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Texas DA on Hotseat for Jailing Rape Victim to Ensure Testimony

HOUSTON, Texas — Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson is on the political hotseat for jailing a sexual assault victim in order to ensure her testimony. The victim had a breakdown on the witness stand and was sent to a mental hospital but the DA jailed her after she was released.

An ad featuring the rape victim’s mother has hit local televisions and the Internet. The mother is visually silhouetted so you cannot see her face.

The DA was already under-fire with her GOP political base after she indicted the Planned Parenthood video undercover journalists, and did not indict a doctor accused of performing illegal late-term abortions. A criminal court judge later dismissed the charges against the Planned Parenthood videographers David Daleiden and Susan (Sandra) Merritt.

Breitbart News reported that then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst demanded an investigation of Dr. Douglas Karpen in 2013 after a video exposé revealed horrific facts about the abortions. The article includes a graphic video and statements by three of his employees. They alleged that after babies were birthed alive, Karpen would cut their spinal cord, stab the baby’s soft spot to kill it, or twist the head off the neck with his bare hands.

In the ad featuring the rape victim’s mother, she tells viewers, “My daughter Jenny, was a victim of rape. Testifying in court, she broke down. She was hurting, she needed compassion, but she was handcuffed, and put in the back of a police car. And District Attorney Devon Anderson’s Office had her sent to jail. – The same jail as her attacker, for 27 days, and Jenny was brutalized there. I’d like to tell Devon Anderson – Jail is for rapists and other violent criminals. It’s no place for innocent victims like my daughter.”

“They didn’t care,” Jenny “was collateral damage, and someone wanted to further their career, and that’s all it was,” Jenny’s mother told Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle. Falkenberg received the award in 2015 for her series on “a corrupt and abusive grand jury system.”

The frantic mother begged Anderson’s office to get Jenny out of jail, but her daughter was released only after Sheriff Ron Hickman acted, the Chronicle reported. The mother, who is referred to as “Barbara” in order to protect her daughter, a sexual assault victim, was reported to say that Hickman released her “within hours of learning of the victim’s plight.”

Jenny was placed with the general population and was in jail for 27 days over the Christmas holidays. As reported by Click2Houston, some of the jail staff thought Jenny was a sexual assault defendant rather than a victim. The jail attaches the alleged rapist’s offense to the victim’s inmate’s electronic record.

Anderson’s opponent in the November election, Kim Ogg noted, “Putting a witness in jail – highly irregular.” Ogg is hitting Anderson with YouTube video ads and television spots. The manner in which the District Attorney responded has also been an issue.

To respond to the controversy, Anderson put her videotaped statement on YouTube and on her Facebook page. In the video she asks — “How were we to assume that a homeless, mentally ill victim of an aggravated sex assault, would return to testify at the trial of her rapist when that victim was going through a life-threatening mental health crisis and had expressed her intention not to testify?” The victim’s lawyer charges that the DA was being dishonest and his client was not homeless. He says the DA’s investigators picked Jenny up at her apartment to bring her to Houston to testify so they know she was not homeless.

Moreover, the local NBC affiliate reported that they asked Anderson “how many times a witness has been placed in jail to assure the witness will be available to testify.”  The DA originally distributed a written statement that said “Witness bonds are a common tool used by prosecutors and defense attorneys.” They reported that just one day later the DA said in her video, “We rarely do this, but when a case calls for it to be done we are willing to make that hard decision.”

The Houston DA is under fire not only for jailing a rape victim, she is in trouble with her political base over indicting the Planned Parenthood undercover journalists. Lawyers for Daleiden and  Merritt, one of them a former Harris County Republican Party chairman, charged “We have clear evidence that the DA is colluding with Planned Parenthood,” as reported by Breitbart Texas.

Jared Woodfill explained, “The lawyer for Planned Parenthood worked with the DA to indict, and he knew that the grand jury never voted on whether to indict Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston, something that is supposed to be confidential.” Woodfill and Daleiden’s other lawyer, Terry Yates, said the Planned Parenthood lawyer has spoken about these issues to the press. Woodfill called it “A public-speaking tour.”

Woodfill told Breitbart Texas, “You would expect this in New York and California but not in Houston, Texas.” The Houston-based lawyer and defense co-counsel Yates are astounded that a pro-life “whistleblower” could be indicted.

As reported by Breitbart Texas in mid-April, Daleiden’s lawyers filed motions to quash his indictments urging that the Planned Parenthood lawyer, Josh Schaffer, boasted during a press conference that prosecutors maintained a “dialogue” with him “throughout” the grand jury proceedings and told him that the grand jury’s focus later “shifted” to Daleiden. Schaffer admits in his affidavit that he told the prosecutor that he believed Daleiden and Merritt had broken the law for felony tampering with a government document, and that Daleiden had committed a crime by offering to buy fetal tissue. Daleiden’s lawyers also urged that Schaffer boasted that the grand jury never even took a vote on whether or not to indict Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, nor did they call a single witness from PPGC before the grand jury.

Daleiden’s lawyers also urged that the District Attorney did not follow the law when she told Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Federation lawyers that Daleiden and Merritt had been indicted by a grand jury. The move by the DA to tell abortion mill lawyers of the indictments at that point has been called by defense lawyers “an unusual move.”

The indictments of David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt by a Harris County grand jury surprised pro-life advocates who were expecting that an investigation of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast would result in criminal action against Planned Parenthood executives for selling baby body parts.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is a mega-abortion facility located in Houston and was one of the facilities stung by the undercover videos produced by Daleiden and Merritt, reported Breitbart News. Daleiden is the president and founder of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).

Both Daleiden and Merritt are well-known for the series of undercover videos with Planned Parenthood executives and employees. A research director at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston was the subject of one of these videos. Breitbart News reported on August 4, 2015 that “A video just released by the Center for Medical Progress taken undercover in Texas shows a Planned Parenthood research director discussing the sale of whole intact aborted babies to a company that resells them to medical researchers.

As a result of the investigation, there have been no indictments involving Planned Parenthood, including from the Office of the Harris County District Attorney; rather, Daleiden and Merritt were indicted for felony tampering of a government record (false driver licenses). Daleiden was also indicted for the misdemeanor charge of offering to buy fetal tissue. The offering to buy fetal tissue charge against Daleiden was dismissed by a criminal judge in June who found that the court did not have jurisdiction, as reported by Breitbart Texas. Although she could do so after the election, the DA has not tried to return to the grand jury to seek a reindictment.

The remaining felony charges for the alleged use of fake driver licenses against the Planned Parenthood videographers were dismissed in late July, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The State filed a motion to dismiss the felony charge noting that a “colorable claim [was] raised [by defense counsel] regarding whether [the] grand jury investigated new matters after [the] extension order was issued.” A grand jury’s term may be extended by court order but not for new matters to be considered. A grand jury’s term may be extended only for matters already before it. Judge Brock Thomas, Anderson’s former criminal defense law partner, signed an order dismissing the charges.

After the dismissal, a spokesperson for Daleiden released the following statement:

“The dismissal of the bogus, politically motivated charges against CMP project lead David Daleiden and investigator Sandra Merritt is a resounding vindication of the First Amendment rights of all citizen journalists, and also a clear warning to any of Planned Parenthood’s political cronies who would attack whistleblowers to protect Planned Parenthood from scrutiny. Planned Parenthood tried to collude with public officials to manipulate the legal process to their own benefit, and they failed. A year after the release of the undercover videos, the ongoing nationwide investigation of Planned Parenthood by the House Select Investigative Panel makes clear that Planned Parenthood is the guilty party in the harvesting and trafficking of baby body parts for profit.”

The political fallout for Anderson – a new poll from the University of Houston shows that the Republican candidate for DA is down seven points to her opponent in the race.

Breitbart Texas’ Bob Price reported on Wednesday that the poll that has Republican DA Anderson down seven points, has Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump leading by three-points over Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. The poll was conducted using a four-way race. He reported that the poll of 1,000 voters who responded they were “certain to vote” (77 percent), or “very likely to vote” (23 percent), gave Trump a three-point lead over Clinton (41-38 percent). There is a +/- three percent margin of error in the poll. The polling organization said it weighted the sample to “reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the electorate based on the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.” Among those saying they were “certain to vote,” Trump leads by a four-point margin (42-39). The race is a dead heat among those claiming to be “very likely to vote.”

Anderson’s Democrat opponent 56-year-old Kim Ogg, was a former chief felony prosecutor before she was tapped to lead the City of Houston’s Anti-Gang Task Force. She also served as the executive director of Crime Stoppers from 1999 to 2006 where she says she helped capture thousands of violent felons. She also says there was a 40 percent reduction in gang violence when she headed the City’s anti-gang organization. Ogg ran for a criminal district court bench as a Republican in a four-person race in the 1990’s.

Anderson, a former prosecutor, criminal court judge, and criminal defense attorney, became the district attorney in Harris County after her husband, DA Mike Anderson passed away from cancer in 2013.

Although the Houston Chronicle generally leans towards incumbents, the editorial board endorsed Ogg. Their editorial begins with, “Why should Kim Ogg replace Devon Anderson as district attorney? Let us count the ways.” In addition to the jailing of a sexual assault victim, the DA’s hometown publication listed, among other things, that she: “unnecessarily delayed the case of Alfred Dewayne Brown after the appeals court overturned his conviction, leaving an innocent man in jail for months. She mishandled the prosecution of anti-abortion activists charged with tampering with a government record, facing criticism from both pro-choice and anti-abortion groups.”

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.

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