Ex-district attorney avoids charges over e-mails

/ Source: The Associated Press

A prominent Texas prosecutor who fell from grace after the mistaken release of racist, political and pornographic e-mails found on his office computer will not face charges stemming from the scandal, his replacement said Tuesday.

An eight-month investigation didn't turn up enough evidence to prosecute former Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal for criminal misconduct, said interim prosecutor Ken Magidson.

"After a careful and independent review of this matter, I have determined that there is insufficient evidence for prosecution," Magidson said in a letter to state Deputy Attorney General Eric J.R. Nichols.

The investigation focused on Rosenthal's use of government resources, "including office e-mails relating to political activities," the letter said.

More convicts sent to death row
Rosenthal was first elected in 2000 and presided over an office that sent more convicts to death row than any other prosecutors' office in the nation.

He resigned in February after the e-mails were mistakenly released as part of a lawsuit against the Harris County Sheriff's Department.

One e-mail compared former President Bill Clinton to racist stereotypes of black men, and others had video attachments containing bloopers from porn movies and a video of men ripping the clothes off women.

Love notes between the married prosecutor and his secretary also were accidentally made public and then resealed.

Rosenthal has said he was not having an affair with his secretary when the e-mails became public, though he did acknowledge one with her in the 1980s when he was married to his first wife.

After the e-mails were released in early January, Rosenthal, a Republican, faced almost daily calls to resign and aborted a re-election bid. For many in Houston's black community, the e-mails served as proof that his office treated blacks differently than whites in a city that is nearly one-third black.

Blamed medication for judgment problems
When he resigned, Rosenthal said he was suffering from judgment problems caused by prescription medication. A call to Rosenthal's attorney was not immediately returned on Tuesday.

In March, Rosenthal was found in contempt of court and ordered to pay nearly $19,000 in sanctions for deleting 2,500 e-mails despite a court order to produce them for the civil rights lawsuit. The documents had been subpoenaed for a $5 million federal lawsuit against Harris County by two brothers alleging wrongful arrest.

At the time, Rosenthal said he thought the e-mails were backed up somewhere else.

Magidson, the interim district attorney, accepted the attorney general office's help in the investigation to avoid possible conflict of interest. Harris County voters in November elected Republican Pat Lykos to serve as district attorney beginning in January.