Houston Police Officers' Union Comment :
Harris County DA Kim Ogg fired her own appointed Chief of Intake, John Denholm, after his abhorrent act of bigotry in refusing to accept sex assault charges because of the victim's unknown immigration status. Now the real work begins; to re-build the trust between the criminal justice system and our Hispanic community. #HarrisCountyDeservesBetter #VictimsDeserveBetter
District Attorney fires prosecutor who allegedly asked if Mexican crime victim was ‘illegal’
By Keri Blakinger
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg on Friday announced her decision to fire a prosecutor who allegedly refused to file charges in a case after questioning whether the Mexican victim was “illegal.”
The move comes after days of public criticism from politicians, law enforcement unions and the League of United Latin American Citizens, who all called for the termination or resignation of now-former assistant district attorney John Denholm.
“It is wrong to ask about a victim’s immigration status. It is against our policy, and it won’t be tolerated,” Ogg said, announcing her decision. “We treat everyone equally under the law, no matter how they came to be here.”
Denholm, who had previously been reassigned pending an investigation, did not respond to the Houston Chronicle’s request for comment but later told the Washington Post he was “aware of who made the inflammatory allegations.”
A former homicide lieutenant, Denholm became an attorney in 2008 while still working at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. After more than two decades with county law enforcement, he left to practice family law. When Ogg took office in 2017, she hired Denholm to oversee intake, the division responsible for deciding whether to pursue charges after police make an arrest.
Since then, he’s often butted heads with police and sheriff’s deputies who say he’s too reluctant to file charges.
“He historically has been challenging to law enforcement and refuses to accept solid charges,” Harris County Deputies Organization president David Cuevas said earlier this week when calling for Denholm’s termination.
When that termination came on Friday, Houston Police Officers’ Union president Joe Gamaldi lauded the decision.
“We are glad that finally the district attorney’s office decided to take action on this reprehensible act by one of their top officials,” he said. “Now the work starts of rebuilding the trust between the Hispanic community and the criminal justice system.”
Police Chief Art Acevedo offered similar praise, adding that such actions would have netted the same outcome in his department.
“I always had full confidence that the district attorney would do the right thing,” he added.
The incident started on Oct. 31, when a Houston police officer in the middle of booking an arrestee at the Joint Processing Center heard a call for help, and looked over to see a man pointing at the man next to him, 44-year-old Karl Bonner.
Bonner, who was getting booked for drunk driving charges, had allegedly pulled out his erect penis and was holding it in his hand as he grabbed the man next to him and pulled him closer, according to police union officials.
When the officer called the district attorney’s office to ask about filing an attempted sexual assault charge, Denholm allegedly asked whether the victim was “illegal.” The officer said he hadn’t asked and didn’t think it mattered.
But Denholm went on to ask whether the victim had a driver’s license, according to the union. When the officer said he’d found only a Mexican consulate ID card, Denholm allegedly refused to press charges. Records show Bonner was charged with felony attempted sexual assault days later, after other prosecutors reviewed the case.
On Tuesday, the Houston police union issued a statement condemning Denholm’s handling of the case and demanding he be fired.
“The HPOU is outraged,” the union wrote. “Harris County does not need a person with those views working in the District Attorney’s Office. We believe the behavior of John Denholm harms the relationship between police and the Hispanic community.”
State Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, a former Harris County prosecutor himself, took to Twitter, writing that Denholm “must go.”
Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Police Chief Art Acevedo and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez all weighed in as well, along with the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“The assistant district attorney who failed to file charges for this crime shouldn’t be reassigned,” LULAC National President Domingo Garcia said in a statement, “he should be fired because he is a racist and menace to the Hispanic community.”
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