District Attorney candidate Mary Nan Huffman must feel like “a criminal justice meteorologist” navigating the perfect storm of sunny skies and fair weather for the habitual criminals getting out of jail free – or almost free – during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID-19 is being used as an excuse to release violent and repeat offenders from the jail, putting citizens in Harris County in danger,” she said.
Huffman, the Republican challenging incumbent Democrat Kim Ogg, described the dangerous winds of that perfect storm as well as the streets “flooded” with dangerous criminals out on “sweetheart” deals and PR bonds roaming free. While other criminals are caught and released because the DA’s office will not take the charges at this time. Later to find their names resting comfortably on “to-be” warrants to be handled at a later date.
The Stormy Trend
As for the “storm” itself, Huffman said, “It is a combination of COVID-19, the revolving door at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, sweetheart deals made by the district attorney’s office and criminals given PR bonds or very low bonds.”
She avidly avers that the crime rate in Harris County was already soaring before the pandemic and is now worse than it had to be. And Huffman, a member of the HPOU Legal Staff, cites specifics that surely give pause to HPD officers accustomed to hauling in suspects, seeing them charged and tucked away with appropriate amounts of bonds.
“In the City of Houston,” Huffman told the Badge & Gun, “we have seen a 50 percent increase in homicides from this time last year. Our city is seeing nearly one murder a day, and that does not include the rest of Harris County.
“Some of these issues are related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but crime in Harris County was already on the rise. Add to this condition the stay-home impact on the crime rate. Mental health issues, domestic violence and gang and drug violence are some of the consequences we have seen.”
Under Ogg’s watch the Harris County Jail has become “a revolving door” that features “sweetheart deals” from the DA, “who are not accepting a lot of charges” due to the threat of the virus possibly infecting jail inmates.
Despite HPD officers finding probable cause, all they usually get are “to-be warrants,” which, in essence say “we have probable cause, have filed a warrant and at some point I’m going to arrest you for those charges.”
The system, Huffman lamented, is saying to officers, “You catch ‘em, we’ll release ‘em.”
The releases happen at Ogg’s direction.
Huffman has taken plenty of examples on her socially-distanced campaign trail. She has no difficulty proving her point.
She particularly cites six cases:
Grandmother Murdered in Broad Daylight
A prime example is the death of beloved grandmother Rosalie Cook. She was running errands on May 16 when she was stabbed to death by a total stranger, Randy Lewis. Lewis then tried to steal her car. When the officer ordered him out of the woman’s car, Lewis came at the officer with the knife.
Witnesses said the officer had no choice but to shoot.
Huffman was on the scene as the HPOU attorney. She said, “There was incredible police work as well as action taken by the store employees and good citizens in the parking lot to try and save Mrs. Cook.”
Randy Lewis had a history of mental illness, had been arrested 67 times in Harris County, but was released on two felony PR bonds.
“Kim Ogg wants to blame the judge for the PR bond, but on May 1 the DA’s office agreed that Lewis should be released on the PR bonds. And just fifteen days later Rosalie was murdered!”
Pregnant Woman Shot Along with her Mother and Sister
Huffman pointed out that with the Stay Home – Stay Safe orders in place, many households struggle with domestic issues.
“Domestic violence is on the rise,” she said. “During a week in mid-May three women were shot multiple times.
“On May 20, around 5:30 a.m., Kendrick Thomas kicked in the door to his ex-girlfriend’s residence. She was seven months pregnant. He murdered her. He also shot her mother and sister.”
After he committed the murder, Thomas went and shot another man multiple times before he killed himself.
This individual had a violent history that included prior assaults, felony assault family violence and one case in 2012 that was very similar to this one.
Judge Turns Capital Killer Loose
Brian Bullock was on bond for assault when he committed Capital Murder by brutally stabbing Michelle Bullock and Mark Kiel to death in 2018.
“He did not comply with his bond conditions and two people are dead. Michelle left behind three sons under the age of eight,” Huffman said. “Despite being eligible for the death penalty, Bullock was given a bond and was out on May 22. Judge Abigail Anastasio of the 184th District Court gave him a bond when we know he does not follow bond conditions. He is out and has nothing to lose.”
Gang Member Threatens Cops with No Consequences
Gang member Camryn Moss was given a fantastic deal when the DA’s office gave him 10 years deferred on one felony and dismissed four other cases. Two of the four dismissals were felonies.
Oh, but the criminal justice winds of the perfect storm Huffman describes began to blow Moss’ way.
“Nineteen days later, while on deferred, Moss committed aggravated robbery with a gun and stole another car!
“Even though he could not stop committing felonies, he was let out again on a PR bond as long as he wore an ankle monitor,” Huffman reported. “Guess what he was not wearing when he was arrested on May 15?
“He assured the arresting officers that he would be out soon. He was probably right. And he vowed that when he gets out, he’s going to shoot the officers.
“Even though the officers told DA Intake about the retaliatory comment, the DA’s office refused to add the felony retaliation charge,” Huffman pointed out.
Encounters with members of this particular gang are getting more and more dangerous each time officers come in contact with them. These gang members are going unpunished.
“This is a joke to them,” Huffman said. “Officers’ lives are being threatened. It is just a matter of time before an officer is killed. We won’t be this easy on gang members who threaten HPD officers – or any law enforcement personnel – if I’m elected Harris County district attorney.”
Another Sweetheart Killer Deal
Clayton Brown shot three people in two different incidents. He got a sweetheart deal when Kim Ogg’s office dismissed two of the shootings and gave him deferred adjudication (basically probation) on the third.
While on deferred he stole an ATM in Missouri and ran from police in Montgomery County, thus picking up a few additional felonies. He now has a motion to revoke his deferred.
Huffman said, “However, instead of sitting in jail while he waits to be sentenced, the Judge gave him a $50,000 bond and on May 14 he was out again! Free to commit more crimes!
“Can we stop giving violent criminals deferred adjudication? And if they are already on deferred, can’t we at least revoke it and sentence them to prison when they commit more felonies?”
Then she added, “That’s what we’d do in my district attorney’s office.”
Still Another Killer Goes Free!
Joshua Kelsey who was charged with a triple homicide on May 7, should have been behind bars but instead was allowed to walk free.
Kelsey was a repeat violent offender but has been given leniency from Ogg’s office time and time again. Last year Kelsey was charged with Felon in Possession of a Firearm, a third-degree felony, but the charge was reduced and he was given a plea deal that allowed him to walk free after just six short months instead of being sent to prison for up to 10 years.
“This is an injustice to the families of Kelsey’s three latest victims and an injustice to all citizens of Harris County,” Huffman said.
Kelsey, who has a long criminal history, was apprehended after a short police chase in south Houston. Police believe he was responsible for three separate shootings that resulted in three deaths and one serious injury. They also believe the shootings were drug related.
Chief Acevedo mentioned in a press conference this month that the same things that move people (buses, planes, cars, etc) are the same things that move drugs. COVID-19 has affected Harris County’s drug supply and people are getting desperate.
COVID-19 added to the already rising crime statistic for the county.
“People should feel safe in Harris County,” Huffman stated. “The current district attorney cares more about politics than she does about protecting her constituents.
“As your next district attorney, I pledge to hold criminals accountable by enforcing the laws of the State of Texas while administering fair punishment.
“I will protect the public by supporting the efforts of law enforcement and be a voice for victims. I will bring experience back to the district attorney’s office so that the citizens of Harris County have a safe place to live, work and play.”