• WhoDoneIt,
    I've asked Gabe to try to answer your questions on the story thread when he gets time.
    South Texas Guy and Concerned Citizen,
    I've tried to address your comments in this morning's new post.


    May 25, 2008 at 11:13 a.m.

  • Since I am not an attorney nor in law enforcement and have no legal background, I need a bit of clarification, please.

    1. On the Pie chart, 39 cases were declined w/no reason given on the report. Is it customary or acceptable for NO reason to be given? Which law enforcement agencies brought forth these 39 cases?

    2. Again, on the Pie chart. If I understand this correctly, 68 cases were declined because the *victim* would not prosecute. Does that mean that if a *victim* refuses to file charges against someone the DA can not or will not prosecute? Does the DA have a choice under these circumstances? Must a *victim* file charges against someone in order for the DA to prosecute? What about *victims* who are afraid of retaliation and refuse to file charges? Does our legal system just refuse to prosecute because a *victim* may be afraid?

    3. As designated on the Pie chart, there were 151 case declined under Other. Could you give us a handful but fairly diverse sampling of the reasons for the Other 151 cases being declined?

    4. Under the Top Ten Most Declined Crimes Chart and under Assault causing bodily injury there were 48 cases. Of these 48 declined cases, were any of these *Sexual assault* cases? If there were, how many and what reasons were given for declining them?

    5. Under Unprofessional?, the professionalism in 18 reports was deemed to be questionable. “Who” deemed these “questionable”? You gave your readers one example. Why not give us the other 17 “questionable” remarks, please?

    6. Under Other Files, since these files will be published in the coming days, are there any comments/messages/written remarks that fall under “questionable professionalism” displayed in these files by any of the *Agencies* involved? I understand that the idea of “questionable” is subjective and I am concerned as to “who” deems them questionable. I also realize that you want to give your readers the opportunity to form their own opinions.

    Although my questions are lengthy, I think clarification would be helpful to most of your readers. Thank you.

    May 25, 2008 at 9:49 a.m.

  • Mr. Cobler,
    In my opinion, you and the Victoria Advocate destroyed your own credibility in this matter.  You trumpeted in front page headlines that you were going to fight the subpoena.  You claimed it was harassment and intimidation. In your blog, you said the First Amendment was at stake.
    Yet, when the time came to "put up or shut up" you folded like a house of cards. You could not put up any evidence. Even though your claim was on the front page of the newspaper.  And because it was, some people in the forums believed you, and were off and running with criticisms of the DA. had no evidence.
    You claim the Advocate is trying to be balanced and have fair reporting on this matter.  By your actions, you show that is not true.

    May 25, 2008 at 4:41 a.m.

  • Funny, I always thought that the grand jury proceedings were the primary step before a trial and therefore witnesses would testify. If the DA were to just "read the paper", then I guess the judge wouldn't like it if the "paper" was sat on the witness stand at the time of the trial! Maybe Gabe interviewed persons that were being investigated - I may have watched too many cop shows but I didn't think that people that broke the law were too fond of cooperating with prosecution.

    May 25, 2008 at 12:33 a.m.

  • Sorry for the delay in responding. I've been away from the computer for most of the day. I'll try to take the questions/comments in order.

    -  Luminary, the set of circumstances here are far different from those of Judith Miller, Scooter Libby and the New York Times. Although grand jury proceedings are secret, I'm fairly certain we're not talking about matters of national security. Gabe also has not used confidential sources in his reporting. The time-honored journalistic principle we're guarding is that the district attorney ought to do his own work and not use journalists so casually in his investigations. By doing so, he compromises the newspaper and makes readers question our independence and motives. Thanks for the well wishes. We'll take all of that we can get as we continue to chase this story.

    - Victoria concerned citizen, if a reporter witnessed a crime, that's a different story. That's not the case here. In this case, Gabe has been interviewing others about what they've seen, done and thought. If the DA wants to get any of that information,  he can by talking to those people or just by reading the newspaper. He doesn't need to compel a journalist to compromise his principles by testifying in a secret proceeding.

    - Sailor, I'm no lawyer, but I agree the veil of secrecy doesn't extend quite as far as the DA asserts. He certainly is going to have to use more than this threat to muzzle the press.

    - Luminary, I enjoyed "Citizen Kane," too. Just think: The Rosebud cafe is right up the street from the Advocate. No sign of Orson Wells around Constitution Street, though.

    Hope you all enjoy the front-page story Sunday. I'm sure we'll be talking more about that.

    May 24, 2008 at 10:10 p.m.

  • What if, and this is mere speculation since I think no one really knows what is going on, but what if the reporter actually witnessed criminal activity while gathering information. Wouldn't the reporter then be compelled to testify to what was witnessed instead of hiding behind a false veil?  After all, I believe that the rules for law are differentiated between civil and criminal trials and procedures.

    May 24, 2008 at 2:31 p.m.

  • Luminary,

    I'm not sure I'm following your question. If it's how often reporters receive subpoenas and for what reason, I don't know whether that's been tracked at a state or national level. This Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press site provides some background on the national issue. I hope that's helpful.

    May 23, 2008 at 9:36 p.m.

  • John...on the front page of today's Advocate, in bold headlines, it was proclaimed that the Victoria Advocate was going to fight the DA's subpoena.  In the article, and in the motion that was filed with the court, the Advocate claimed the subpoena was  "pure intimidation, harassment and abuse of power by the Victoria District Attorney’s office.”
    The time came for the court hearing.  The Advocate was asked for evidence.  They had none.  The entire meeting took about 10 minutes I was told.  Where was the fight?  Where was the push for freedom of the press (remember "the First Ammendment is at stake")?  Where was the fight for protection of sources? Where was the evidence of the harassment and intimidation they proclaimed? 
    The reporter is the Public Services editor of the newspaper.  If he feels intimidated by a subpoena, then maybe he needs to find a different line of work or ask Mr. Cobler for a reassignment to the Lifestyle section.  I doubt Aprill Brandon will be called before the grand jury anytime soon.
    Mr. Cobler states that Sunday's editorial will further explain the Advocate's position.  It should be interesting reading after their embarassing courtoom debacle of today.  i wonder what their "spin" on the story will be.  

    May 23, 2008 at 4:53 p.m.

  • Thank you, John, for answering Tom's question so well. We thought our motion was self-evident. Could we have presented a better legal argument? Probably so, based on the outcome.

    But the principle at stake remains the same despite the judge's ruling. Look for our editorial board's opinion Sunday for more on this position.

    And this surely isn't the last word on what's happening. We'll be ready to report as the grand jury reconvenes Tuesday. Stay tuned.

    May 23, 2008 at 4:36 p.m.

  • Why didn't the Advocate present any evidence????   Where was the harassment and intimidation???

    May 23, 2008 at 1:28 p.m.