Friday, September 22, 2006
Van Os raises more questions about Abbott's improper seizures of federal court records
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE :: September 22, 2006
According to widely circulated reports, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office dispatched a squad of armed agents with subpoenas to forcibly seize, without permission, thousands of records from the federal court's storage facility, records that were part of pending federal court cases involving possible fraudulent diagnoses of silicosis, a lung disease.
When presiding U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack was informed of the forced removal, she immediately demanded that Abbott's office returned the stolen records and indicated their removal from storage could become a criminal matter. Abbott returned the ill-gotten records, all except for 152, which his spokesperson now says are nowhere to be found.
At that time, Abbott's opponent in the upcoming election, attorney David Van Os issued the following statement: "I'm not surprised by this arrogant conduct. Greg Abbott is part of the silk-stocking social clique that runs Texas government as if it were their private club."
"This it the same Greg Abbott who lets the Texas Department of Transportation hide its contracts with foreign companies," Van Os pointed out. "This is the same Greg Abbott who uses the taxpayers' money to file legal briefs and maps on behalf of the Republican Party, who employs Tom Delay's cronies, and who refuses to challenge the oil companies on behalf of the people of Texas. Seizing and then losing working people's personal medical records from a court file is par for his course."
On September 5, the attorney general's office sent a letter, apologizing to Judge Jack for the 'confusion and misunderstandings' the seizure of the records had caused. The AG's letter also noted that his office 'should have sought Jack's approval' before tampering with these records... and that his agents were 'only joking' when they threatened storage supervisor Gary Cosgrove with arrest if he didn't hand over the documents.
In fact, the letter said, officers were told to pick up the records only if there was no objection from the records' custodians.
Van Os isn't so sure a simple letter of apology is enough to absolve Abbott and his agents of criminal liability:
"Attorney General Greg Abbott admitted to the federal court in Corpus Christi that he should not have seized court files without getting permission from the court. He apologizes, but then offers the incredulous excuses that his office thought permission had been obtained from the judge and that his armed agents were just joking when they threatened the supervisor of the court's records facility with arrest.
"How did top officials in the Attorney General's office come to think permission had been obtained from the judge when nobody had even contacted the judge?" Van Os continued. "What kind of law enforcement organization allows its agents to threaten arrest as a joke when in the course of official duties?"
posted by snarko! at 6:50 PM
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