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Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos: What investigator did is not an 'investigation'

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

After an aggressive denial, now there is news that the Harris County District Attorney did in fact look into the secret grand jury charged with investigating her office. It's the latest chapter in the DA saga.

With harsh words, Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos claimed victory after that grand jury ended its six-month probe of her office without any indictments on Tuesday. But one day later, it's the DA's examination of those grand jury members that's causing some controversy.

We're faced with a question of just what an investigation is. One day after the DA told all of you she knew nothing of an investigation into grand jurors, she admits she ordered an investigator to look into grand jurors. She just doesn't call it an investigation.

Grand jurors said nothing prepared them for what unfolded after they launched their investigation of the DA's office.

"I think the District Attorney's Office always wrongly believed that this was politically motivated," said Jim Mount, Grand Jury Special Prosecutor.

Just hours after the grand jury told us they were investigated by the DA, the DA denied it.

DA Pat Lykos: I know nothing of that. I certainly didn't authorize the investigation. And, you know, give me a name.
Ted Oberg: I think they said a senior investigator. I don't know how many of those you have, but what have you done this afternoon to make sure none of your senior investigators engaged in that.
Lykos: I called our chief investigator and asked him.
Oberg: What did he say?
Lykos: He said no investigation was conducted on the grand jury.

Only after we told Lykos what we learned today, she told us she didn't order an investigation, but did order in her words "a cursory internet search... to learn if there was a political motivation behind the attacks" on her office.

No matter what she calls it, here's what we know about what was ordered.

According to sources, on Saturday, October 22, 2011 the DA's chief investigator was called while off duty. He was told by the DA's first assistant, Jim Leitner, to collect information on members of the grand jury themselves -- specifically the foreperson, Trisha Pollard, and another member who shared a last name, but no relation with DWI defense attorney Mark Theissen.

"This suggests a conflict of interests. You're interfering with the process. You're misusing your authority," said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy.

A week later, on Saturday, October 29, sources confirmed the chief investigator was called again and told to expand the scope of his examination to include the special prosecutors, the judge in the case Susan Brown, and her husband, and a potential Lykos political opponent Mike Anderson and his wife.

Sources tell us the investigator was told the orders were coming from the boss -- meaning Lykos -- and she wanted to know what political motives the grand jury might have to look into her.

"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," Lykos said on Tuesday.

Remember, the district attorney said she knew nothing of the investigation into the grand jury. And maybe she forgot. But a few minutes before she denied the investigation of grand jurors she reminded us why she took office.

"I was elected to reform the Harris County District Attorney's Office. And with the team I brought in and with the extraordinary people in the office, we have accomplished that goal. We restored professionalism and ethics to the office and brought transparency," Lykos said.

On Wednesday afternoon, only after we told DA Pat Lykos what we were going to report, we got a statement instead of an interview. She sent us a statement reading, in part, "At my request, (Chief Investigator Don) McWilliams did a cursory Internet search. Investigations involve obtaining confidential information, accessing law enforcement databases, surveillance or interviewing witnesses such as friends or associates, etc."

That investigator said in a statement, "What I did does not remotely approach the level of what I would consider an investigation. It was a cursory review of information that exists in the public domain."

You can read the DA's statement as well as the investigator's statement here.

The grand jury investigation stemmed from problems with the DWI testing equipment, also known as BAT vans. 13 Undercover exposed problems with the BAT vans back in March 2011. A grand jury was convened to determine who knew what and when about potentially faulty DWI test evidence from those BAT vans, and whether anyone committed a crime.

On Tuesday, grand jurors wrapped the investigation without any indictments.

The story is the result of a 13 Undercover investigation. Those stories are below

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