Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Abbott says he's sorry about seizing those files, Judge

This blog is turning into a Greg Abbott-palooza today because the news just gets weirder by the hour. From the Corpus Christi Caller (hat tip to South Texas Chisme):

The Texas attorney general's office has apologized to U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack for seizing thousands of X-rays, some of which now are missing, that are central to a federal investigation into potentially fraudulent diagnoses of the lung disease silicosis.

If you need to refresh yourself on this story, go here.

In a letter to Jack dated Sept. 5, Abbott's office apologizes for the "confusion and misunderstandings" that the seizure caused, and noted that the attorney general's office should have sought approval from Jack before taking the X-rays.

"Not seeking prior leave of this Court was an error, and for that the Office of the Attorney General apologizes," the letter states.

Senior lawyers who were directing the investigation believed that approval from Jack had been sought, the letter continues. Abbott's officers were joking when they threatened to arrest Cosgrove, the letter said. Officers were told to collect the documents only if there was no objection from records custodians.

I believe this letter of apology from Abbott to be a full load of bullshit. For starters, I have trouble believing:

-- the notion that several attorneys in the OAG can operate collectively under the belief that they have a federal judge's OK when they actually do not;

-- that armed agents of the Attorney General's office HAVE EVER ONCE threatened to arrest anyone "as a joke";

-- and that the agents ignored an order from the lawyers to seize no records without custodial approval.

There are sworn, sealed affidavits detailing the chronology and communications among OAG staff, including Jay Kimbrough, Abbott's former director of the Office of Special Investigations, Deputy Attorney General Don Clemmer, Criminal Law Enforcement Division chief Adrienne McFarland, and Lance Kutnick, the lawyer handling the case.

Those sworn affidavits likely contain numerous statements that are simply implausible, unless you can believe that the OAG is completely dysfunctional and incompetent, top to bottom. And I don't believe that either.

However, it's a frightening prospect to consider: that the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas has become a modern-day Gestapo, accountable to almost no one until well after the fact.

I'd like to not believe that, but when Abbott's men are caught peeping into little old ladies' bathroom windows, and then offering as their only excuse that they thought they were peeping into the kitchen window...

.. well, who's stupid enough to believe that?

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