Houston, TX – One of the candidates who has challenged notoriously anti-cop Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg in the Democratic primary wants to prosecute even fewer crimes than the incumbent.
Former prosecutor Audio Jones, who is one of several Democrats challenging Ogg in the March 2020 primary race, weighed in Monday on Ogg’s recent $7.4 million budget request to hire more prosecutors, according to The Appeal.
“Our criminal justice system can’t solve problems like drug addiction and poverty. As DA I will not prosecute drug possession and offenses that target poverty. We will lower caseloads that way,” Jones tweeted.
A twitter user whose profile said she was an advocate for sex workers asked Jones if her pronouncement included prostitution.
“Yes, I will not be prosecuting sex work as DA,” the candidate replied. “Instead, I will make sure that our office is a place for sex workers to feel safe reporting real crimes against them- like assault and human trafficking. Harris County is the largest human trafficking in the US.”
Jones complained that prosecuting sex workers made prostitutes who were victims of human trafficking, rape, and domestic violence afraid to speak to law enforcement, The Appeal reported.
But Ogg’s re-election campaign director, Jaime Mercado, told The Appeal that his candidate does not support a blanket refusal to prosecute sex workers.
Mercado said that Ogg planned to continue to search out ways to redirect prostitutes into outside nonprofit organizations that can offer them help and resources.
“We’re fully aware that prosecution of sex workers does nothing,” he said. “It just keeps them in a cycle.”
“She’s concentrated on the pimps and the traffickers,” Mercado added. “A lot of times when you bring in a sex worker, they’re not going to be cooperative because it’s a cycle of abuse, but the sex workers have been invaluable in producing evidence to convict the traffickers and the pimps.”
Jones accused Ogg of playing “a gray area,” according to The Appeal.
“When we do things like diversion or any type of probation, we are still criminalizing those individuals,” she said.
Despite Jones’ assertions that Ogg was still prosecuting too many people accused of victimless crimes, Houston police have said the exact opposite.
Houston cops have been at war with Ogg for almost a year, after she blamed a retired Houston officer for her office’s decision not to prosecute an organized crime ring because she said he hadn’t investigated well enough.
Ogg may not have expected the retired officer to push back so hard.
“In an attempt to defend herself and her office from failing to take action against these criminals, Ms. Ogg placed the blame squarely on me by stating that I ‘pushed’ a case on the DA’s office and offered ‘no evidence’ or ‘not enough evidence,’” retired Houston Police Officer Mark Stephens blasted Ogg in a Facebook post.
“While it’s not unusual for a politician to look into a news camera and tell a lie or a factually incorrect statement … I feel compelled to respond in order to set the record straight,” Stephens said.
Shortly after the post went up, Houston police officers found themselves locked out of a county database that they said was essential for criminal investigations.
The district attorney upped the ante further a few days after that, when Trial Bureau Chief David Mitcham issued a memo to “all Assistant District Attorney’s Trying Cases” that said they could no longer talk to police officers about cases.
Instead, officers with questions were told to talk to the chief prosecutor assigned to the court where their case was being adjudicated.
Ogg also made headlines in June for giving a sweetheart no-prison plea deal to a criminal arrest for shooting three people, including a 15-year-old girl.
Despite having been arrested and charged for having shot three people in two separate incidents, the gunman was allowed to plead guilty to only one “and received no jail time,” he added.
“With shootings occurring daily in our community, the DA owes the public an explanation,” Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU) President Joe Gamaldi wrote at the time. “An explanation as to why she is weak on criminals who commit violent crimes with guns and show no regard for human life.”
Earlier in the year, two suspects who tossed an illegally-possessed handgun out of a car were simply charged with littering.
Despite complaints from law and order advocates who have said that Ogg has been letting too many criminals off the hook, a coalition of liberal organizations recently complained to the Harris County commissioners about what they called Ogg’s “overzealous prosecution” of low-level cases, The Appeal reported.
The also complained about her budget request, opposition to bail reform, and “inefficient use of prosecutorial resources.”
Challenger Jones has said she does not support additional funding for the district attorney’s office, according to The Appeal.