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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Harris County District Attorney Resigns

HOUSTON (CN) - Harris County District Attorney Charles Rosenthal resigned Friday in a scandal allegedly involving romantic, pornographic and racist emails found on his work computer. In a complaint filed on Valentine's Day in Harris County Court, a citizen called for Rosenthal to be fired, claiming he drank on the job, used and tolerated racial epithets, "found the sexual assault of women to be 'funny,'" hired his mistress as his secretary for $75,000 a year, and admitted using county employees and equipment to raise political money.

Erik Ibarra's lawsuit also called for the resignation Sheriff Tommy Thomas, for allegedly refusing to investigate or act on complaints against Rosenthal. Ibarra also claims SheriffThomasaccepts political favors.

Rosenthal, 62, has been district attorney in Harris County, which includes Houston, since 2001. Houston media reported that in his resignation letter, he wrote "that the particular combination of drugs prescribed for me in the past has caused some impairment in my judgment."

Attorneys for Ibarra subpoenaed Rosenthal's emails in a lawsuit in which Ibarra claims sheriff's deputies beat him and his brothers when they tried to photograph a drug raid at a neighbor's home in 2002.

Rosenthal was often in the news. He unsuccessfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas that Texas' anti-sodomy laws were constitutional. Texas lost that 2002 case, by 6-3 vote on the Supreme Court.

He refused calls for an independent investigation of Houston's police crime lab, though 22 state judges were among those calling for the investigation. Rosenthal caved after the second of three wrongly convicted people was released.

He sought the death penalty in 2002 against Andrea Yates, a mentally ill woman who drowned her children. Jurors sentenced her to life, and when that sentence was overturned, Rosenthal tried again. Yates was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Republican Party officials asked him in January not to run again. He defied calls for his resignation until Friday.

Here is his resignation letter, as reported by Houston media.

"Today, I wrote Governor Perry and tendered my resignation as Harris County District Attorney.

"My decision to retire from office was precipitated by a number of things.

"The federal court's release of my private emails around Christmas of last year brought a lot to bear on my wife and children. I have been trying to restore my family as a unit, but the constant media pressure has made that restoration more difficult. I am hopeful that, in my retirement, the media will accord my family the privacy we need to heal.

"Although I have enjoyed excellent medical and pharmacological treatment, I have come to learn that the particular combination of drugs prescribed for me in the past has caused some impairment in my judgment. This position is much too important for anyone to be less than their best. I am currently in a different regimen of therapy from different health care professionals and am looking forward to concentrating on the restoration of my health.

"The Texas Attorney General's office has informed my attorney that they will not proceed with a removal action if I resign. Without commenting on the merits of any case the Attorney General may have pursued, to have yet another controversy surround this office is intolerable to me.

"I am extremely proud of the work that the ladies and gentlemen of this office do for the citizens of Harris County. They have too many cases, are under compensated, and are often unfairly criticized for the hard decisions they make in fulfilling their mandate to see that justice is done.

"The residents of Harris County need to appreciate the great work these folks do. As the saying goes, 'If I were asked to lead a charge on Hell, I'd want these people in my ranks.'"

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