Texas Gov. Rick Perry
While Texas Gov. Rick Perry claimed to reporters he learned only last month of the teen sex scandal rocking the state’s juvenile justice system, his office admitted to WND it knew of an investigation that began two years ago.
Perry told reporters he became aware of the Texas Youth Commission scandal last month, after news reports broke in Texas newspapers detailing Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski’s probe into the charges. But WND’s investigation shows Perry’s office knew of Burzynski’s probe as early as February 2005, two years before any grand jury had been convened in the case or any statewide investigation was launched from the governor’s office.
As WND reported, in the first months of the case, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton and the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in Washington declined prosecution.
Ted Royer, spokesman for Perry, told WND the “tragedy has now forced a head-to-toe review of everything that goes on in the Texas Youth Commission, from the bottom to the top, from what goes on in the central offices in Austin, to what goes on at individual facilities where youth are being incarcerated.”
But a timeline by Burzynski raised the question of why no prosecutions were begun and what took so long for the public investigation to get started.
In his testimony March 8 to the Texas legislature’s Joint Committee on Operation and Management of the TYC, Burzynski laid out a timeline of the attempts he made over a two-year period to get federal, state and local law enforcement authorities to prosecute.
His timeline also documents federal law enforcement authorities knew of his investigation as early as February 2005, virtually coincident with Perry’s office being informed of it.
The following is Burzynski’s timeline, taken by WND directly from the joint committee hearing videotape.
- Feb. 23, 2005: Burzynski received a phone call at his Ft. Stockton office, from a teacher at the West Texas TYC school in Pyote, Texas, about allegations of sexual misconduct toward a student by a staff member.
- Shortly after Feb. 23, 2005: Burzynski contacted Ward County District Attorney Randall Reynolds and made his case that a federal investigation and prosecution were warranted.
- Shortly after Feb. 23, 2005: The FBI, an assistant U.S. attorney from San Antonio and an attorney from the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., joined Burzynski in the investigation.
- July 28, 2005: A letter was written by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Baumann in U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton’s office in El Paso declining prosecution in the case.
- Sept. 27, 2005: A letter was written by Albert Moskowitz, chief of the criminal section of the civil rights division, declining prosecution in the case.
- January 2006: Reynolds’ offered to create a grand jury in the TYC sex scandal case never materialized. Burzynski went to District Attorney Laurie English, a prosecutor in Pecos County. He asked English to be a special prosecutor in the case. Reynolds expressed a lack of interest.
- Feb. 21, 2006: Burzynski sent an e-mail to a prosecutor in the Texas attorney general’s office expressing his concern that the statute of limitations would run out before the Ward County DA convened a grand jury. He requested the Texas AG consider prosecuting the case or assist the Ward County DA. WND subsequently has established that William Tatum was the prosecutor in the Texas AG’s office to whom Burzynski sent his investigative report.
- Feb. 23, 2006: The Texas Assistant Attorney General responded to Burzynski in an e-mail that the Texas AG’s office did not have concurrent jurisdiction with the Ward County DA. The Texas AG’s office said it was open to a request from the Ward County DA to become involved.
- March 24, 2006: Burzynski presented the case to Kevin Acker, the Ward County attorney with jurisdiction in misdemeanor cases. Burzynski had concluded that a misdemeanor prosecution in the TYC case was better than nothing at all. Acker prepared the misdemeanor complaints. When Reynolds learned of this, he requested that the misdemeanor prosecutions be dropped. Reynolds reassured Burzynski he would request the assistance of the Texas AG in the case.
- Oct. 30, 2006: Burzynski received a telephone call from a staff member of Texas State Rep. Sylvester Turner asking about the TYC investigation. Burzynski received Reynolds approval to release the investigative report to Turner’s office. Burzynski e-mailed the report to Turner. Turner’s office forwarded the investigative report to Gov. Perry’s office.
- Shortly after Oct. 30, 2006: Burzynski received a telephone call from Alfonso Royal in the governor’s office saying that a special fund in the governor’s office to assist prosecutors would be made available to Reynolds. Alfonso Royal is a budget and policy analyst who oversees the Texas Youth Commission.
- Jan. 17: Reynolds sent a letter to the Texas AG requesting assistance.
- Feb. 13: Reynolds and Burzynski met with the Texas AG. Burzynski reported this was the first serious discussion he believed he had in two years promising that the case would be prosecuted.
Ted Royer, spokesman for Perry, added to Burzynski’s timetable by telling WND Perry’s office knew of Burzynski’s report shortly after Burzynski’s first contacts with Ward County DA Reynolds.
“The procedure in this case,” Royer explained, “was that whenever the Ranger started his investigation and the TYC employees were suspended, the Texas Youth Commission informed the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker, the Senate criminal justice chairman, various House members and other law makers that oversee the TYC.”
Royer maintained that from the initial discussions in February 2005, no action by the governor was required.
“The information presented at that time was that the Ranger on site was conducting an investigation and that the district attorney would be prosecuting the case,” Royer told WND. Early on, (the information) that this office as well as every other office of state government had was that a criminal investigation was proceeding and that due process would move forward so those who broke the law would be held to account.”
Although Royer conceded to WND that Perry was aware of Burzynski’s investigation soon after February 2005, the governor’s office places the blame for the two-years of delay on the shoulders of Wade County DA Reynolds.
“It has been mind-boggling for everyone involved comprehending why a district attorney would not only fail to prosecute this case himself but repeatedly waive other prosecutors away from bringing the case to court,” Royer told WND.
WND asked Royer when Perry’s office finally decided the governor had to get involved.
“In November of last year a state representative’s office contacted our office,” Royer told WND. “The state representative had learned that Reynolds had been sitting on the investigation for 18 months and the state representative’s office wanted to get this case prosecuted. We contacted the DA repeatedly, trying to get him to move. It still took us two months for Reynolds to request the attorney general’s office.”
This is corroborated by Burzynski’s timetable indicating an Oct. 30, 2006, telephone call from State Rep. Sylvester Turner’s staff.
“When our office was made aware in November 2006 that Reynolds had failed to prosecute,” Royer told WND, “we took immediate action. Reynolds waived off our offer for additional funds. Over the course of a period of weeks, we had to hold this DA’s hand and walk him through the process of requesting the DA’s involvement.”
Royer explained that in Texas, the attorney general just can’t come in and prosecute a case.
“But if the DA asks the attorney general to come in, then the attorney general can go in and prosecute.”
WND asked Royer why Perry’s office didn’t press federal law enforcement officers to take a second look and get involved in what now appears to be a conspiracy to deprive minor boy inmates of their civil rights in the TYC system.
“Why bother?” Royer responded. “The U.S. attorney and the Department of Justice in Washington had already told us in February 2005 that they didn’t want to be involved.”
In Texas, district attorneys and the attorney general are elected officials. Reynolds is a Democrat and Abbott is a Republican.
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