caseloads.

"We are accepting bad charges. We're accepting partial charges, and they're on low level offenses. What that does is paralyze the prosecutors in the courts so that they can't focus on the cases that matter to the community: the violent crimes," Teare said. "If we fix that, we're going a long way to fixing the backlog."

The backlog has decreased by about 21% over the past couple of years, according to the district attorney's office. Ogg has credited that in part to her "triage" team, which is made up of misdemeanor prosecutors who work overtime to tackle thousands of nonviolent cases. Teare said he initially thought the program was a step in the right direction. But now?

"You can do triage all you want, but if you keep bringing (cases) in at an unprecedented rate, you're never going to get any better," he said.

There are currently about 114,000 backlogged cases, which is up 75% from pre-Harvey in 2017 and pre-COVID times, when the backlog was about 65,000 cases.

The backlog is also one of the reasons the county jail is overcrowded, Sheriff Gonzalez has told 13 Investigates. In recent reporting, ABC13 found an inmate is in jail, on average, about 200 days.

Since 2022, 33 people have died in Harris County custody, including six people so far in 2023.

"One of the main reasons that it's happening is length of stay, and that is laid directly at this administration's feet for their incompetence and the way that they have run this office," Teare said. "There's so many different ways that we can supervise people outside of the Harris County jail, and we're not doing enough of that. That's in large part due to (Ogg's) opposition to bail reform."

Under his plan, Teare said if the person is not a flight risk and not a danger to the community, the accused shouldn't be held in jail.

"There is a large percentage of those people that need mental health help, that need rehabilitation from significant drug addiction help. That's where we are going to tackle the petty crimes and the smaller crimes. That's how we're going to reduce those numbers," he said.

Teare added that he hasn't spoken with Ogg since he left the office three months ago. Less than a year from now, his name will be on the ballot, challenging the woman he's backed for more than a decade.

"I'm running to actually fulfill the mission and the dream I thought we all bought into in 2016," he said.

As for how Ogg responded to Teare's claims and ideas, ABC13 is in the process of coordinating an interview with the current Harris County district attorney. ABC13 is waiting for her team to set a date for that conversation.

In the meantime, Michael Kolenc, an Ogg campaign spokesperson, offered a statement Tuesday:

"In politics, opponents are expected. DA Ogg remains focused on solutions to Harris County's crime in order to help make Houston the safest city in America."

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