HOUSTON - With three weeks to go until Election Day, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson is on the attack against her challenger Kim Ogg, with the latest firestorm being over a political ad.
The controversy stems from a case last December when the D.A.'s office ordered a rape victim jailed so she would be guaranteed to show up in court to testify against her attacker, who is now a convicted rapist. As she fights to hold on to her office, Anderson is defending that decision.
Last December, prosecutors needed a victim's testimony to put away a serial rapist but the victim, Jenny, broke down during testimony and threatened to leave town. So she was locked up.
Ogg says prosecutors could have found an alternative to jailing her. Anderson is staunch saying there was no other way.
“She doesn’t know what efforts the prosecutor went to because he called every place that he knew of to try to find an alternate to jail when she was released from the mental hospital after only ten days of being held there,” said Anderson. “He was unable to find a place probably because it was in the middle of the Christmas holidays and those places tend to be full around the holidays.”
But before Jenny was put in jail, she first went to a psychiatric facility and was released after 10 days. Anderson says the prosecutor believed she was still a flight risk. But Jenny's lawyer said he has emails from the prosecutor to Jenny's mom, in which he writes that he is impressed by Jenny’s improvement during her time in the facility.
“When Jenny got out of the hospital, nobody from the D.A.'s office went and told the judge that she'd been released from the hospital. The prosecutor never told the judge what she told jenny's mom, that Jenny was doing much better. The judge deserved to know those things,” said Sean Buckley, Jenny’s attorney.
Jenny’s attorney contends that she might not have ended up in jail if given the chance for re-evaluation and that it wasn't the prosecution's place to decide her mental health status.
“We can’t just throw someone in jail because there’s no other option. She had the right to be free and she would have been free if the D.A.'s office had been honest with the judge about her recovery at the hospital,” said Buckley.
Anderson stands by her assertion that jail was the only option at the time. She said the jail system failed Jenny.
“She fell through the cracks; there's no doubt about it in the jail,” said Anderson. “She was booked in as a witness, the paperwork that went in with her clearly said she was a witness, but I don’t know what happened. She was treated as a defendant. She was not ever put in the mental health unit and horrifyingly, was assaulted while she was there.”
Fox 26 called the Harris County Jail for a response but they did not have a comment on Anderson’s latest statements.
Now, Anderson is focusing her campaign away from these attacks. In her latest ad, she touts her record of convicting dangerous criminals.
“What I'm trying to do is bring a positive message to the voters. I'm not going to chase after her. It is exhausting trying to keep up with her lies and her inaccuracies,” said Anderson, referring to Ogg.