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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Standing Up to the Powerful Who Do Wrong

Jordan Smith is in the midst of a series of articles in The Austin Chronicle on the race for Travis County District Attorney. This week's edition has part two in which she has a quote from Rosemary Lehmberg saying, "I question the judgment of anyone, especially a prosecutor, who discusses a pending case. That's about all I could say." Actually, what she could say is that she has no business questioning anyone on this issue because she has done the exact same thing.

Lehmberg's questioning of judgment is directed at Rick Reed for his comments to a reporter for the Texas Observer in the article "Replacing Ronnie Earle: The Race to Become the Most Important Prosecutor in Texas":

Reed said Lehmberg opposed seeking an indictment, as did several of the other prosecutors. He said he believes Lehmberg wouldn’t have indicted DeLay had she been DA at the time. Reed said he convinced Earle through a series of conversations and memos, besting the three other veteran prosecutors.
It seems hypocritical that Rosemary Lehmberg is questioning "the judgement of anyone, especially a prosecutor, who discusses a pending case", when, according to this 2005 article in the Washington Post, she herself discussed the Delay case, long before Reed ever did, to the people making a documentary called "The Big Buy":
In "The Big Buy," an assistant district attorney in Earle's office, Rosemary Lehmberg, says that Earle has pursued the DeLay case despite objections within the office. "Ronnie was the only person in maybe a group of six or seven lawyers in a room who thought we ought to go ahead and investigate," she says.
Lehmberg says in that quote that, at that time, Earle was the only one who wanted to go ahead with the investigation, meaning obviously that she did not think the investigation should go forward. Later, as we know from what Reed is quoted as saying in this Texas Observer article, that after the investigation was complete and it came time to make a decision whether to present the case to the grand jury and to seek an indictment, Lehmberg was still against going forward.

I am glad that Rick Reed was in the office when the time came for Earle to make a decision on seeking an indictment against Delay. I give Earle great credit for beginning the investigation when, as Lehmberg told the press in 2005, he was the only one who wanted to go ahead and investigate. I also give great credit to Rick Reed for his sound judgement in persuading Earle to take the case to the grand jury.

Reed wrote in this comment on The Texas Observer site that he:

was not brought into the DeLay investigation until after the decision had been made to investigate the complaint.

However, as Dave Mann reported last week in "Replacing Ronnie Earle: The Race to Become the Most Important Prosecutor in Texas," as the statute of limitations' clock was about to toll on the DeLay case, I was the only person, including Ms. Lehmberg, who pushed Mr. Earle to present the case to the grand jury.

I have no idea why Lehmberg thinks it was ok for her to discuss the Delay case with the press back in 2005, but it is not ok for Reed to have done it now.

Next year, Earle will no longer be around to make the hard decisions on whether to indict powerful people for wrongdoing even when others in the DA's office, including Lehmberg, wilt at the prospect.

We need to continue to have a Travis County DA who will stand up to the powerful, even if it means at first standing alone. Rick Reed has shown that he will not shrink when it comes time to make the tough decisions required to protect the public, which makes him the most qualified candidate in the race to become the most important prosecutor in Texas.

This post was written by Scott Cobb.

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