Grand jury concludes criminal investigation into DA Pat Lykos' office without an indictment
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The Harris County District Attorney claims she's been persecuted by political opponents and local media after a six-month grand jury investigation closed Tuesday without any indictments.
District Attorney Pat Lykos had some harsh words about how she says her office was treated and portrayed in the investigation. Lykos went before the cameras in a news conference Tuesday afternoon that we brought you live on Eyewitness News at 4pm and on abc13.com.
These grand jurors were supposed to answer a relatively simple question -- who knew what when about potentially faulty DWI test evidence from HPD BAT vans and whether anyone committed a crime.
"They saw something they thought was of concern to the citizens. They investigated it -- they did it in good faith," said Jim Mount, special prosecutor to the grand jury.
This criminal investigation has been unfolding for months, much of it behind closed doors in the grand jury room.
The grand jurors ended their six-month investigation without an indictment --- neither Lykos nor any of her assistants ended up in a mug shot. But the picture grand jurors paint of the DA's office isn't pretty.
When we asked the grand jury foreperson, Trisha Pollard, about saying the DA's office is left with a "stain" after the criminal investigation, she replied, "That's our opinion."
Pollard was quiet in front of cameras, but not shy in a written statement, which read, "Our attempts to initiate our investigation were met with unexpected resistance from persons in the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Nothing prepared us for the events that unfolded."
Later Tuesday, the DA struck back.
"It is more than enough time that this pall that has hung over our office is removed," Lykos said. "This politically motivated investigation -- I would submit to you -- is an outrage, it's an abuse of power and a corruption of the criminal justice system."
Her team made that allegation all along, but Tuesday was the first time Lykos talked about that. The grand jurors denied it.
But on a day when everyone seemed to be talking about a secret process, it wasn't the last allegation we have to examine. Grand jurors Tuesday said they were followed, investigated and photographed by Lykos' employees.
Jim Mount, Special Prosecutor: It was a senior investigator at the DA's office.
Ted Oberg: What exactly were they charged with?
Mount: Looking to see if there was any reason to believe there was a political motivation to the grand jury's request to conduct an investigation.
Lykos denied it.
"I know nothing of that, I certainly didn't authorize it," said Lykos.
Think about that allegation -- county employees ordered to investigate the motivations of grand jurors.
Oberg: Did you feel intimidated?
Trisha Pollard: No.
Oberg: Then why did they do it?
Pollard: Unnecessary harassment.
But the grand jury wasn't done there.
When we asked Harris Co. Assistant District Attorney Rachel Palmer why she pleaded the Fifth back in December, she replied, "That's not an appropriate question."
The grand jury's written statement Tuesday concludes Palmer was legally within her rights to plead the Fifth, but morally wrong. Grand jurors said it distracted their investigation and they wrote, "the stain upon the Harris County District Attorney's Office will remain regardless of any media statements issued or press conferences performed by anyone."
Lykos took to Shakespeare to parry that thrust.
"If there a stain, it is on the people who demagogued this issue, and as Lady MacBeth found out, it will be tough to wipe that spot out," Lykos said.
One of those critics is attorney Chip Lewis who represents the BAT van whistle blower. On Tuesday, Lewis said all of this could have been avoided if Lykos simply spoke up when she knew about the problems.
"She chose not to do that. And all this -- all this pain and embarrassment -- can be attributed to that ineptitude," Lewis said.
As Eyewitness News told you recently, HPD BAT vans are being phased out and the grand jury took some credit for those "positive changes in the enforcement of DWIs in Harris County" in Tuesday's letter.
The story is the result of a 13 Undercover investigation. Those stories are below
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