HOUSTON—The United States Attorney’s Office insisted it would it vigorously prosecute members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas accused of racketeering.
But some legal experts were surprised when a federal prosecutor in Houston reportedly stepped down from the case over of safety concerns.
"The perceptions are what bother me,” said Gerald Treece, the Dean of the South Texas College of Law. "In the justice system, we have always depended on citizen belief. That is the citizens' belief that the justice system works.”
Treece said the belief was grounded in the faith that everyone, from judges to attorneys, and even witnesses, does their part. But he said the entire system suffers when a federal prosecutor withdraws because he or she is afraid.
“Witnesses won't participate,” Treece warned.
Last November, authorities rounded up 34 members of the ABT for charges relating to murder, drug dealing and violent assaults.
The attorney for one of the suspects said he received an email from the prosecutor involved.
“It said that he had decided to withdraw from the case for security reasons,” said Richard O. Ely II.
Ely added that he was not aware of any specific threats, but admitted members of the gang were dangerous people.
"My client is not a boy scout. But my client, just like any other person, deserves a fair trial and a fair consideration," said Ely.
Some experts fear the system may have been compromised by a choice.