“The criminal justice system in Harris County is broken,” said Aimee Castillo, sister of murder victim Josh Sandoval.
Suspect Devan Kristopher Jordon was out on three felony bonds when he allegedly shot Sandoval during a home invasion robbery last May. Jordon had also missed a court date the week prior to the murder, but authorities did not issue an arrest warrant.
“I think the criminal justice system is just a revolving door. They murder, they go in, and they come out, and they go in,” said Glenda Martin, Sandoval’s mother. “I think it’s a horrible thing.”
Commissioner Tom Ramsey (R-Pct. 3) presented a resolution honoring Sandoval’s life and noted that the suspect was also affiliated with the same crime ring allegedly responsible for the murder in Houston of an off-duty New Orleans police officer last August.
“There are people who are hurting people who are being allowed to walk around and they should not be period. That is the point,” intoned Commissioner Jack Cagle (R-Pct. 4).
The fieriest moments of the meeting, however, came later from Steve Radack, former constable and former commissioner who said Democrats on the commissioners court had “blood on their hands.”
“I never dreamed that after serving 32 years on this court that there would be three members of this court — Hidalgo, Garcia, and Ellis — who would kiss the rears of hardened criminals, who victimize law-abiding citizens, including law enforcement officers,” said Radack. “I’m calling on you three to resign from office so the healing can begin.”
— Holly Hansen (@hollyshansen) January 25, 2022
Radack’s comments came just days after Precinct 5 Constable Corporal Charles Galloway was brutally murdered during a traffic stop in Houston.
“Let me just express this as sincerely as I can, you are a disgrace,” added Radack. “You are spending money everywhere on the dumbest things, but when it gets down to really protecting the citizens of this county you are AWOL.”
In response to criminal activity, commissioners have approved initiatives for new programs administered by the health department, $50 million for an initiative to “fight crime through environmental design,” and most recently approved $2.6 million for overtime pay for sheriff’s deputies, but Hidalgo has balked at adding any new permanent patrol officers saying she wasn’t sure the county could afford the extra expenses.
Radack spoke directly to former sheriff and now Commissioner Adrian Garcia (D-Pct. 2) saying, “You’re not the same as you used to be. You used to care about catching criminals and handling them instead of all this ‘kiss their rear.’”
While Garcia did not respond while Radack was present, hours later he rebutted saying, “He doesn’t know what the hell is in my heart,” and “I don’t know if he’d been hitting the sauce already.”
In response to Radack’s comments, Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) said, “He’s representing just how shocked the public is at this point. He needs to express his outrage over the terribly misguided public policy leading to deaths of citizens and law enforcement.”
One of the nine Republicans vying for a chance to challenge Hidalgo in November 2022, Alexandra del Moral Mealer also addressed the court regarding a proposal from Cagle to dissolve the controversial ODonnell consent decree that governs misdemeanor bail in Harris County.
“As we speak our county is being overwhelmed by violent crime. It is being committed largely by repeat violent offenders,” said Mealer.
Noting that “progressive judges” were releasing many violent offenders using the ODonnell consent decree as justification, Mealer said she was filing an amicus brief with the federal court judge in Houston asking for the dissolution of both the ODonnell agreement and the dismissal of a similar case regarding felony bonds.
A recent ruling from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has undermined significant portions of ODonnell and could lead to overturning the case entirely.
Although the appeals court sent the ODonnell case back to the federal judge in Houston for reconsideration, after Democrats won control of commissioners court in the 2018 elections, they moved quickly to settle the case with extensive concessions to the plaintiff’s demands and thus avoided going back before the Fifth Circuit Court.
The commissioners court took up Cagle’s motion behind closed doors in an executive session, after which the court voted 3 to 2 along party lines to instead refer the issue to the county attorney.
The court’s three Democrats also rebuffed a proposal from Cagle to consider salary increases for the county’s eight elected constables, who at $133,598 per year earn less than their second in command officers who earn on average $154,000.
Last year, Harris County recorded more than 600 homicides, and early data indicates that the City of Houston leads the top four cities in the nation for homicides in 2022.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.