HOUSTON - A former federal prosecutor says the time is now for the FBI and others to get involved in the Precinct 4 evidence dump.
He calls the situation “horrible” and one that needs immediate intervention.
“You absolutely cannot run a law enforcement agency like that,” said former Assistant US Attorney Philip Hilder.
He believes the Precinct 4 evidence dump, which has already resulted in the dismissal of at least 142 cases, warrants a federal investigation.
“This appears not to be an isolated incident,” said Hilder. “There are hundreds of cases that are affected, and because of that, it’s a system-wide failure,” he added.
Thus far, the constable’s office has cited the disposal of hundreds of pieces of evidence in January as the primary problem.
Deputy constable Chris Hess was fired as a result.
But it’s possible improper destruction of evidence dates back to 2007.
That’s when current Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman ran Precinct 4.
“Anything’s possible,” said Hickman. “I wasn’t aware that we had any particular destruction of evidence that was done without specific court order or done properly prior to that time,” he added.
Hickman did say that Hess may have been disciplined before for improperly dumping evidence from a closed case.
“But we never had an incident where the evidence wasn’t available for prosecutors that I’m aware of, prior to the time that I left,” said Hickman.
Hilder said there are too many open questions at Precinct 4 for any internal investigation to answer.
He added that he’d move forward with an investigation if he was still with the US Attorney’s office.
“Oh, absolutely – if you uphold the integrity of the system,” said Hilder.
So far, the feds are not involved in this case.
An FBI spokesperson said the agency is aware of this situation and is coordinating with local authorities.