Much has been made recently, here in Houston and across other big cities, about the horrific results of bail reform, but to be honest this isn’t even the worst of what is going on in the criminal justice system. I am sure you are thinking what could be worse than letting violent repeat offenders out on bond over and over again? It’s cutting them sweetheart deals when they agree to their guilt. Those deals are much more insidious and damaging to our community.
This is happening every day in Harris County courtrooms with the full knowledge and approval of the elected District Attorney Kim Ogg. They can accomplish this egregious affront by bastardizing the practice of deferred adjudication.
For some readers, this may be the first time you have ever heard the words deferred adjudication, so let’s take a moment to explain what that is. Deferred adjudication can be given to a defendant in a criminal case (in an agreed plea deal) and in most cases allows them to skirt any jail or prison time. They walk free from the court room. As long as they stay out of trouble for the length of time they are placed on deferred, their criminal history will reflect no conviction or wrong-doing. This tool in the DA’s toolbox is actually a good one if used properly. The design when this was put into law, was to be used for a first-time offender, who maybe got caught in a bad situation who didn’t deserve to be put away for years. For example, the little brother who just happens to be in the car when the older brother robs the store, doesn’t deserve to have his life ruined. I think we can all agree it is advantageous to have the ability to give that young man a break. Let me assure you, that is not what is happening in our court rooms. We are seeing a disturbing trend of deferred adjudication being given to violent, habitual offenders, and career criminals.
There is no thought of justice for the victims in these crimes. The DA’s office is giving them numerous chances, and it is clear they have no intention of holding the true criminal element in our community accountable on a consistent basis.
A few quick examples to highlight just how bad it is:
- Clayton Brown has a lengthy, violent, criminal history. He shot three people in two separate incidents, one was 15-year-old girl. In a plea deal with the DA’s office he had two of his cases dismissed and on the third they gave him deferred. He shot three people and was given no prison time. Where is the justice for the victims?
- Adrian Lizcano pointed a gun at several people and threatened to kill them. He was given deferred for that incident. While on deferred, he crushed his 15-day old infant daughter’s skull and killed her.
- Antonio Washington was given deferred for three aggravated robberies. While on deferred he robbed a Walmart at gun point, putting dozens of citizens in mortal danger. Thankfully, one of our officers happen to be off duty and in line. The officer was able to stop him.
- Mark Baldridge, a prolific collector and distributor of images of child sex abuse was given deferred adjudication for eight felony counts of child pornography.
I could go on and on with egregious examples, but the other side will claim we cherry-picked them. Rest assured, there are thousands of incidents. Let’s peek behind the curtain to see the scope of this disturbing trend.
Kim Ogg and her office have taken deferred adjudication and placed it on steroids, the likes of which we have never seen. The long-term harm to our community and victims is immeasurable. Here is just a taste, as December 2019:
- We have nearly 1600 people on deferred adjudication for aggravated assault
- Over 1100 people on deferred for aggravated robbery and robbery,
- Over 600 people on deferred for possession of child pornography/indecency with a child/online Solicitation of a minor
- Over 300 people for sexual assault
- Over 1750 people for felony DWI offenses
- And what I believe is a true marker of just how far we have fallen, over 300 people on deferred for felon in possession of a firearm.
Let that sink in for a moment. We are having a national debate on guns and gun laws, yet we are handing out no jail time to convicted felons who are found in possession of a firearm. DA Kim Ogg is literally giving gun toting felons a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”. That is not even mentioning the large group of aggravated robberies and aggravated assaults committed with guns where the assailants were given a sweetheart deal with no jail time. We aren’t using the tools we have in our toolbox now to hold criminals accountable, even when those crimes involve firearms. All anyone can talk about is new gun laws.
Even more disturbing, the above numbers reflect what we can track. The real deferred numbers are actually much higher.
When someone violates their deferred and is revoked and convicted, we are unable to track that case effectively. The above numbers do not include those criminals who were placed on deferred, re-offended, and therefore were violating the conditions of their deferred adjudication. Conceivably, at that point they should go to the jail for the original charge, however, we are finding that the DA’s office and judges aren’t following through in those cases. That is an article for another day.
It doesn’t take an active imagination to understand that the numbers above are infinitely worse. Kim Ogg apologists will say that they have to cut these deals in order to keep their dockets manageable, and that judges play a role in accepting the terms of the agreement. I will concede those points. They absolutely must negotiate deals with defense attorneys in order to allow the system to run somewhat efficiently. However, they are giving away the farm in these negotiations with full approval from District Attorney Kim Ogg and her administration.
When you have violent, true habitual offenders, you should only be discussing how long they will go to prison, not negotiating to let them off the hook completely. Is anyone asking the victim how they feel about these deals? Does anyone care about justice for victims? Our current elected DA is so worried about going light on criminals, she has completely forgotten that it is her duty to protect and represent victims!
People will attempt to make this a partisan issue or a political issue, but throwing the book at violent criminals who prey on the hard-working people of our community is something we should all agree on. With a loud voice, everyone should demand these criminals be held responsible for their actions and stand up for victims. Please share these statistics with your friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers. I am confident the average Houstonian believes that if someone sticks a gun in their face and robs them, the miscreant should be thrown in jail for 10+ years. The reality is the opposite. They are much more likely to receive a sweetheart deal, and be let free to victimize the next hard-working person, perhaps even kill someone. Venture to say this is not what any of us want and it is certainly not the Houston I know and love so dearly.
This epidemic is within our power to change. We all need to come together and vote out the very person who swore an oath to uphold the law and protect victims in our community.
Kim Ogg must go. Harris County deserves better!