Sunday, 8 January 2017

Sherri Tibbe's departing words: "Didn't get paid enough"

Even in her closing speech, Hays County DA Sherri Tibbe was complaining about the low pay. A motive to target and extort the Hays County community? The press coverage surrounding Sherri Tibbe's departure seemed mocking and farcical. This was a fitting tribute to a woman who was widely considered to be a prosecutorial sponge of the community. Making money off innocent people's misfortune was par for the course in those 8 years. Sherri Tibbe never took on difficult cases. She took on cases she know she could win; ones that appealed to popular prejudices where very little or no work was required. This isn't just an observation; it was her election promise! To increase the conviction rate by bringing cases to trial she knew she could win. This article was published by Wimberley View on Thursday 11th Dec 2014.

No more ducks for DA Sherri Tibbe
No more ducks for Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe

Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe's spacious office on the second floor of the Government Center is flooded with natural light where she's gotten used to seeing ducks and deer.         

But that's all about the change. Sherri Tibbe chose not to seek re-election for a third term and early next year, former Assistant DA Wes Mau will be sworn in to replace her.    

"It's a bittersweet day for me because I love the people I work with," she said on Friday, just prior to a reception honoring her and her former Chief Assistant Fred Weber, who will become District Attorney in Caldwell County in January.     

"We have an amazing group of people that work long hours for not great pay. They really care about the job that they do, " she said. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Sherri Tibbe refuses to shut up - 2017

This was originally published in San Marcos Mercury on under the title, "Letter: Tibbe ‘will not remain quiet’ while DA office ‘disparaged’" on Feb 23, 2014

Law offices of Sherri Tibbe
Law offices of Sherri Tibbe

Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe says the two Republicans vying to replace her are leaning on “false and misleading” allegations of misconduct and mismanagement during her two terms as Hays County’s chief prosecutor.

When I decided not seek a third term in office, I stated my intent to remain neutral in the race. I still do not support either candidate and whoever wins the election will have my cooperation in making certain the transition in leadership is as smooth as possible.

Over the last several months, I have been reading and listening to the campaigns of the two candidates for Hays County District Attorney. I have listened to claims of misconduct within the district attorney’s office, that there is a win at all costs mentality and that our office does less with more resources since I became district attorney. All the allegations being leveled against this office by the candidates are false and misleading.

The allegations of misconduct are offensive and I will not remain quiet while the amazing people I work with every day are said to be unprofessional and unethical. The fact is that the people who work in our office, from the administrative staff to the attorneys work very hard with long hours and low pay, but they take pride in their work and do nothing but strive to do the right thing; seeing that justice is served in every case.

Our conviction rate in felony cases is much better since I took over in 2007, we try cases that need to be tried and we never withhold evidence from the defense. The fact is our office very professional, we do our work efficiently and have worked hard to modernize procedures and policies.

Our relationship with law enforcement remains strong with open and honest communication and our door is always open for officers to come talk to us about a case or an issue. It is disappointing to hear the candidates disparage our office when we have done nothing but continue our hard work for the citizens of Hays County.

It has been an honor and a privilege to be the District Attorney for the last seven years and I will continue to run the office with integrity and professionalism. I am even more proud to say that I have worked with some of the finest and most hard working people that I have known in my years as a prosecutor and our office is outstanding because of their hard work.

Hays County District Attorney

Sherri Tibbe, a Democrat, has served as Hays County District Attorney since 2007, after winning election in 2006 against Mau and in 2010 without an opponent.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Hays County DA Sherri Tibbe went after Lehman High School football team

This article about Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe's witch hunt against Lehman High School football players was originally posted in Hays Free Press as "Student rape charges dropped" on February 10, 2011. The case was dropped when video testimony by accusers proved that the case was false.

Hays County Sherri Tibbe wrongfully accused Lehman High School Football Team
Hays County Sherri Tibbe wrongfully accused
Lehman High School Football Team

The criminal cases of the last two former Lehman High School football players accused of the gang rape and drugging of two juvenile girls in November 2007 have been thrown out, officials say.

The two boys, who were under the age of 17, were indicted on sexual assault charges by Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe in May 2008 after they allegedly joined three other Lehman football players in the gang rape of two 14-year-old girls while they were unconscious at a party.

“Both juvenile cases were completely dismissed last week,” said attorney Richard Ursha, of Wimberley, who represented one of the juveniles.

The dismissals bring to a close a case that roiled the Hays school district when the sensational accusations hit front pages and newscasts nearly three years ago. The latest developments leave Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe with exactly one sentence of probation to show for her prosecution of the five young men.

On Oct. 8, 2010, Chad Miles was found not guilty of sexual assault after a week-long trial. The other two men, Jesse Primeau and Ricardo Carrillo, testified for the state in the Miles’ case. All three men were 17 years old at the time of the alleged rape.

Carrillo previously pled guilty to a charge of sexual assault as part of a plea agreement in which he received 10 years probation and the possibility of deferred adjudication; an indecency with a child charge against Primeau was dropped in exchange for an agreement to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution.

The Hays Free Press is not naming the two youngest defendants because they were juveniles at the time of the incident.

Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe declined to comment on the case.

Tammy Miles, who had two sons involved in the alleged incident, said all of the boys suffered humiliation and public scrutiny for years while awaiting trial [because of 
Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe]

“The boys all paid for the accusations that were made against them and they were made out to be guilty until proven innocent, not innocent until proven guilty,” she said.

Her son, Chad Miles, and Primeau weren’t allowed to walk across the stage during their graduation, and Chad lost college scholarships in the aftermath of the accusations.

The two juvenile boys, one of which is also her son, were expelled from school and sent to the Hays CISD Impact Center for six months, she said.

In Chad Miles’ trial, defense attorney David Watts questioned whether a sexual assault had actually occurred, which the jury ruled did not.

Watts sought to show that the girls could not have been under the influence of common date rape drugs by playing tape recordings of interviews in which they recalled some of the night’s events.

In a date rape drug case, victims have “zero recollection of what occurred but the information that came out in evidence was that the girls knew what was going on,” Watts had said.

If anything, a lesson should be learned from this case, Tammy Miles said.

“It is to make sure all young men and young ladies understand what can happen to them when they make the wrong choices,” she said. “It could have ended very badly for these girls had all the things they said happened to them really did. And for the boys they could have spent the better part of their lives in jail for stupidity.”

Evidence Destroyed - 2017

The text of this article was originally published in Austin American Statesman in December 2010 as "Guru's trial to proceed, despite loss of key evidence"

Prakashanand Saraswati's trial to proceed, despite loss of key evidence
Hays County Persecuted Swami Prakashanand
Saraswati by destroying his evidence

Hays County sheriff's department lost taped interview with woman who claimed she had been groped by ashram leader.

SAN MARCOS — Though the Hays County sheriff's department has lost key evidence in the case against Prakashanand Saraswati, the religious leader charged with groping two underage girls in the 1990s, a state district judge ruled Wednesday that the case against the guru can proceed.

Attorneys for Prakashanand Saraswati, also known as Shree Swamiji, argued that the loss of a 1 1/2-hour recorded interview with one of the two women who said they were groped by the guru should have disqualified her statements implicating him.

"The bottom line is, whether you believe the sheriff's office destroyed the evidence or lost the evidence, it creates a significant problem for the prosecution of this case," said Joe Turner, one of a half-dozen attorneys representing Prakashanand.

Prosecutors in Hays County argued that a detective's summary of the interview was sufficient for the case to proceed, and District Judge Charles Ramsay agreed. The trial is scheduled to begin in late February.

Prakashanand Saraswati is charged with 20 counts of indecency with a child for his alleged conduct with two then-teenage girls. He was arrested in April 2008 as he got off a plane in Washington, D.C.

In a hearing that stretched for more than two hours Wednesday, Sgt. Jeri Skrocki explained that she discovered that the original DVD recording of the interview had disappeared in late 2009.

The judge had ordered prosecutors to turn over a copy to defense attorneys, but they found that the copy was unviewable. When she went to the sheriff's department records room to retrieve the original, Skrocki said, it was gone. A thorough search of the room by records custodians came up empty, she said.

Swami Prakashanand Saraswati's attorneys contend that the absence of a video record of the interview would deprive them of information and nuance crucial to the defense of Prakashanand Saraswati, including the young woman's demeanor and whether her interviewer asked leading questions. Without it, "the court must strike the testimony or declare a mistrial," said Gerry Goldstein, a San Antonio attorney who is part of Prakashanand Saraswati's defense team.

Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton responded that Skrocki's report of the interview was an accurate and sufficient representation of the accuser's testimony and that the guru's lawyers would have ample opportunity to question her during the trial.

Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler, who took office in November, said he knew of no other instances of missing evidence in his department; District Attorney Sherri Tibbe did not return calls.

DA Sherri Tibbe defends handling of Prakashanand Saraswati's evidence

The body of this article about Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was originally published on December 16, 2010 in Austin American Statesman as "Hays County DA defends evidence handling"

Prakashanand Saraswati tapes destroyed by Sherri Tibbe, 2017
(Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe lost
or destroyed Prakashanand Saraswati's evidence)

My story in today’s paper detailed how attorneys for Prakashanand Saraswati argued in a pre-trial hearing Tuesday that the statement of one of the young women accusing the guru of groping her should be tossed out because the recordings of her interview with a Hays County sheriff’s investigator are either worthless or missing. According to testimony from county prosecutors and sheriff’s department employees, copies of the original DVD don’t work, and the original disk disappeared from the sheriff’s department’s records room. State District Court Judge Charles Ramsay denied the motion, permitting the trial to proceed.

My story contained no comment from Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe, who was unavailable last night. Today, she e-mailed me a statement. Here it is:

“There are cases everywhere in which evidence is lost, not just our county. This does not happen often, but it does occur. In each instance where there is lost evidence, the issue will be addressed on a case by case basis. Some evidence that is lost will lead to the dismissal of the case. In other circumstances, the case may not be dismissed but it is an issue the jury and court would be made aware of during the trial. It is the State’s duty to try in every way possible to locate missing evidence and to make the defense aware when we learn that evidence is missing.”

Sherri Tibbe has had fairly recent experience in this regard. Two years ago, she was forced to ask a judge to dismiss a case in which a couple had been charged with seriously bodily injury to a child in connection with the death of their infant daughter in 2006 because important forensic evidence turned up missing.

“In my experience as a prosecutor, this is one of the most difficult decisions that I have had to make,” she was quoted as saying in a Statesman story from June 2008 describing the dismissal of charges against Esther and Cipriano Gonzales. “However, the rule of law and my ethical obligations require that we not proceed with this case at this time.”

According to one attorney involved in that case, however, it’s not clear who was responsible for the missing evidence, which appears to have been tissue samples that offered important clues as to whether or not the baby died of natural causes or was intentionally hurt.

Several medical examiners had offered conflicting reports, recalled Kenneth Houp, who represented Esther Gonzales. But, he added, he was never clear which agency was in custody of the tissues when they disappeared. Still, Houp stressed that it did not seem to be the fault of Hays County.

In the Prakashanand Saraswati case, Sherri Tibbe added in her statement, prosecutors successfully argued that having the actual recording was not essential because the guru’s lawyers would be allowed to question his accuser at trial:

“The State’s position at the hearing was that the witness will be testifying in court and the defense will be able confront and cross examine this witness to the fullest extent of the law, and the Defendant’s rights will be and are protected. Our office will always honor and protect a Defendant’s right to a fair trial, as well as advocating for the State’s right to a fair trial.”

Prakashanand’s trial is scheduled to begin February 22.

Prakashanand Saraswati exculpatory evidence lost or destroyed - 2017

The text of this article about Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was originally published on December 17, 2010 in San Marcos Record as "Evidence missing in trial of Hindu spiritual leader"

Prakashanand Saraswati's evidence was destroyed by Sherri Tibbe
Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe destroyed
Swami Prakashanand Saraswati's expulatory evidence

County authorities are unable to explain what happened to a key piece of evidence in the sexual misconduct case against the Hindu spiritual leader, Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, but say the fact it’s missing won’t interfere with their prosecution.

During a hearing Wednesday in District Judge Charles Ramsay’s courtroom, lawyers for 81-year-old Prakashanand Saraswati, who faces 20 counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact, made a motion to depose and another to suppress testimony from one of two women who say Saraswati improperly touched them in 1993 and 1994.

Both motions were denied, and a jury trial has been scheduled for February.

The piece of evidence authorities were unable to produce was a videotaped interview with one of Saraswati’s accusers. Jeff Hahn, speaking on behalf of Prakashanand Saraswati's attorneys, said on Thursday that the Sheriff’s Office was unable to produce either the DVD or the computer its contents were copied onto. A copy of the interview provided to the defense team “had an image” but no audio or video.

Hahn said when attorneys asked for the original, “The prosecution said it doesn’t exist anymore, we lost it. Whether it’s been destroyed or thrown away nobody knows.” He said they received a similar answer when they asked to see the computer the file was copied to.

Hahn said the testimony on the DVD was crucial because the case hinges on it. “There’s no physical evidence of any kind,” he said, adding that the woman whose testimony the DVD contains also said in a written statement that “her memory of that time is very cloudy.”

District Attorney Sherri Tibbe said the missing DVD won’t hamper prosecution and that misplacing evidence is “not something that happens regularly,” but happens sometimes “in every jurisdiction,” and that in some but not all cases could be cause for dismissal.

Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe said Hays Detective Jeri Skrocki, who conducted the missing interview, also made a report that documents what was said. She also noted that there is a videotaped interview with the other victim, and that both women will be available when the case goes to trial.

“He’s not being denied the right of confrontation,” Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe said of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati. “The defense will be able to cross-examine” the victims, she added.

Both the women were minors when they say Swami Prakashanand Saraswati improperly touched them.

Saraswati was indicted by the grand jury in April 2008 following an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office and the DA’s Office. He was out of the country at the time, but was taken into custody at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. that same month and extradited to Hays County.

District Judge Bill Henry set a bond of $50,000 on each of the 20 counts for a total of $10 million. Saraswati’s followers posted a $1 million cash bond.

Hahn said the defense’s position is “these charges are coming from 17 years ago. There isn’t any physical evidence or doesn’t appear to be. We have a missing piece of evidence, that’s bad enough. We have a missing computer and that’s double bad. We also have a plaintiff who says ‘really my memory is very cloudy.’ That’s strike three.”

Swami Prakashanand Saraswati’s supporters have maintained his innocence.

“It is unfortunate and sad that someone has made these false and damaging allegations,” a spokesman said at the time of his arrest. “If you know Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, then you know the alleged incidents...cannot be true.”

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

What is persecution?

What is persecution exactly? Webster defines it as a punishment or harassment usually of the severe nature based on fear, race, religion or beliefs. There have been many cases of persecution in the world such as the Salem witch trials, or in China and even in the United States of America. Persecution is happening all the time be it over fear, religion, race or beliefs, and in many cases, it ends in the death of many innocent people. Persecution today is no different when it happened in the past.

In the spring of 1692, a terrible act of persecution took place in the Salem witch trials. In these trials nineteen people were hanged because they were falsely accused of being witches. We get a better idea what went on in these trials from The Crucible, which is a play by Arthur Miller. In this play we see persecution that is fueled by jealousy and fear. This case of persecution was lead by a young lady named Abigail who controlled the other girls with fear. She controlled the girls with threats of murder such as, "I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down" (Miller 920). Using threats like these Abigail was able to convict many people in Salem of being witches; usually the people she convicted had either wanted something of theirs or they knew something about her. When Abigail accused John Proctor's wife of witch craft just because Abigail wanted John for herself. Abigail's lust for John becomes prominent when she saying "I am waiting for you every night" (Miller 922).

Not all persecution is fueled by lust or fear. In China, religion is the subject of persecution. Just last year a man by the name of Cai Zhuohua was convicted of conducting "illegal Business Practices" (Pan 1) for simply printing copies of the bible and giving them away for no profit and was sentenced two to three years in prison. But the Chinese government did not see it that way; the government viewed it as "Infiltration" (Pan 2). The Chinese government claimed the reason he was prosecuted was because only the "official state controlled church is authorized publisher of bibles and other religious works" (Pan 2). Cai's wife and brother in law were also convicted, but their sentencing was much lighter, two year and eighteen months sentences. Even though the State Bureau of Religious Affairs knows about this case they still state "there is no so-called persecution of religious people in China" (Pan 2).

Don't believe that persecution is limited to foreign and third world countries though. There is still a great deal of persecution going on right here at home in the United States. For instance after Hurricane Katrina, Latin evacuees are being persecuted for not being able to prove citizenship. These Latinos are actually refused service and asked to leave. In El Paso, Texas "Authorities have already detained three migrants who went to a shelter" (Stapp 1). This is ludicrous because the Latinos that are being turned away are the same Latinos that help us rebuild our community by working in construction. This would not be the first time that Latinos have helped us out; did you know that "Nearly forty percent of the workers who rebuilt the pentagon after the 9/11 attacks were Latino" (Stapp 3). So why is it now that these Latinos are being deported and detained? It sure did seem like we needed their help rebuilding our American culture, and now they need help rebuilding their lives.

So what is persecution? I believe persecution is something that can and must be stopped for the sake of humanity. So I say, Come on America, let's lend a helping hand, and help stop persecution of all shapes, size and colors.