After suffering with runaway crime rates including the explosive growth of murder and aggravated robbery, the architects of the jail break (aka bond reform), of the emasculating of the DA's office by refusing to support significant new prosecutors and the virtual closing of the courthouse for almost a year, recognize we have a huge problem. Please take the time to understand the facts:
- Houston Police Department (HPD) stats show homicides in the region have increased 42 percent from this time last year, and 91 percent since 2019. Some reports have suggested the city now leads the nation in rising murder rates.
- An analysis by Crime Stoppers of Houston victims' advocate Andy Kahan, who has been tracking the problem, shows there have been 127 people murdered here by suspects free on multiple felony bonds.
- The timeline of these murders tracks with the bail bond policies pushed by the leftist Democrats on the Harris County Commissioners Court and implemented by Democratic felony judges after the 2018 elections under pressure from Rodney Ellis.
- These also track with changes put into place after "bond reforms" that were part of the settlement of a federal lawsuit filed against the county's misdemeanor judges by liberal activists arranged by Democrat Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and his allies.
- As the victims continue to stack up, Kahan recently identified the 127th murder victim allegedly killed by someone free on bond as Tevin Watson, 29, who was fatally shot during a home invasion robbery while he was with his two children.
- One of the two suspects arrested and charged in the case, Qiriathiam Phillips, was free on SEVEN felony bonds at the time of the murder of Watson, according to news reports.
- The increasing crime rates and corresponding murder rates have done little to move or impress Ellis, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, or Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who claims to lean heavily on his own background in law enforcement as Sheriff and a former HPD officer, while at the same time supporting the misguided lenient measures being pushed by his leftist colleagues. One wonders, did he not learn anything?
- When the murder numbers come up in discussions, Hidalgo criticizes those who mention them and accuse them of "cherry picking cases" to stir up publicity.
- Ellis and Garcia are equally derisive and opt to look down at their phones instead of listening when crime victims speak to Commissioners Court.
- Ellis' henchman in the legal system, the liberal Alex Bunin, Harris County Public Defender, even argued to Commissioners Court with a straight face that crime is not going up and that those opposed to bail reform are simply basing their claims on "anecdotes." Weird way to describe crime victims.
- The leftist Democrats on Commissioners Court also dismiss any plan to strengthen enforcement in the community and, when putting more officers on the street is discussed, as proposed by Republican Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey, Dems lash out. They send such ideas off to languish in the arms of a new county administrator they control.
- Hidalgo said she worried more officers would lead to "mass incarcerations." Ellis said all problems with backlog would be solved by eliminating cash bond.
- The leftists on Commissioners Court (CC) and their media allies on the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board strongly dislike discussing real crime statistics or hearing from victims and taxpayers terrified by the conditions as they now exist.
- They have taken two tracks on this issue, (1) They are peddling a small and ineffective package of spending to relieve a massive criminal court backlog they blame for crime they are reluctant to acknowledge, and (2) they are undermining prosecutors and law enforcement at the same time.
- The package aimed at the court backlog, estimated to be anywhere from 100,000 to 140,000 cases, was created by damage sustained by court facilities during Hurricane Harvey, lengthy and ongoing repairs and pandemic measures which slowed court and trial operations starting last year. The backlog was an estimated 38,000 pre-Harvey.
- To fight this, CC leftists are spending $14.8 million on what they say are tech fixes for the courts and other money on emergency dockets, visiting judges and associate judges to hear more cases.
- CC leftists also reference $3 million spent on overtime in the Sheriff's Department that Garcia and other Dems are reluctant to expand or share with other county law enforcement agencies.
- Garcia and Sheriff Ed Gonzales are allies and Garcia favors a power grab by the HCSO over supporting all law enforcement agencies, like elected constables.
- Though some overtime for prosecutors has been approved, the so-called court expansion efforts could mean very little without a corresponding increase in prosecutors, which has been requested by District Attorney Kim Ogg for years, dismissed, rejected, and criticized by CC leftists and relegated to yet more study.
- The simple case for more prosecutors is elementary, more defendants and a backlog create a greater need for more prosecutors to handle and process these cases, especially when more judicial resources are being poured into the system.
- At the same time, CC leftists have dismissed efforts to put more officers on the front lines, scuttled attempts to express support for state legislation aimed at making risk a priority when bonds are set and turned their attacks on leaders in Austin who look at Houston's rising crime and murder rates with alarm.
- For example, at the CC meeting July 20th, Ramsey brought forth a resolution to support proposed state laws to tighten restrictions on bonds for those accused of multiple charges, measures that would increase community safety and are backed by law enforcement.
- Instead, CC leftists led by Garcia rewrote the resolution and turned it into an attack on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for open carry in Texas and accused him of putting guns in the hands of criminals.
- The Garcia-authored resolution then went on to dismiss the notion of a "bond pandemic," attributed rising crime to the global pandemic, and said blaming how Dem judges set bonds is not to blame and is an "oversimplification."
- While people are dying, Garcia's substitute resolution criticized the legislative agenda set by Austin leaders and said they had no place in the affairs of local officials. (Harris County is an arm of state government.) Garcia said state leaders should focus their efforts on "real solutions" and argued bond reform is not needed in favor of victims.
- Against the backdrop of all this, CC leftists vehemently deny they are "defunding police," but that is exactly what they have done.
- The CC leftists grabbed $130 to $140 million of rollover funds, $40 to $50 million from the coffers of law enforcement or court-related departments (a practice that allowed departments to keep unspent funds to encourage saving to taxpayers, lower property tax rates, and to help defray rises in operational costs) and took those funds away from enforcement and prosecution efforts while keeping their own rollover funds intact.
- CC Dems "say" that the raiding of the funds does not constitute defunding of police, but they are in fact taking resources away from law enforcement, specifically the Constable's offices. They point to increases in law enforcement, but do not tell the public that those increases were not related to operations, but instead were to cover things like increased employee insurance costs.
Remember that these are the people that did a sweetheart deal on misdemeanor bond liberalization going far beyond what any federal court would have ordered. How? By getting rid of all opposition coming from law enforcement and in the District Attorney's office by objecting to their standing. This crew was next preparing to do the same thing in felonies in the Russell v. Texas suit until the State of Texas intervened at the behest of State Senator Paul Bettencourt and others. That stopped the "deal" being put together by Ellis, Hidalgo and Garcia that would in essence, empty the county jail allegedly due to the Covid-19 threat, resulting in a crime wave like Harris County has never seen.
So let's be honest, they created the problem and our only daily newspaper abdicated its responsibility to the community with its often inaccurate breathless support and inaccurate reporting editorializing.
Until mid-July 2021 Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia and the Chronicle all conceded we have a huge problem. Their solution to the massive backlogs of cases in our system, with people on bond waiting to be dealt with, add a handful of "temporary" prosecutors. The problem is again, they created it.
Lina Hidalgo basically shut the courthouse well over a year ago and kept Harris County at the highest level of Covid restrictions well past the sell date. She and her compadres, Ellis and Garcia, turned down Democratic DA Kim Ogg's yearly budget requests for more prosecutors and support staff, while at the same time funding a massive increase in the Public Defender's Office (PDO).
The problem here is case load. The PDO attorneys have an average case load of under 100 per year and the average felony prosecutor well over 1,500 cases. The average PDO attorney is paid more than the average prosecutor. Something doesn't make sense. Clearly the DA's office is grossly understaffed. Compared to Chicago (Cook County), a county of similar size with over 700 prosecutors, Harris County has around 367!
The Assistant DA's need time to review and evaluate cases, but given the ridiculous number of cases per ADA, they are essentially engaged in triage.
The idea of some misguided reformers and the Houston Chronicle is "a more aggressive approach of dismissing all non-violent felony cases older than 9 months..." is essentially decriminalizing crime. They forget the legislature writes our penal laws. This stupid idea reflects the leftist agenda as seen in Dallas County and California which is to not file cases for shoplifting under $900 and that results in massive increases in shoplifting.
Let's be clear, those responsible for our plight should not be looked to for answers. There has been a massive failure of political leadership by these radical left-wing Commissioner's Court members, Ellis, Hidalgo and Garcia.
To solve our problems in criminal justice, they all need to be replaced by new leaders who put public safety first, not last. Our community is desperate for quality candidates to step up and replace them in the Democratic primary and/or in the general election of 2022.
To fail means Harris County will continue its overall decline due to awful politicians who just don't care.
That "New" Plan To Deal With Our Broken
Court System Is Too Little Too Late
On July 20, 2021, under increasing pressure to deal with the Harris County Criminal Justice System in free fall accompanied by an explosive crime rate, Democratic Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner Adrian Garcia hatched a plan to spend $2.5 million for extra judges, and get this, add nine (9) temporary assistant district attorneys for only six months or maybe more.
Let's say that it's better than nothing, but it's almost nothing. The increase in Assistant DA's in this grossly understaffed office is an underwhelming 2.04%! It's only temporary at this point, what good lawyer is going to sign up for just six months, especially when he or she could go to the Public Defender's Office and make more money (as average pay is higher and has a significantly lower case load)?
This half-baked idea is all about political posturing by Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis. The first two now worry the crime explosion in Harris County on their watch and fear it will defeat them in 2021. Meanwhile this "next to nothing" act is designed to say we are taking care of the problem.
It says here it will not take care of our runaway crime problem.
Instead, Commissioners Tom Ramsey and Jack Cagle have better ideas with significant additions to staff up the DA's office, added needed jail space for violent felons, and add law enforcement and real bond reform to stop the revolving door in our jails and keep dangerous felons locked up.
Censorship And Boycotts On The State Of Israel
By Brian Ettinger, Contributing Editor
As I've stated in my previous articles, social tech and media companies are destroying our country with its censorship and biased views. Our founding fathers fought for free speech and diverse views and put in a government system of a democratic republic with a Constitution to protect its citizens and legal residents against government interference and restrictions on freedom of speech, expression, and other constitutional rights and protections against the governments (Federal and State government). But, now these social tech and media companies have inserted themselves to infringe on individuals rights to free speech and expression. If you agree with these narrow minded people you are allowed to express your views. If you disagree, you are silenced by being denied access. The leaders of Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram and Apple who control social media need to be held accountable. One way to do this would be to break up these companies as we did to AT&T under antitrust laws or our government needs to take away their liability protections and make them subject to legal liability by their censorship. These companies and the media have had a profound effect on our education system and airwaves with their biased messaging. They have ultimate power and need to be stopped now. They encourage anti-social behavior and anti-Semitism, including support of boycotts of the State of Israel by U.S. private companies such as Ben and Jerry's. They promote boycotts of U.S. companies who support the State of Israel. This is a disgrace as Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels, who controlled all news media and public information would be proud of these social tech and media giants. This is how they controlled the masses by limiting messages and public access to freedom of speech and knowledge. So be aware and get off these social media platforms, rise up and stop this censorship and boycotts now or we will lose our basic rights of free speech and expression. These social tech and media companies need to understand that by acting to promote censorship and boycotts of industries and countries based on a political ideology they should face criminal prosecution, not just civil actions, so as not to hinder freedom of speech which goes against our society's freedoms. They have taken the place of the government in regulating free speech and expression. This is a very dangerous situation being created.
Brian Ettinger is a practicing attorney and contributing editor to TCR. He is a strong conservative who is concerned about America's future.
Democrats' Lawless Governments
Can Get Even Worse
By Bruce Bialosky, Contributing Editor
It has taken 72 years since the publication of the book 1984 for us to finally arrive at being led by President Orwell. He has been sending out his shock troops to convince Americans not to believe their own eyes and ears and blame Republicans for defunding the police and surging crime. They are truly shock troops because Americans are dazed and confused by the bewildering arguments that blame Republicans. Only the most desperate Democrats are adopting this line. I am here to tell you as bad as the lawlessness being unleashed on Americans by Democrat mayors and district attorneys it can and will most likely get even worse.
The trashing of our laws to allow criminals to walk out of stores with hundreds of dollars of goods without legal recourse or allowing violent criminals out after arrest without bail to further their personal crime wave, bafflingly can get even worse. We know that because it is going on in France.
Kobili Traore was an immigrant from Mali who obtained French citizenship. He had been arrested and sentenced by French courts 20 times for violent assaults. His only known means of support was as a drug dealer. Despite that the French government made no attempt to take away his citizenship and deport him back to Mali.
Traore met retired Jewish physician Dr. Sarah Halami numerous times along with her daughter in the stairwell of the Paris building where they lived. He called them "dirty Jews." This was witnessed by numerous neighbors.
Traore proceeds to break into the home of Dr. Halimi at four in the morning. He tortured her for over an hour while reciting verses from the Quran and shouting "Allahu Akbar!" He used anti-Semitic names and call her Satan.
In testimony from her neighbors, the police arrived at Dr Halimi's place while she was still alive. They became aware first-hand of the activities inside and heard her screaming. Instead of asserting there were exigent circumstances and breaking down the door, the police decide to go back downstairs and wait for reinforcements.
At that time, Traore threw Dr. Halimi from the third-story balcony of her home where she fell to her death. Only at this point did the police arrest him.
The murderer was not sent to prison, but instead was sent to a mental institution because he was under the influence of an illegal substance. Traore was high on marijuana, but apparently in a state of delirium. Most people who digest too much marijuana want to sit on a couch and consume bags of Cheetos. Not Traore. He went into a murderous anti-Semitic rage. It is still not clear why the murderer was not sent to prison where he could be cleansed of the drug and held there.
Seems like an open and shut case of first-degree murder, but not in France. Not only was the fact it was a hate crime suppressed for nine months, the case was assigned to a judge who was known as a member of an anti-Semitic group.
The judge proceeded to prejudice the process. She refused to allow a reconstruction of the crime. She stated a reconstruction of the crime would be "traumatic" for the defendant. The judge never heard arguments from the victim's family.
The judge ordered her own psychiatric analysis of Traore. Her hand-picked psychiatrist determined that Traore was in a state of acute delirium (on marijuana) and stated that because of that he could not be responsible for his actions and could not be tried. The judge in coordination with two other judges declared the murderer not guilty and free of all charges.
The case immediately was sent to the Court of Appeal. The Court acknowledged that Traore had committed an anti-Semitic murder. It went on to validate the lower court opinion that Traore was not responsible for his actions and set him free.
As despicable as this story may seem to you, are we that far from situations like this? We allow criminals to sneak back into the country multiple times. From all appearances, our southern border is largely being controlled by drug cartels that have become human traffickers. Our society is consistently amplifying any slight against Blacks, Asians or Muslims, but has muffled anti-Semitic attacks which remain 60% of hate crimes. We have violent criminals let out of jail prematurely or without bail after a crime with some clueless thought these people will become humanitarians in the interim. We have Democrat elected officials hog-tying police preventing them from protecting the people they were hired to protect.
Instead of changing police back to their intended role and ridding us of these criminals, the mayors, city councils and DA's are responsible for our plunging law enforcement and corresponding explosion of crimes at all levels. The Democrats are busy creating fairy tales about Republicans defunding the police. Unless we cleanse ourselves of these irresponsible souls, we will soon descend to the levels that France has already achieved.
Bruce Bialosky is the founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition of California and a former Presidential appointee. You can follow Bruce on Twitter @brucebialosky.
Tune In To What's Your Point?
On Fox 26 Sunday, August 1st at 7:00 AM
TCR Editor Gary Polland returns to Fox 26 Houston this Sunday, August 1st, on What's Your Point? hosted by Greg Groogan. The show will be a wide ranging discussion of current political issues. As always, Gary will bring a reasoned conservative viewpoint to the show. Just tune in at 7:00 am live, YouTube it, set your DVR or go to: https://www.fox26houston.com/.
TCR on the Air
Gary Polland is now a regular on "What's Your Point?" hosted by Greg Groogan on Fox 26 Houston, appearing every other week. Tune in or set your recorder for 7:00 am Sundays.
Gary has recently undertaken the hosting duties on a new interview show, Tell It Like It Is. The show is available at American Star TV and at its YouTube Channel. Currently on hiatus.
Red, White, and Blue featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland on Fridays at 7:30 pm on Houston Public Media TV 8, replaying Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 8, Monday at 11:30 pm on Channel 8.2 and on the web at www.houstonpublicmedia.org.
Red, White & Blue returns in September, better than ever.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his twenty-sixth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last twenty years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. As a public service for the last 18 years, Gary has published election guides for the GOP primary, general elections and city elections, all with the purpose of assisting conservative candidates. Gary is also in his 21st year of co-hosting Red, White and Blue on Houston Public Media TV 8 PBS Houston, longest running political talk show in Texas history. Gary serves on the Board of Directors of American Values, a national pro-family, pro-faith, conservative organization supporting the unity of the American people around the vision of our founding fathers and dedicated to reminding the public of the conservative principles fundamental to the survival of our nation. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.