HOUSTON, TX — A Houston prosecutor who reportedly asked police whether a sex crime victim was in the United States illegally has been fired, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
The prosecutor, John Denholm, was fired after an internal review, Ogg said in a statement on Friday.
According to the Houston Police Officer’s Union, the prosecutor refused to accept sexual assault charges against a man because the victim’s immigration status was not known. A police report obtained by The New York Times showed that the incident occurred inside a Houston jail on Halloween when a drunk driving suspect pulled another inmate towards him while exposing himself.
The police report said Denholm declined the case because he believed the victim was “illegal.”
Denholm had been reassigned pending the internal review. Ogg said that on Tuesday, a Houston man, Karl Bonner, was charged with attempted sexual assault.
“It is wrong to ask about a victim’s immigration status; it is against our policy, and it won’t be tolerated,” Ogg said in a statement. “We treat everyone equally under the law, no matter how they came to be here.”
After Ogg announced her decision to fire Denholm, the police union said the real work now lies in rebuilding the trust between the criminal justice system and the Hispanic community. In a Statement on Nov. 5, the police union described what had happened inside the jail on Oct. 31 and demanded that Denholm be fired.
“Harris County does not need a person with those views working in the District Attorney’s Office,” the statement said.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, which had called for Denholm’s firing, applaued Ogg’s decision.
Nearly 45 percent of Houston’s population is Hispanic, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. The city’s police chief, Art Acevedo, has advocated for comprehensive immigration reform and has said that the focus of his officers is to keep neighborhoods safe regardless of anyone’s immigration status.
“The key to immigration enforcement is not rhetoric; it’s not instilling fear and pushing people further into the darkness,” Acevedo told The Texas Tribune in June. “We don’t care about their status; we focus on behavior. We don’t focus on immigration status because our job is to fight crime and not enforce immigration laws. That’s a federal responsibility.”
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