When Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano was accused of protecting a neurosurgeon whose patients died or were maimed, it got some outside help from Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Abbott has intervened in three federal cases on the hospital’s side. He says he’s defending state law as a matter of principle. But he’s also siding with one of his biggest campaign contributors.
In March, Abbott — the Republican nominee for governor — filed motions to intervene in federal court against former patients who sued the doctor claiming botched spinal surgeries. The patients contend that the 2003 Texas law sharply limiting medical malpractice suits is unconstitutional.
Aides say Abbott is trying to defend an important state reform, not shield Baylor from liability. But his action would make it more difficult for the patients to win their cases.
Baylor Regional is part of the Baylor Scott & White Health hospital system. The chairman of the system’s board of trustees is Drayton McLane, a Temple transportation executive and Republican political contributor. McLane has donated to Abbott before, but never in the large sums of the last year amid the hospital’s mounting legal problems.
Abbott received $100,000 from McLane in June 2013 and another $250,000 in January. The donations coincide with Abbott stepping up his fundraising as his campaign for governor developed. But before these contributions, McLane’s biggest donation to Abbott was $25,000, according to state records.
The $100,000 donation came a day after the Texas Medical Board suspended the license of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, who left Baylor Plano in 2012 after a series of problem surgeries. The second donation was reported a week after the second of several medical malpractice lawsuits was filed against the doctor and hospital.
It’s a pattern that Abbott’s opponent, Democrat Wendy Davis, has been highlighting for quite some time. From a Davis email earlier this month.
Greg Abbott Works for Insiders And Texans Get Hurt in the Process
What We Know (So Far) About How Greg Abbott’s Insider Dealings Harm Texas Families:
Farmers Insurance: Abbott Collected Nearly $130,000 in Campaign Contributions from Farmers Insurance; Negotiated a “Sweetheart Deal” for the Company that Hurt Texas Homeowners
Chemical Disclosure: Abbott Accepted More Than $100k From Chemical Interests and Ruled That Explosive Chemical Locations Could Be Kept Secret, Putting Texas Parents & Children in Danger
Bond & Contract Deals: Abbott Gave $3 Million in Taxpayer Contracts to $200k+ Donor, Approved $20 Billion in Bond Deals To Benefit Six Financial Contributors Instead of Help Hardworking Texas Families
Payday Lenders: Abbott Collected Nearly $300,000 from Payday Lenders While Letting Them Prey On Hardworking Families With Unlimited Rates and Fees
Cancer Research: Abbott Took Half a Million Dollars From His Donors And Let Them Take $42 Million in Taxpayer Money Intended for Cancer Research
Everyone of those is Abbott ruling in the interest of corporations and his big money donors and against the best interest of the people of Texas. But it’s on just Greg Abbott. The Texas GOP, since taking complete control of state government, has reconfigured our government so that it favors the powerful over the people. This is how they believe government, what little of it they think there should be, should operate. When they show you who they are believe them.
To the folks in the Davis campaign who don’t want the President here, let me share two facts with you:
1) You’re a dumbass if you think the R’s will ‘use’ Obama to hurt Wendles if she meets him. That will happen regardless. People who will think she’s an Obama puppet won’t vote for her anyway. Your concern is counterproductive and you’re stupid.
2) Snubbing the President shows a LARGE number of your base voters that you don’t give a crap about them or the President. That’s demoralizing. While you ARE the nominee, we can all stay home… put away your ‘get behind it or else’ crap.
The aftermath of the Greg Kelley seems a little odd. For one thing, there’s usually not a post conviction rally for someone who is convicted of super aggravated sexual assault of a 4 year old. The case had some twists and turns and, it seems, could have gone either way.
From what I’ve been able to piece together it appears Kelley was living with another family, that ran an in home day care, because his parents had some medical issues. It was during that time the assault occurred. It was initially two children who made a claim of assault, with one later recanting. This article form the HCN is a good summary of what happened at the trial.
Still, the lack of evidence and the recanting of one boy’s testimony had Kelley’s family and friends feeling hopeful as the trial progressed. Defense attorney Patricia Cummings pointed out holes in the investigation performed by the Cedar Park Police Department, including a failure to interrogate Kelley when he was indicted, and detectives’ failure to seek out or interview other possible witnesses.
On the stand, detective Christopher Dailey admitted that he didn’t talk to any other possible witnesses, admitted to deleting emails about the case in violation of department policy, and said he took it upon himself to interview the second boy despite the training he received on investigating child sex abuse claims which teaches that detectives should not interview a child.
Cummings painted a picture of a detective who had already made up his mind about Kelley’s guilt and simply investigated the case in a way to confirm the detective’s own conclusions.
“As a result you believed you did not need to investigate the possibility of something else having happened?” asked Cummings.
“Correct,” said Dailey.
“Isn’t the policy in your department not to destroy documents produced in an investigation?” asked Cummings.
“Correct,” said Dailey.
Kelley’s defense presented an expert witness, Austin psychologist Stephen Thorne, who testified that children who are interviewed multiple times are much more likely to make false accusations in sexual abuse cases.
“There’s a reason why we want to get an interview done one time and put it on video so a child doesn’t have to do it anymore,” Thorne said.
Both of the boys who alleged that Kelley had abused them were interviewed multiple times, including the separate interview by Det. Dailey, which Dailey admitted to conducting on his own primarily because the second boy had backed away from his earlier claims when interviewed by trained counselors at the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center. Dailey, who had already testified that believed Kelley had abused the boys, wanted to talk to the second boy a separate time to see if he couldn’t get the boy to admit to abuse.
“You thought the first interviewer had not established a proper rapport?” Cummings asked him, and Dailey responded, “Correct.”
Dailey testified that he walked into the room as soon as the boy’s interview with counselors was over to question the child himself.
“When you do it you actually have a gun on your hip?” Cummings asked.
“Yes,” said Dailey.
“How many seconds do you think you spent building rapport with him before you started asking him about allegations against Greg?”said Cummings.
“I didn’t attempt to build rapport,” said Dailey.
In closing arguments last Tuesday, Cummings accused the Cedar Park Police Department of doing a lax job of investigating the case, ‘contaminating’ the testimony by improperly interviewing the accusers and having inappropriate conversations with the boys’ parents and then deleting email evidence.
Prosecutor Geoffrey Puryear said, however, that the defense’s case is based on the boys’ parents lying to the court and “planting ideas in their kids’ heads.”
After 11 hours of deliberation, including a brief question to the judge, jurors returned a guilty verdict on both counts of sexual assault involving the first child.
Faced with the possibility of life in prison, Kelley agreed to a plea bargain that would allow him to serve his two 25-year sentences concurrently.
Puryear characterized Kelley’s accepting the plea as proof of his guilt, and said prosecutors were satisfied with the outcome of the trial
However, before the trial commenced, Kelley turned down an offer from the District Attorney’s office that would have had him plead guilty to a lesser charge, and serve no jail time. Kelley said that rather than plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, he would go to trial and place his fate in the hands of a jury.
That jury wound up convicting him.
An interview with Kelley’s defense attorney, (see below), sheds some light on what the jury may have been thinking. Cummings spoke with one juror after the trial. The juror said in essence they were leaning for acquittal when the trial began and evolved to conviction. They threw everything out,except for the child’s testimony, and couldn’t get past the fact that the defense gave them no alternative scenario for who may have abused the child.
This AAS article has a good write up of the prosecutions case.
There’s an eerie familiarity with how vehement Kelley and Cummings are in his innocence and how certain the prosecutors are in his guilt – especially without any evidence. This is a tough case for all involved, and it’s hard to see a way for this case to be reviewed or reopened without new evidence coming to light.
I hope and pray the jury got this right. Because the alternative is unthinkable. That an innocent young man took his chances with a Williamson County jury, lost, and will spend 25 year in jail for a crime he did not commit, while the person who molested this child is still out there. After what the Williamson County criminal justice system went through over the last several years, it’s only natural that a conviction like this might be scrutinized more then usual.
As the federal trial over Texas redistricting began, a series of GOP e-mails outlining their anti-Latino mapping strategy was revealed. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs observes that the ooutcome won’t be known for months, and the decision won’t affect the 2014 midterm elections, but the case for the Republicans looks very grim.
Stace at Dos Centavos handed out a few bouquets and also had some brickbats for Texas and national leaders on immigration reform.
In the wake of Denton City Council’s failure to ban fracking, TXsharon at BlueDaze kept up the pressure by remobilizing her community for the November ballot referendum. She also noted the Russian connections between the frackers (and the anti-frackers).
Texas (more like Rick Perry, Greg Abbott and Republicans) did not accept the Medicaid expansion, leaving millions of Texas’ poorest families without healthcare options. But this week asTexas Leftist discovered, there are over 800,000 Texans that qualify for Medicaid and CHIP under current policy, and just don’t know sign up. Even as we fight for expansion, helping these families is something that can be done right now.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
Salon has an article up telling us what most everyone already knows, Texas GOP’s secret anti-Hispanic plot: Smoking gun emails revealed.
Two years and seven months after that email exchange — and one year ago on June 25, 2013 — the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder,which struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that had allowed the federal government to “pre-clear” redistricting maps proposed by Texas and other states with a history of discriminating against minority voters.
In a follow-up email on Nov. 19, 2010, Opiela explained to Interiano that he called his proposed strategy: “OHRVS” or “Optimal Hispanic Republican Voting Strength.” Opiela defined the acronym-friendly term as, “a measure of how Hispanic, and[,] at the same time[,] Republican we can make a particular census block.”
Lawyers for the African-American and Hispanic voting-rights plaintiffs consider Opiela emails “a smoking gun.” The correspondence will play a starring role at a trial scheduled to start today in a San Antonio federal court in a redistricting case, Perez v. Perry. The litigation pits the plaintiffs, who have been joined by the Obama administration, against Texas and its Republican state leaders, including Gov. Rick Perry in his official capacity.
Clare Dyer helped gather that data for Interiano. She serves as a mapping and redistricting researcher for the Texas Legislative Council, a state agency, which provides, according to its website, “nonpartisan research” for all state players in the redistricting process.
When MALDEF’s Perales asked Dyer at her May 15, 2014, deposition about the emails, the state researcher said that Opiela appeared to be asking for “metrics,” which Interiano later sought from her office. Her interpretation of Opiela’s meaning in his emails: “[H]e’s trying to shore up — well, he says that — shore up districts so he can get — have them appear to be high Hispanic, but low Spanish surname registered voters. … You could give the appearance of having a Hispanic majority district, but it wouldn’t have the capability to elect — for the Hispanics in the district– to elect the person of their choice.”
David R. Richards, who also represents Perez plaintiffs and shares a notion or two about Texas politics as the ex-husband of the late former Democratic Texas Gov. Ann Richards, said about Opiela’s emails: “I think everyone sees them as a smoking gun.” The emails show a clear attempt “to switch out Hispanic precincts with high voter turnout and substitute them with low voter turnout” — knowing that the Hispanic populations traditionally vote Democratic — but, at the same time, wanting to meet then obligations of the Voting Rights Act, which, at the time, still were in effect, Richards said. “You look like you preserve the vitality of a Hispanic district because of the raw numbers but the reality is you have — because of substituting out the high turnout with low turnout — hollowed out the core of the district and weakened the Democratic component of the district,” Richards said.
MALDEF’s Perales believes the Opiela emails “reveal a strategy that was very much similar to the redistricting strategy of Texas struck down by the Supreme Court in LULAC v. Perry in 2006, an attempt to create sham Latino districts to prop up incumbents not preferred by Latino voters.”
Greg Abbott only has Rick Perry to thank for the predicament he’s in over his confusing statements regarding where he stands on the release of information about hazardous chemicals. Getting rid of regulations, which protect the public, and as far as the GOP is concerned hurt “bidness”, are a pillar of Perry’s policies.
In his stump speech Perry would click off what he said were the four major reasons his state had come to lead the nation in job creation—without ever forgetting a one of them. They were, he said, low taxes, low regulation, tort reform, and “don’t spend all the money.” [Emphasis added]
Abbott’s answers to the question of what Texans should do if they want to know if these chemicals are near where they live, their children go to school, or the nursing home of their aging parent, have been dismissive at best. Via Peggy Fikac, Abbott smacks into a chemical hazard.
When the DSHS ruling drew attention, Abbott first said the private facilities themselves must release the information to the public, even though the state couldn’t.
He said Texans could find the locations as they “drive around,” prompting a Dallas TV station to take him up on the idea by driving to companies and asking to see their chemical lists. It worked about as well as you’d think, which is to say, not at all.
My Austin bureau colleague, the Houston Chronicle’s Lauren McGaughy, sought the information from companies and local emergency response agencies through open records requests, with mixed results. Several gave no data or didn’t respond, some were sparing and others gave complete information. Abbott ultimately acknowledged to the Associated Press the data might be harder to get than he thought.
Last week, Abbott wrote an opinion piece that touted a Texas Department of Insurance website as one place to get general information about ammonium nitrate. But the website only discloses whether ammonium nitrate is in a ZIP code. Not how much, not where. A consumer watchdog called that useless. Abbott also said he’d propose the Legislature allow access to the information at local fire stations.
Abbott’s ignorance of what his own office had ruled on this issue, then telling folks to “drive around”, shows his indifference for what most Texans are dealing with. His main concern are ideological.
But Abbott’s efforts to contain the chemical controversy contrasts to Davis’ straightforward message. She says people deserve to know about the dangerous chemicals in their neighborhoods. She promises to make disclosure a priority.
No one is suggesting this is enough to vault her ahead of Abbott, but Rice University political scientist Mark Jones pointed out last week the contrast fits her effort to paint him as an insider who isn’t looking out for average Texans.
The West explosion highlighted weaknesses in Texas’ oversight of hazardous chemicals, said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson, so this issue “goes right to the heart of the Texas model” under GOP leaders.
Abbott’s initial answer about how people could find out about chemicals’ location “was dismissive of the legitimate interest that people have in knowing whether their families are safe,” Jillson said. “He’s been unable to formulate a better answer because to do so would fly in the face of his general ideological and political commitments – small government, low taxes, deregulation.”
If he gives in to what the people want he will start to alienate the tea party base of the Texas GOP. So this is not just an Abbott issue, it’s an issue with the entire GOP in Texas. Which is why more Democrats in Texas need to start asking questions of all their GOP opponents. Like Susan Criss is doing, Dust-up over Abbott chemical ruling bleeds into state House race.
The political scuffle over Greg Abbott’s ruling to keep chemical facility information secret is starting to bleed into local races, as the Democrat aiming to replace state Rep. Craig Eiland seeks to tie her Republican opponent to the increasingly heated debate.
“Texas families have a right to know about potentially dangerous chemicals that could harm their families,” said Susan Criss, a Democratic district judge running for Eiland’s seat. “Does Wayne Faircloth feel the same way?”
Calls to Faircloth’s wife, Susan, also his treasurer, were not immediately returned Friday.
Make them all, from Dan Patrick on down, answer whither they’re with Abbott on this issue or not?
Texas Democrats have much to celebrate this week as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro clears Senate confirmation. And as Texas Leftist discusses, his appoint brings some much needed geographic diversity to the President’s cabinet.
The most important stories in Texas last week were the border refugee crisis and President Obama’s fundraising visits to Dallas and Austin, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, assembled several of the various reactions to both.
Neil at All People Have Value posted from Cincinnati, Ohio this past week. Neil offered nice pictures of Cincinnati & wrote about seeing his friends and the passage of time. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
Greg Wythe analyzes City of Houston turnout patterns to get a handle on how the attempt to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance may play out.
Texas Vox believes that US solar manufacturing could make a comeback.
The Texas Election Law blog reviews the lawsuit filed by college students challenging North Carolina’s voter ID law.
Unfair Park lauds the Texas Clean Fleet Program, which is designed to get old diesel-powered school buses off the streets.
LGBTQ Insider gives a fond farewell to former Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns.
Texas Watch reports that workers exposed to cancer-causing asbestos have just had their lives made harder by the state Supreme Court.
Scott Braddock documents the resistance Texas business leaders face on immigration reform.
Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) is not retreating from the comments he made earlier this month at the Texas Democratic Convention, No apologies to GOP extremists.
I don’t always agree with the San Antonio Express-News, but I do respect it. It is the newspaper of record of my constituents and an important part of the social fabric of my hometown. However, its editorial comment about my keynote speech at the State Democratic Convention lacked proper context.
My statement (that the GOP stands for “Gringos y otros pendejos,” a pejorative, meaning “… and other idiots”) was clearly aimed at the top of the Republican ticket, which is currently populated by hyper-ideological, tea party zealots who are deeply harmful to the future of Texas. I don’t apologize for using vitriol against those who warrant it.
The Republican gubernatorial nominee, Greg Abbott, has called South Texas “a Third World country.” The lieutenant governor nominee, Sen. Dan Patrick, has stated that immigrants bring “Third World diseases” to the United States. Their words, beliefs and actions are not a joke aimed at exciting conventioneers. They fuel racially divisive actions and poor public policy.
Another tea party candidate, unsuccessful U.S. Senate contender Chris Mapp told the Dallas Morning News that ranchers should be allowed to shoot anyone illegally crossing the border on to their land. He referred to such people as “wetbacks” and called the U.S. president a “socialist son of a bitch.”
This is the modern-day tea party wing of the Texas Republican Party and its leadership. They are not owed an apology; they are owed a fight. And that is exactly what I will give them.
Common-sense Republicans, whom I work with every day to do right by Texas, know that I was not talking about them. I was talking about those who are destroying their party. In fact, I would bet that many of them agree with me.
The only thing I would add to this is that the only people screaming about this are the one’s on the extreme right. Most common-sense Republicans know he’s right.
Elected officials will receive a pay increase for the 2014–15 fiscal year following a vote from the Williamson County Commissioners Court on July 1.
Commissioners voted for a 3 percent increase for county judge, commissioners, treasurer, sheriff and constables; a 4 percent increase for county clerk, district clerk, tax assessor and justices of the peace; and a $10,000 increase for county attorney.
Several officials spoke out in favor of increasing county employee salaries.