Harris County prosecutor calls contact with Rusty Hardin about Deshaun Watson ‘totally normal’
Jenny Vrentas’ article from New York Times regarding the grand jury process that resulted in no indictment for the Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson extensive detailed communications between Attorney Rusty Hardin and Assistant District Attorney Johna Staliings.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who heads the district attorney’s office in Houston, was recently interviewed by Mike Melster regarding, among other things, the extent of contact between Hardin and Stallings.
“Complitly normal“, Ogg said. “We contact the defense attorneys. They contact us. Communication is very different from collaboration or teamwork to achieve an outcome. It just did not happen. “It’s not ethical. And that’s not what we do. And that’s not what happened in this case.”
Ogg also delicately berated Vrentas for his characterization of communications between Hardin and Stallings.
“So I think the writer took a lot of artistic liberties with this thing, which presumed – which we’re not allowed to do – that every time someone shares the text of a phone call , that he colluded,” Ogg said. “We don’t work with plaintiffs’ attorneys, for the reason I mentioned. We don’t want cross-contamination, if you will, of bias or motive alleged against us to try to put your finger on the scales of our system to help the other party so it’s different when you’re dealing with a criminal defense attorney they represent a someone we can’t talk to without him, who we need to tell where to go or what to do.
It’s a bit confusing, frankly. If Watson is not going to testify before the grand jury, why does the prosecutor have to tell Watson’s attorney “where to go or what to do.” There are no administrative communications to be had until the suspect is formally charged.
Ogg also addressed the fact that Hardin was allowed to provide a “package” to present to the grand jury.
“When they have a package like we talked about in this case, it’s funny, it’s just a local custom, allowing defense attorneys to put together a package,” Ogg said. “You won’t find any support for it in law, you won’t find any protocol for it because it’s something that’s just been developed through practice between our criminal defense bar and our prosecutors. And what we do is they put together what they want the grand jury to see or hear, and we’ll present it. And we present it because we also want to know. What is their side? What do they present? And remember, we can’t compel their client, or target, to testify.
It’s also confusing. The prosecutor lets the defense attorney prepare whatever he wants, then submits it to the grand jury without even knowing what it is? Doesn’t matter what it is? What if it contains an incorrect representation of the facts? What if, in this case, it was a video of Rusty Hardin on horseback declaring, as he did publicly, that all the women who accused Watson of misconduct were lying? What if this was a video of Leah Graham proclaiming, as she has done publicly, that Tony Buzbee is a Pied Piper who harvested a group of women with baseless claims in an effort to advance his social networks and go on television?
Does Ogg really expect anyone to believe that it’s okay for a defense attorney to engage in the exercise of not presenting the suspect for grand jury testimony, but also to present a one-sided and interested presentation from the suspect’s point of view?
Ogg also challenged the notion, of the Time article, that the packages are only used by high-profile defendants who can fund such activities, calling it a “sensationalized” account of a common practice.
“In terms of the numbers, because so many people are caught on the scene in the middle of the crime, defense attorneys strategically – or simply because they’re not doing the job – won’t submit violent crime packets or instant crimes,” Ogg said. “High profile has nothing to do with it. Packages are common. Although in terms of numbers, because many people are arrested for what I call a flash crime or something that happens when actions are taken immediately, often they are not submitted.In cases like this, or cases where a crime is reported later, lawyers do a lot.
Packets are therefore common, except when they are not. And the profile of the case doesn’t matter, except when it does. And some lawyers “don’t do the work” to get a packer together. Obviously, many of these attorneys don’t have clients who can pay the hourly rate for the creation of the package and/or fund hundreds of dollars an hour for the constant harassment of the attorney, who, as we we indicated in this case, was intended to give Stallings a glimpse of what his professional life would have become if Watson had been indicted.
Although Ogg said a lot, she was never forced to confront the real reason (in my opinion) why Stallings got no charges. Stallings did not believe she could turn those indictments into convictions beyond a reasonable doubt. So she let Hardin argue her case (without subjecting her client to questioning) and she hoped the grand jury would choose to defer to the civil justice system.
Yes, even though the entire grand jury proceeding remains shrouded in medieval secrecy, it’s a safe bet that someone let the grand jury know that these plaintiffs had another path to potential justice, and that the grand jurors most likely decided simply to defer to the other main branch of the justice system. Making the result anything but an exoneration from Watson – no matter how hard Hardin would like to treat it that way.