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Year In Review Office of District Attorney Harris County Texas

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Year In Review Office of District Attorney Harris County Texas Powered By Docstoc
					      Message from the District Attorney


             2009— was a year of progress and innovation in the
             Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
             It is my duty, and that of the office, to safeguard our citizens and
             to see that justice is done.
             New policies, programs and projects were launched to prevent
             crime, to disrupt criminal enterprises, protect victims, apprehend
             dangerous fugitives and improve due process of law. The
             extraordinary people of the office, enthusiastically and with
             purpose, successfully implemented the new objectives.
We represented the state in all criminal matters before the trial and appellate
courts, always seeking justice, while vigorously prosecuting.
Our mission was complicated by the budget cuts and hiring freeze imposed
in September, but everyone persevered. We do have the best job in the
world—it is a profound responsibility and privilege to serve and protect our
county.
This is the first annual review published by the office; it is a retrospective that
is forward looking, setting the course as we mean to go on. We always
strive to do the right thing…and to do things right.
Table of Contents

2009 NUMBERS ................................................................................................................ 3

SUMMARY........................................................................................................................... 4

NEW DIVISIONS AND SECTIONS .................................................................................. 5

Child Exploitation ............................................................................................................................5

Protection of the Elderly and Disabled ............................................................................................5

Mental Health .................................................................................................................................5

Cold Case Fugitive Apprehension .....................................................................................................6

Post Conviction Review ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 7

Victims' Rights ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..7

Animal Cruelty .................................................................................................................................8
  Paw and Order: SDU ......................................................................................................................... 8

NEW INITIATIVES AND POLICY CHANGES ............................................................... 9

Juvenile Diversion Program .............................................................................................................9

DIVERT ............................................................................................................................................9

Trace Case Policy ........................................................................................................................... 10

Discovery Policy............................................................................................................................. 10

Teaching Policy .............................................................................................................................. 10

DA’S OFFICE IN 2009 .................................................................................................... 11

Intake Division ............................................................................................................................... 11

Grand Jury Division ........................................................................................................................ 12

Trial Bureau ................................................................................................................................... 13

Juvenile Division ............................................................................................................................ 14
   Stay in School Truancy Prevention Program .................................................................................. 15

Crimes Against Children Division ................................................................................................... 15

Family Criminal Law Division (FCLD) .............................................................................................. 16



        1
Major Offenders Division .............................................................................................................. 17

Public Assistance Fraud Division .................................................................................................... 18

Financial Crimes Division’s White-Collar Section ........................................................................... 18

Identity Theft Section .................................................................................................................... 19

Consumer Protection Section ........................................................................................................ 20

Environmental Crimes Division ...................................................................................................... 21

Vehicular Crimes Section ............................................................................................................... 21

Public Integrity Division ................................................................................................................ 22

Police Integrity Division ................................................................................................................. 22

Asset Forfeiture Division ............................................................................................................... 23

Bond Forfeiture Division ................................................................................................................ 23

Check Fraud Division ..................................................................................................................... 23

Misdemeanor Division ................................................................................................................... 24

Justice of Peace Courts .................................................................................................................. 25

Appellate Division ......................................................................................................................... 26

Post-Conviction Writs Division ...................................................................................................... 27

General Litigation Division............................................................................................................. 27

Extradition Administration ............................................................................................................ 28

Public Information ......................................................................................................................... 29

Investigators .................................................................................................................................. 30

Information Systems Technology .................................................................................................. 31

Central Records ............................................................................................................................. 32

AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS .................................................................................. 33

CONTACTS ........................................................................................................................ 34




        2
                   2009 Numbers

           Criminal Cases Filed in 2009


Felonies                              50,004


Misdemeanors                          81,096


Juvenile Petitions                      7,906


Class C                             431,953


Total New Cases                     570,959*

• *That amounts to a rate of more than one new filing during every
  minute of 2009




3
                                 Summary

H
       arris County, Texas is the third largest county in the United States with a
       population of approximately four million. There are thirty-four
       municipalities, including the City of Houston, the fourth largest city in the
       nation. The unincorporated area rivals the population of San Antonio. The
geographical jurisdiction is almost 1,800 square miles.
Our county is the energy capital of the world. Harris County is a global industrial,
petrochemical, aerospace, transportation, trade, medical, scientific, educational,
corporate, financial and cultural center. Dynamic and cosmopolitan, we attract the
best and the brightest — unfortunately, we are also a magnet for the worst of
predators. Most of the major world companies have operations in the county;
however, many transnational and domestic gangs are also here.

Harris County is the residence of disparate populations from all parts of Texas, the
nation and the world. There are over 100 languages and dialects spoken here. We
have Nobel Laureates, highly skilled professionals and blue collar workers,
entrepreneurs and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies; but we also have a significant
number of folks who are unskilled and a number who are incapable of caring for
themselves. What distinguishes us the most is that Harris County is a tapestry of
civic-minded, charitable and enterprising individuals. Our job is to keep them safe.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is the number one law enforcement
agency in the county. We are both sword and shield in protecting and defending
the public. The office is staffed by extraordinary people and each is vital to
accomplishing our mission.
Our responsibilities are varied and complex. We represent the state in all criminal
matters and are statutorily and morally charged with the solemn duty to see that
justice is done. We must ensure that the rights of both defendants and victims are
protected, while vigorously prosecuting the guilty. To serve and protect the
citizenry, the office launches initiatives and works collaboratively with all levels of
government and the private sector to prevent, reduce and suppress crime. Always,
we endeavor to improve the administration of justice.




     4
             New Divisions and Sections

Child Exploitation
This new section was launched to prosecute those using the Internet to seek out
children to molest or solicit for sexual activity. This section established a national
precedent with the prosecution of a predator who used the Sony PlayStation to
sexually solicit an 11-year-old child. Working with the Houston Metro Internet
Crimes Against Children Task Force, we saved 25 children from sexually abusive
relationships and charged nearly 200 defendants who used sophisticated
cyberspace schemes to victimize our most vulnerable citizens.




Protection of the Elderly and Disabled
Prosecutors in this section specialize in fighting fraud and abuse – financial and
physical –against elderly and disabled citizens. The increase in the senior citizen
population has produced an accompanying increase in crimes targeting them.




Mental Health
Jail cells house an increasing number of non-violent offenders with mental illness.
This new section strives to break the cycle of repeated arrests of the mentally ill by
working with community-based service providers for treatment at secure centers.
This program has directed more than 500 such defendants into care and
rehabilitation.

The section also monitors people previously found not guilty by reason of insanity
after they are discharged by state hospitals. At their court hearings, the
prosecutors confirm how well they are doing and whether they are receiving
community outpatient services.




     5
Cold Case Fugitive Apprehension
This section was created to locate and apprehend fugitives accused of murder and
other violent crimes. Other law enforcement agencies’ attempts to track down
these fugitives — many of whom were known by an alias when crimes were
committed — have failed. In many instances, the fugitives have succeeded in
evading law enforcement by assuming false identities.
The section’s primary focus is on murder cases — some dating to the 1970s while
others were committed as recently as 2009.
The Cold Case Fugitive Apprehension section reviewed 608 cases. The section
works closely with the extradition units of the DA’s Office, U.S. Marshal Service,
and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because many suspects are foreign
nationals who flee to their native countries.
As a result of these efforts, a number of fugitives have been apprehended, and
valuable leads have been developed and provided to local and federal agencies
working to bring fugitives to justice. Additionally, the section has worked with
Crime Stoppers in developing methods to utilize media exposure in the effort to
located those evading apprehension.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the Harris County Institute of
Forensic Sciences (formerly “Medical Examiner’s Office) are teaming up to develop
a database that will coordinate county law enforcement notification and
enforcement efforts of CODIS (a DNA database maintained by the FBI) “hits.” The
database will alert local law enforcement agencies when a suspect’s DNA profile is
“matched” with biological evidence.




     6
Post Conviction Review
The efforts of this section have already led to the exoneration of an innocent
person wrongfully convicted in 2003. Advances in DNA and other new forensic
evidence analyses, and the commitment to fairness and justice, dictate that
credible claims of innocence be fully investigated.
This section represents the State of Texas in chapter 64 post conviction DNA testing
proceedings (which involves investigating existing evidence and determining the
significance of any potential or actual DNA test results); acts as a liaison with varied
innocence projects which seek post conviction review; conducts innocence
investigations on their own initiative; and aids other divisions within the office on
any other special project related to post trial review.
This section safeguards the integrity and fundamental trust in our justice system.




Victims’ Rights
This division has been modernized into a dynamic ally for crime victims. Ove r the
course of 2009, technology upgrades and new databases have allowed the division
to better serve victims. Victims of crime can now search directly online to check for
unclaimed restitution, one of a number of upgrades in the revamped system that
has distributed more than $3.6 million in 2009.
The computerized system expedites payments for crime victims and adds
accountability and efficiency to a restitution process that had been largely
unchanged since it began in 1985. Until the changes were made, the division
maintained an antiquated, ledger-based system. More than $1.5 million in unpaid
restitution had accumulated over more than two decades.
The technological upgrades also have helped the division streamline the process for
serving more than 25,000 victims annually. It can better meet the increased
demands for division personnel to accompany victims to court, and requests for
translations, general information about cases, explanations of the criminal justice
system’s complexities and tests of defendants for HIV/AIDS and other sexually
transmitted diseases.




     7
Animal Cruelty
The District Attorney’s unique focus on animal rights enforcement has become a
model for prosecution offices nationwide. The section has spearheaded one of the
largest dog-fighting crackdowns in the U.S., including one of the largest seizures of
abused animals, and significantly increased prosecutions — and public awareness
— of violations of laws protecting our defenseless animal populations. The section
was featured on the Animal Planet Network.


     Paw and Order: SDU

     The District Attorney and the Animal Law Section of the Houston Bar
     Association launched the Paw and Order SDU (Special Dog Unit) as a way of
     helping to calm victims of domestic violence and child witnesses before they
     give testimony. Twice a month, six trained therapy dogs become the objects
     of affection of domestic violence victims at the courthouse. The program has
     been so well-received by domestic violence victims that Paw and Order will
     broaden in 2010, when the dogs will begin working and playing with
     molestation victims at the Children’s Assessment Center.




     8
New Initiatives and Policy Changes

Juvenile Diversion Program
Juveniles with non-violent, first-time misdemeanor offenses now have the
opportunity (after a risk assessment) to participate in a closely supervised diversion
program to guide them away from delinquent behavior and a criminal record.
Prosecutors coordinate the program with juvenile probation officers and family
interventions, which focus on rehabilitation. The program was instituted on March
1, 2009, and through December 2009, more than 2,200 youth have participated.
The county will save an estimated $1 million annually in court-appointed attorney
fees, and reap countless more in directing our young to futures as responsible
citizens.




DIVERT
DIVERT — Direct Intervention using Voluntary Education, Restitution & Treatment –
attacks the decades-old, potentially deadly problem of chronic drunken driving in
our county. Many defendants have been choosing to enter a guilty plea for jail time
rather than probation, thus they are not receiving supervision/treatment — DIVERT
is offered as a dispositional alternative. Eligible first-time offenders charged with
the Class B misdemeanor of driving while intoxicated DWI undergo a program of
personal assessment, education, treatment and supervision. The program started
on August 1, 2009. At the end of December 2009 — 500 defendants entered
DIVERT, with 700 applications pending.




     9
Trace Case Policy
The Office instituted a policy that ends the practice of prosecuting cases for
possession of minuscule residue amounts of drugs -- less than one-hundredth
(1/100th) of a gram, (the minimum quantity that can be tested twice is 1/100 th of a
gram). Suspects still face criminal charges for any related offenses such as having
crack pipes or other narcotics paraphernalia. The change has allowed the criminal
justice system to focus on serious felony crimes and violent offenders.




Discovery Policy
In March, the Office initiated the first-ever pretrial disclosure policy for the early
exchange of evidence and information between prosecutors and the defense.
Created with appropriate safeguards to protect confidential information, the
discovery policy helps streamline the disposition of cases. The policy insures
fairness and transparency in administering justice. The full disclosure of evidence
enhances public trust and confidence in the courts and justice system.




Teaching Policy
The Office instituted a policy to provide training to law enforcement agencies; prior
to this change the agencies were charged for ADAs serving as trainers. It is a
commitment for excellence in education and training for the DA’s Office as well as
all of law enforcement.




   10
                      DA’s Office in 2009

Intake Division
The Intake Division continues to be a model for prosecution agencies elsewhere.
Dallas County and Travis County started 24-hour screenings of charges in systems
based largely on Harris County’s successes for more than three decades.
This division reviews and drafts arrest and search warrants sought by law
enforcement officers, and advises them on whether charges can or cannot be filed.
The division operates round-the-clock with prosecutors and support personnel
working first, second and third shifts.
Besides reviewing the cases that led to arrests, the Intake Division also staffs the
hearing court wherein prosecutors present cases 24/7 to magistrates for
determination of probable cause for each defendant.
The Harris County Intake Division in 2009 fielded at least 130,000 requests by law
enforcement officers to approve charges for misdemeanor and felony arrests.
These requests showed an increase of 7 percent from 2008. The division approved
about 118,980 of those requests.




   11
Grand Jury Division
The assistant district attorneys assigned to the Grand Jury Division present felony
cases to the Grand Jury on a daily basis. This ensures that once a person is arrested
for a felony offense, presentation to the Grand Jury is as quick and efficient as
possible.

This division’s prosecutors presented 26,614 cases to grand juries in 2009 — a
combined average of 100 cases per day. There are five grand juries operating
during every term; and each grand juror serves for a period of 90 days.

This division also assists specialized prosecution divisions present cases to the
Grand Jury
The Grand Jury is also utilized as a very effective investigating body when
necessary.




   12
Trial Bureau

The felony trial divisions are composed of the 22 felony district courts in Harris
County and a State Jail Court (Impact Court). The prosecutors assigned to the
courts handled over 39,000 new felony cases in 2009. In addition to the new felony
filings, 7,578 motions to revoke probation or deferred adjudications were filed in
2009. Over 50,000 felony cases were resolved during 2009. Prosecutors
completed 399 jury trials during the year including a number of capital murder
cases. At the close of 2009, 221 capital murder cases were pending the District
Courts of Harris County, Texas. Two death penalty cases were tried in 2009
resulting in a sentence of death in both cases. In cases where the death penalty
was not sought, 13 capital murder cases were tried and verdicts returned resulting
in 13 capital life sentences, (life without parole).

The total number of felony disposed cases in 2009 was 50,871 — up from a total of
47,129 in 2008.

                          Top Ten Offense Dispositions per Year*

                     2008                                        2009

 Possession of Controlled Substance            Possession of Controlled Substance
 Penalty Group 1 <1G                           Penalty Group 1 <1G

 Theft $1500 – 20K                             Assault – Bodily Injury – Family Member

 Evade Arrest w/Motor Vehicle                  Theft $1500 – 20K

 Burglary of Habitation                        Burglary of Habitation

 DWI 3rd Offender BAC .08                      Theft Under $1500 – 3rd offender

 Theft Under $1500 – 3rd offender              DWI 3rd Offender BAC .08

 Unauthorized Use of Vehicle                   Evade Arrest w/Motor Vehicle

 Possession of Controlled Substance            Aggravated Robbery – Deadly Weapon
 Penalty Group 1 1-4 grams

 Aggravated Robbery – Deadly Weapon            Aggravated Robbery – Deadly Weapon

 Aggravated Assault w/Deadly Weapon            Unauthorized Use of Vehicle

*Data Source: JIMS Data Warehouse




   13
Juvenile Division

The Juvenile Division prosecutes felonies and misdemeanors committed by
offenders under the age of 17, at the time of the crime.
7,906 petitions were filed in 2009 compared to 9,612 filed in 2008; and the number
of Juveniles charged in 2009 was 6,485 compared to 8,330 in 2008 — the 18% and
22% difference, respectively, was a direct result of the new juvenile diversion
program instituted by the Office.
Felony petitions in 2009 remained about the same as in 2008 (-1%) while the
juvenile diversion program impacted the misdemeanor petitions (-24%).




                                                                 *




        * Data Source: Harris County Justice Data Warehouse




   14
        Stay in School Truancy Prevention Program

        This program, a partnership of the District Attorney’s Office with 12 school
        districts, four alternative schools and seven Justice of the Peace Courts was
        expanded to include its first charter school, the Richard Milburn Academy.
        In 2009 upgraded technology enabled closer monitoring of students with
        attendance problems. In the last school year, the District Attorney sent
        more than 33,000 warning letters to truants and their parents, with about
        6,000 convictions, deferrals or related actions against chronically absent
        students. This early intervention program has been consistently credited
        with reducing drop-out rates and delinquency.




Crimes Against Children Division (CAC)
This division prosecutes offenders who sexually or physically assault children. While
the Trial Bureau also prosecutes some of these cases, the CAC handles all sexual
abuse cases when the victim is younger than 7, and most of the cases where the
victim is under the age of 13; all serious offenses of continuous sexual abuse of
children and cases of super aggravated sexual abuse of a child ; intake of all cases
of sexual or physical abuse of children involving school personnel, and the more
complex cases of physical injury to children.

In 2009 the division filed about 900 new cases of child abuse, 25 percent more than
in 2008. The division reviewed about 760 sexual abuse cases at the Children’s
Assessment Center, 40 percent more than in 2008. Over the past decade, sexual
abuse cases prosecuted by the division have increased by about 75 percent. Last
year, prosecutors obtained prison sentences against 690 defendants convicted of
felony child sexual or physical abuse.




   15
Family Criminal Law Division (FCLD)
The primary responsibility of the Family Criminal Law Division (FCLD) is to
prosecute domestic violence criminal cases and file protective orders.
FCLD experienced significant increases from the previous year in many categories
of their criminal justice duties. The division received 2,878 domestic violence case
referrals, up 18 percent. The staff served 6,669 victims, 9 percent more than in
2008. Caseworkers conducted 446 criminal case evaluations, an increase of 44
percent. Nearly 1,900 interviews for criminal cases were conducted in 2009, up 18
percent.

In addition to prosecutors, the division has a total of 12 people on its social service
staff. FCLD social service staff provides direct services to over 7,000 people, on a
face to face basis, each year. These services include crisis counseling and
intervention, case research, domestic violence assessment, safety planning, and
information and referral. Their main goals are to increase victim safety and
offender accountability

FCLD participated in major projects and community events tied to domestic
violence in 2009, including the 911 Project. Until the 911 Project, prosecutors had
difficulty obtaining Houston Police Department’s 911 recordings. Now, the
agreement with HPD allows a member of the DA’s office to access these 911
recordings —1,100 recordings since the project began in September 2009.

FCLD worked with the Houston Police Department to streamline services for
victims of family violence. An HPD officer is now assigned to the division offices at
the courthouse, to enable victims to file charges and apply for protective orders at
the same location.

The division also provided domestic violence training and education to several
hundred police officers, prosecutors, magistrates, professionals and residents.
.




    16
Major Offenders Division
This division investigates and vertically prosecutes “major” offenses and/or “major”
offenders. It also provides assistance to law enforcement agencies in significant
and/or complicated criminal investigations.
This division investigates and prosecutes cases involving large scale narcotics
traffickers, professional burglars, theft and robbery rings, serial or multiple rapists
or murderers, and criminal street gangs.
The division’s activities in 2009 included opening 393 investigations, presenting 66
cases to the Grand Jury and charging 156 cases  prosecuting and convicting 147
major offenders  obtaining more than $1 million in restitution agreements 
drafting 685 court orders, 313 arrest warrants and 110 search warrants.




                             Measurements are in kilos




   17
Public Assistance Fraud Division

The Public Assistance Fraud Division handles criminal cases referred from the Office
of the Inspector General relating to welfare fraud, United States Social Security
Administration, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Department of
Insurance, United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD) among others. In
the course of prosecuting these cases, the Harris County DA’s Office seeks to
recover stolen funds from the charged defendants. These crimes are committed by
defendants who submit fraudulent claims to a governmental agency. Once
successfully prosecuted and restitution is obtained these stolen funds are returned
to the agencies for distribution to those in legitimate need of financial assistance.
In 2009, the Public Assistance Fraud Division recovered approximately $1.3 million
in fraudulent welfare payments and restitution in excess of $500,000 was obtained
for the other agencies.




Financial Crimes Division’s White-Collar Section
This section investigates and prosecutes white-collar crimes, including multi-million
dollar thefts, aggregate thefts, insurance frauds, Medicaid and Medicare frauds,
mortgage frauds, HUD investigations, bank frauds, employee thefts,
misapplications of fiduciary property, securing the execution of documents by
deception, commercial briberies, check kiting, falsely holding oneself out as a
doctor or lawyer, staged car accidents, accounting and bookkeeping thefts
(including thefts from churches, daycares, and small businesses), thefts from
elderly, money laundering, impersonating a public servant and other complex
financial crimes.
In 2009, the section obtained court orders for more than $12.4 million in
restitution and fines. The section secured 141 convictions, and obtained
indictments against the owners and managers of the largest online escort service in
Houston. Those defendants were charged with money laundering and aggravated
promotion of prostitution. Other activities of the section include indicting a
suburban mother who liquidated $700,000 from her employer’s retirement
account; obtaining a plea of guilty from a large diamond thief in Harris County who
stole over $2.4 million in diamonds; obtaining a 40 year prison sentence on an
individual who stole $2 million from his employer; and successfully prosecuting a
therapist who stole $463,000 from Medicaid.




   18
Identity Theft Section
This section investigates and prosecutes multi-defendant, multi-jurisdictional,
multi-victim or complex identity theft and related cases. The section obtained 71
convictions and court orders for about $1 million in restitution and fines in 2009.

Prosecutors assigned to his section obtained a conviction against a hospital
employee who accessed 7,000 patient files  prosecuted a 21-defendant Mortgage
Fraud ring for committing over $20 million in loan fraud involving over 40 houses 
prosecuted a defendant who fraudulently obtained over $4 million in vehicles 
worked a joint operation with the U. S. Department of State involving foreign
nationals using identity theft to fraudulently obtain United States passports 
prosecuted a defendant who used an Internet website to view the identifying
information of approximately 1,200 people, subsequently using that information to
commit identity theft  worked proactive undercover investigations resulting in the
recovery of over 3,000 blank identification cards, the arrest of 6 people and the
closure of 4 locations that were manufacturing fake identification documents,
social security cards and resident alien cards  worked a joint operation with U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement resulting in the prosecution of a defendant
for the possession of over 570 counterfeit money orders, checks and cashier’s
checks valued at over $900,000, including U.S. Postal Money orders and Navy
Federal Credit Union checks  worked a proactive investigation with the United
States Secret Service resulting in the prosecution of two defendants for the passing
of forged International Bills of Exchange in an attempt to steal $10 billion.




   19
Consumer Protection Section
This section investigates and prosecutes financial crimes involving consumers.
Cases include multi-million dollar securities frauds and investment frauds,
insurance frauds, Ponzi schemes, misapplications of fiduciary property, securing
executions of a document by deception, providing false information to obtain
property or credit, mortgage frauds, construction frauds, money laundering and
other complex financial crimes where there is a transfer or sale of goods or service
to a consumer.

The Section secured court orders for more than $4 million in restitution. Consumer
complaints received by the division rose more than 40 percent in 2009. This Section
handled multi-agency investigations including a multi-million dollar investment
fraud with the Texas State Securities Board involving life insurance settlement
funds, an investment fraud involving the sale of annuities with the Texas
Department of Insurance, and a misapplication of employee benefits with the U.S.
Department of Labor  prosecuted multiple defendants in a mortgage fraud case
involving over $40M in fraudulent home loans  investigated and prosecuted a
defendant who convinced over 9,000 victims to pay her money, in excess of $1M,
to obtain grants  investigated and prosecuted an investment advisor who ran a
Ponzi scheme that targeted Houston retirees, where over 600 victims in the
scheme gave the investment advisor $15 million of their retirement funds to invest
 prosecuted an insurance agent who collected over $100,000 in Texas Wind Storm
insurance premiums but failed to turn those premiums over to the insurance
company. The damages to these homeowners totaled over $1 million.




   20
Environmental Crimes Division
This division prosecutes all violations of environmental laws in Harris County. The
division attempts to provide solutions to pollution problems to prevent the
recurrence of environmental violations. The division is responsible for educating
the public and business community regarding environmental laws and the criminal
consequences of violating these laws.

Activities in 2009 included: handling nearly 500 cases, including more than 400 new
cases  filing charges against individuals and businesses for various environmental
offenses, including 244 water pollution cases and 182 illegal dumping cases 
prosecuting 196 individuals and/or companies  recovering $740,000 in restitution
and clean-up costs, $525,000 in fines and $322,000 in Supplemental Environmental
Project funds.




Vehicular Crimes Section
This section prosecutes motorists who are criminally responsible for traffic fatalities
under charges of Intoxication manslaughter, felony murder, reckless manslaughter
or negligent homicide. DWI cases are prosecuted by the Trial Bureau.
In a major effort to curtail intoxicated driving, the District Attorney’s Office
continued its No Refusal Program as an initiative of this section. Suspected
intoxicated drivers often refuse to provide a breath sample. This program prevents
a defendant from thwarting detection of his level of intoxication. If a driver refuses
to provide a breath sample, an assistant district attorney drafts a search warrant
for the taking of a blood sample. After the judge signs the warrant, a blood sample
is taken from the driver. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors and medical
personnel work as a team to secure and execute these search warrants. During the
2009 No Refusal Program, prosecutors prepared a total of 359 search warrants for
blood samples from DWI suspects.
This section also oversees the VATS (Vehicular Assault & Traffic Safety) Team. VATS
gives law enforcement officers an additional tool to combat traffic fatalities caused
by intoxicated drivers. As part of this program prosecutors provide advice and
assistance, at the scene of traffic fatalities, 24 hours a day. In 2009, the VATS Team
responded to 215 requests for on-scene assistance or requests for information.




   21
Public Integrity Division
This division investigates and prosecutes public officials and public servants who
commit crimes related to their office or position. Allegations that were
investigated and resulted in criminal charges in 2009 included: the successful
prosecution of a Harris County Criminal Court judge for the offense of Official
Oppression  charges of Tampering with a Governmental Record against an owner
of a charter school for issuing unearned school credits in return for cash  the
successful prosecution of an intoxilyzer supervisor who was an independent
contractor certified by Texas Department of Public Safety for falsifying reports
indicating that monthly inspections had been completed on the breath alcohol
testing instruments that were under her care and supervision (over 3,000 DWI
cases in Harris County and surrounding counties were impacted by these crimes).
This division investigated more than 226 allegations of misconduct during 2009.




Police Integrity Division
This division investigates all shootings by local law enforcement officers that result
in a person being wounded or killed; investigates allegations that local law
enforcement officers may have used excessive force; investigates deaths that occur
at jails in the county or other places while individuals are in the custody of law
enforcement officers and prosecutes officers indicted by grand juries.
In 2009, it investigated 27 fatal shootings by police officers and 33 incidents in
which police officers wounded suspects.




   22
Asset Forfeiture Division
This division is responsible for the forfeiture of contraband seized by peace officers.
The division obtained court orders for $12.4 million in forfeitures of ill-gotten cash
and other assets from criminal enterprises. That amount was the most ever gained
in forfeitures, and nearly a third more than what was forfeited in 2008. One stock
fraud case resulted in $4.1 million in forfeitures.

Many local law enforcement agencies benefitted from the work of this division.
Agency distribution of forfeited money: Houston Police Department - $2.5million;
Attorney General - $2.7 million; Department of Public Safety - $1 million; Harris
County Sheriff’s Office - $557,217; Pasadena Police Department - $549,349; Other –
$997,065.




Bond Forfeiture Division
Courts set bail on each defendant to ensure their appearance in court. Even so,
some defendants fail to appear. This triggers a bond forfeiture which sets this
division into action. During 2009 this division filed lawsuits and disposed of more
than 5,300 bond forfeiture cases, and collected $3.9 million in revenue from
forfeited bonds. All of this money was paid to the county.




Check Fraud Division
In 2009: 175 felony and 5,105 misdemeanor cases were filed. Restitution to victims
totaled $1.8 million.

This division ran a hot check amnesty program that netted $316,000 in restitution.
About 800 people avoided criminal charges by making good on bad checks during
amnesty periods in July and October. The division also coordinated hot-check
warrant sweeps with area law enforcement agencies.




   23
Misdemeanor Division

In 2009, approximately 81,000 class A and B misdemeanor cases were filed – an
increase of nearly 10,000 from 2008 — and 79,929 cases were disposed. The
majority of these filings involved theft or fraud (15,462), drug offenses (14,318),
and Driving While Intoxicated (12,228). The Misdemeanor Division of the Harris
County District Attorney’s Office includes 94 attorneys and support staff to handle
all of the class A and B misdemeanor offenses filed in the 15 Harris County Criminal
Courts at Law. Over the course of 2009, the average caseload handled by a
misdemeanor prosecutor was 2,149 cases.
The division last year received 916 applications for the Pre-Trial Diversion Program.
During 2009, 43 individuals completed the agreement, which resulted in dismissal
of their case, alternative remedies were proposed on 119 cases, 100 individuals
were denied entry in this program, and eight offenders were unsuccessful and their
cases were returned to the court for prosecution. As of January 1, 2010 there were
646 Pre-Trial Diversion agreements pending.




                                                                       *




               * Data Source: Harris County Justice Data Warehouse



   24
Justice of Peace Courts
The 16 Justice of the Peace courts are among the busiest courts in Harris County.
Thousands of people come to the courts annually for Class C misdemeanor cases
and traffic and Transportation Code offenses. Class C misdemeanor cases are cases
where the punishment is a fine only of up to $500.00
Among the cases heard in JP courts are: disorderly conduct, assault, theft under
$50, theft of service under $50, issuance of a bad check, health code violations,
parks and wildlife violations, DUI, public intoxication, possession of drug
paraphernalia, boating violations, Class C environmental crime violations, gambling,
noise violations, permit violations, dangerous dog violations, loose cat or dog
violations, unregistered animal violations, youth curfew violations, burn ban
violations, fireworks violations, failure to attend school, parental contribution to a
child’s not attending school, disruption of school activity, breach of the peace,
solicitation from a roadway, illegal sale of animals from a roadway, speeding
tickets, stoplight and stop sign violations and all other traffic violations.
Case filings reveal the level of activity in the 16 JP courts in 2009: 431,953 Class C
misdemeanor cases — 350,220 traffic cases; 81,733 non-traffic cases.
There were 59,735 trials —58,242 bench trials; 1,493 jury trials. The jury trials
increased 150 percent more than in 2008, while the bench trials increased five per
cent.
To reach JP courts in vast Harris County, assistant district attorneys traveled over
66,052 miles.




   25
Appellate Division
This division represented the county and state in 512 direct appeals of trial
convictions. Of those rulings, 496 were in favor of the State of Texas — a success
rate of 97 percent. In addition to writing and filing more than 400 appellate briefs,
this division provided direct assistance to our prosecutors during trials and
hearings, as well as writing legal memos on complex issues, such as wiretaps, and
reviewing requests for pardons.

The attorneys in this division are sought out regularly, across the State, for legal
advice to other district attorney offices.




   26
Post-Conviction Writs Division
This division represents the State of Texas in all felony post conviction writs of
habeas corpus filed in Harris County. Such writs are in effect a type of appeal
separate from the direct appeal process. Common types of writs are those alleging
ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial and police misconduct or jury
misconduct. They address constitutional issues arising from factual and legal
claims.
The division handled writs on death penalty matters in 111 cases along with writs
on 1,140 non-capital felony cases in 2009.
Division prosecutors conduct investigations to respond to factual claims, do legal
research to respond to legal claims, draft answers to each writ, represent the state
in writ evidentiary hearings and draft proposed finds of fact in each case. The
division also obtains execution dates in death penalty cases and represents the
state in all state writ proceedings up to execution. This division is not to be
confused with the newly formed Post Conviction Review Section.




General Litigation Division
General Litigation handles various dockets in civil litigation, state bar grievance
defense, requests to have criminal records expunged and fugitive extradition —
1,700 cases in 2009.

It also complied with more than 700 public information requests and oversaw the
supervision of 179 law school interns. There were no adverse state bar judgments
rendered against DA staff members in 2009.

The division represents the DA’s office in extradition matters when fugitives are
arrested on out-of-state warrants. It handled 832 such cases in 2009.




   27
Extradition Administration
The Extradition Unit is responsible for drafting and processing the legal paperwork
necessary to arrest and transport a person wanted for criminal charges or to
transfer an inmate from federal or state custody who is wanted for criminal
charges in Harris County, Texas.

The unit processed more than 750 state-to-state extraditions  filed 24 interstate
agreements on detainers to retrieve fugitives incarcerated in other state or federal
facilities  filed seven federal writs to retrieve fugitives incarcerated in federal
facilities  returned five international fugitives: two from Mexico, one from
Thailand, one from the Bahamas and one fugitive from Aruba  successfully
extradited four suspects sought on charges including intoxicated manslaughter,
sexual assault of a child and murder  helped track two fugitives who then were
arrested overseas, including a suspect sought on capital murder charges and
another sought on a murder charge. Extradition of the men is pending, waiting a
decision by authorities in Mexico regarding whether Mexico will allow five other
fugitives to be extradited.




   28
Public Information
The Public Information Office is responsible for informing the prosecution and the public
about matters of importance related to the District Attorney’s Office. Over the last year,
we have not only responded to reporters’ questions and inquiries, but we have also
published informational stories and reports about the criminal justice system in Harris
County. This has led to increased transparency about the criminal justice system and
allowed us to warn the public about common frauds and scams.
In 2009 more than fifty press releases were generated by the Public Information Office to
inform the citizens about criminal charges filed, indictments, trial verdicts, and new
initiatives such as the DWI No Refusal weekends and the DWI DIVERT pre-trial diversion
program. These programs increase public safety in the county by encouraging drivers to
think before they drink and by offering viable treatment programs to target issues of
intoxication.
On a daily basis, the office responds to an average of 30-50 inquiries per day, speaking with
reporters, citizens, and attorneys to facilitate the flow of information from the office.
Interviews with prosecutors are set up and monitored, quotes are given, and information is
transmitted. Prosecutors have been quoted throughout the nation, Canada, and overseas
about criminal justice issues.




   29
Investigators
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office employs 69 investigators who provide
support to the prosecutorial staff by intensive investigation of crimes, serving
subpoenas, locating and transporting witnesses, obtaining and reviewing records
and reports, and otherwise assisting prosecutors in preparing cases for trial.
Additionally, they initiate proactive investigations, engage in undercover
operations, provide investigative assistance and support to other law enforcement
agencies, and execute search and arrest warrants. Investigators also provide
technical support to other agencies, including the duplication of audio and video
evidence, and forensic analysis of computer and cell phone devices.
In 2009, DA investigators worked a proactive undercover investigation that resulted
in the recovery of more than 3,000 counterfeit identification cards or driver’s
licenses, the arrest of six individuals involved in the manufacture of the documents,
and the closure of four locations where the documents were produced.
Investigators also engaged in an undercover operation that resulted in the seizure
of 24,000 illegally recorded feature films, the closure of five illicit business
locations, and the arrest of twelve individuals involved in the operation.
They also investigated a money laundering and commercial bribery case involving a
loss to the victim of more than $1 million, a clinic where staff issued hundreds of
illegal prescriptions for pain medications, and a local university employee who
accessed school files to commit identity theft.
A DA investigator played a crucial role in tracking fugitive Darren Castleberry across
the Middle East and Asia, where he was apprehended in Thailand. Castleberry was
ultimately tried and convicted of a series of sexual assaults of underage girls.
An investigator also obtained a confession from Andrew Hawthorne in the sexual
assault of an 8-year old boy, a crime for which Ricardo Rachell spent 6 ½ years in
prison, before a review of evidence excluded Rachell as a suspect.
In 2009, DA investigators participated in multi-agency investigations with the
Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Office of the Texas
Attorney General, Texas Department of Insurance, Secret Service, Texas
Department of Public Safety, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Drug Enforcement
Agency, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, among many others.




   30
Information Systems Technology
The primary responsibility of this division is to create and support information
technologies that deliver accurate and timely criminal history information to the
District Attorney’s Office, enabling its employees to make the best informed
decisions regarding their cases.
In 2009, IST was awarded the Digital Government Achievement Award (DGAA) from
the Center of Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute on
information technology policies and best practices in state and local government,
for developing the District Attorney Consolidated Criminal History (CCH) web
application.
This application combines many different disparate criminal history databases from
other justice and law enforcement systems onto a single website, saving
prosecutors and investigators valuable time spent on criminal history research. For
example, the application allows employees the ability to retrieve an HPD offense
report directly by clicking on the offense report number, saving them valuable time
in the court room.
In addition, IST created many other applications that have improved the overall
efficiency of the office. For example, a new application was developed and
implemented in 2009 that tracks the physical location of every felony case folder as
it moves from Grand Jury and the Trial Bureau to Central Records. At Central
Records, the file is scanned, indexed, and the PDF image of the case file is made
available through the CCH application for future reference.
Likewise, a new web application allows employees to retrieve high resolution
autopsy photos on-demand.
IST also implemented other significant systems in 2009, including new case and
evidence tracking systems for Special Prosecutions, Crimes Against Children,
DIVERT, Police Integrity, Cold Cases and, Asset Forfeiture. Moreover, IST
implemented a new forms website that assists employees in generating Magistrate
Orders for Emergency Protection (MOEP), complicated wiretap intercepts,
penitentiary packet requests, medical records, HPD 911 recording requests, search
and seizure warrants, and Grand Jury subpoenas.




   31
Central Records
The current goal of Central Records is to image all incoming and warehoused felony
files with the intent of going paperless. This project commenced in October 2008.
Central Records has six imaging groups — five of these groups focus their duties on
correctly prepping, imaging, and labeling each file with the defendant’s
information; the sixth group is the warehouse crew. The warehouse crew receives
and retrieves all file requests. Preparers receive up to 300 disposed files daily, in
addition to working the archives. Also, Central Records stores and maintains box
files and furniture from multiple departments, and assists the office with numerous
logistical matters.
2009 Central Records statistics:
   803 imaged boxes (approx. 50 files per box)
   40,150 total files passed through imaging project
   85 boxes added to video library
   300 murder boxes (to remain indefinitely).




    32
                Awards and Recognitions
Animal Cruelty Section
 Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector
General, for excellence in the investigation, coordination and prosecution of a major dog-
fighting ring to Section Chief Belinda Smith and former Assistant District Attorney Stephen
St. Martin


Asset Forfeiture Division
 Plaque of Appreciation from the Texas Rangers to Division Chief, Karen Morris, for her
longtime work, support and dedication on behalf of the Texas Rangers and law
enforcement in general

Financial Crimes Division’s White-Collar Section
Prosecutor of the Year (for 2008), from the Gulf Coast Chapter of the International
Association of Financial Crimes Investigators to Division Chief Kaylynn Williford

 Certificates of Appreciation from Hewlett Packard for excellence in the investigations
and convictions in major frauds against corporations to Kate Dolan, currently Chief of the
White collar Crime Section, and DA’s Investigator Mike Nolan

Post-Conviction Writs Division
 National Appellate Award for Outstanding Advocacy in Capital Cases for 2008-09,
from the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation to Division Chief Roe
Wilson

Public Assistance Fraud Division
2009 United States Attorney’s Award for outstanding contributions to criminal justice to
Division Chief Carl Hobbs, now Chief of Misdemeanor Division


Major Offender Division
 Certificates of commendation from the National FBI Director, for work in coordinating
major violent crime investigations

Information Systems Technology
Digital Government Achievement Award (DGAA) from the Center of Digital Government
for developing the District Attorney Consolidated Criminal History (CCH) web application




   33
                                   Contacts

General Information                                       713.755.5800

Patricia R. Lykos     District Attorney                   713-755-5800

Jim Leitner           First Assistant District Attorney   713-755-5814

                      Animal Cruelty Section              713.755.0184

                      Appellate Division                  713.755.5826

                      Asset Forfeiture Division           713.755.5461

                      Bond Forfeiture Division            713.755.5824

                      Check Fraud Division                713.755.7883

                      Child Exploitation Section          713.755.5546

                      Consumer Protection Section         713.755.5836

                      Crimes Against Children Division    713.755.5546

                      Chief Investigator                  713.755.5813

                      Environmental Crimes Division       713.755.5834

                      Family Criminal Law Division        713.755.5888

                      Financial Crimes Division           713.755.8333

                      Fugitive Apprehension Section       713.755.0209

                      General Counsel                     713.755.5826

                      General Litigation Division         713.755.5816

                      Governmental Integrity Bureau       713.755.8330

                      Grand Jury Division                 713.755.6170

                      Human Resources & Budget Division   713.755.3794




   34
     Identity Theft Section                      713.755.4519

     Intake Division                             713.755.7114

     Juvenile Division                           713.755.5874

     Major Offender Division                     713.755.6178

     Mental Health Section                       713.755.5826

     Misdemeanor Division                        713.755.5846

     Police Integrity Division                   713.755.7077

     Post Conviction Writs                       713.755.6657

     Professional Development,
      Community Protection & Ethics Bureau       713.755.5800

     Protection of the Elderly and
      Disability Section                         713.755.5826

     Public Services and Infrastructure Bureau   713.755.0104

     Public Assistance Fraud Division            713.755.5277

     Public Information Office (Media)           713.755.3320

     Public Integrity Division                   713.755.8330

     Special Prosecutions Bureau                 713.755.5840

     Trial Bureau (Felony)                       713.755.0339

     Vehicular Crimes Section                    713.755.3286

     Victims’ Rights Division                    713.755.6655




35
                 “I want the public to
                   know the lawyers,
                    investigators and
                  support staff of the
                      Harris County
                  District Attorney’s
                 Office are dedicated
                      and incredibly
                 talented individuals
                     who are always
                  striving to improve
                the administration of
                   justice and ensure
                   that we always do
                     the right thing.”

                       — Patricia R. Lykos
                               District Attorney




Office of District Attorney  Harris County, Texas
       1201 Franklin Street, Suite 600  Houston, TX 77002
           713.755.5800  www.harriscountyda.com

				
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