HOUSTON Houston s police chief landed in legal hot water with an interview outside a courtroom. Now he could face contempt charges.

Chief Charles McClelland testified Tuesday in the trial of Andrew Blomberg, one of four HPD officers charged in the videotaped beating of a teenaged burglar named Chad Holley. After the chief s testimony, he spoke with reporters outside the courtroom and said he thought the officers should have been charged with felonies.

That raised the hackles of defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, who complained in court and asked the judge to find the police chief in contempt.

That apparently set off alarm bells at the city s legal department. City Attorney David Feldman rushed over to the courthouse and appeared before State District Judge Ruben Guererro. Feldman pointed out that the chief had been excused from the witness stand. He then asked the judge if he d issued a gag order in the case.

There was no gag order, the judge said. But he was a witness and being excused does not mean he can t be called back.

The legal question is whether the police chief violated what s known as the rule, under which witnesses aren t supposed to talk about a case with anyone else until it s resolved.

But the judge said he didn t know whether McClelland had been specifically told he shouldn t discuss the case. So he told attorneys he would have to review the record, a process that will take at least the rest of the week.

KHOU legal analyst Gerald Treece believes the judge probably won t hold the police chief in contempt, but attorneys may use this issue for an appeal if Blomberg is convicted.

Police union leaders sitting in the courtroom say attorneys for the other former officers facing criminal charges will probably cite the chief s remarks in requests to move their trials to another city.

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