For more on the Gulf Port 7 and Austin Police Department infiltration of Occupy Austin, see Undercover Austin Narcotics Detective Enabled Houston Felonies.
Judge Joan Campbell has threatened to dismiss the case unless these documents are presented along with the names of two other undercover officers at the next hearing, scheduled for September 5 2012.
Yesterday I wrote about the sworn testimony of Austin Police Department Detective Shannon G Dowell, who revealed that he operated undercover at Occupy Austin with at least 2 other officers. Dowell, or “Butch” as occupiers knew him, didn’t just spy on the group; he built and delivered devices known as lockboxes to Austin activists. These devices, also called sleeping dragons, physically link protesters together and resulted in seven activists receiving felony charges for blocking the entrance to the Port of Houston. One activist, Iraq veteran Eric Marquez, has been in jail since December as a result of these charges.
On Monday, August 27 2012, Dowell appeared before Judge Joan Campbell of the 248th District Court in Houston. Yesterday, I quoted the part of the transcript from that discovery hearing where Dowell admits the investigation has ties all the way to Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo. Today I want to go deeper into those transcripts, and show just how incompetent (or at least behind the times) Austin Police Department appears.
It’s important to note that Judge Campbell initially dismissed all charges against arrested activists before being forced by a grand jury to try the seven felony cases. Her sense of frustration with Austin Police Department behavior is palpable in the written transcripts, and eyewitnesses tell me the courtroom scene was very tense.
Though the illustration at right shows Butch as he appeared at Occupy Austin, he was clean-shaven and short-haired at his most recent court appearance.
Here’s what the court asked Dowell to provide:
That subpoena asked him to bring with him any police reports, I assume texts, phone calls, among him — between him and any other person, to bring with him all receipts and evidence of money spent and/or received by him during his participation in the investigation of the occupy the port movement or the investigation that resulted in the prosecution that we’re here on.
But Shannon Dowell only brought a few pages of printed notes and a USB drive — which he lost on the way to court!
Detective Dowell: I brought a thumb drive that had photos that I lost en route.
Judge Campbell: You lost it in and or out? What does that mean?
DD: En route to here.
JC: En route?
DD: Yes, while I was coming here.
JC: So it fell out of your car?
DD: Probably my pocket. I would imagine it’s in the gutter in front of the hotel I was in.
After asking Dowell what hotel he stayed at, Campbell presses him on the contents of the thumb drive:
Detective Dowell: There’s photos — what they call the lockboxes and the person that I delivered them to that was involved in Occupy Austin, I delivered those lockboxes to this person and it was a photo of her.
Judge Campbell: Was that a police officer, that person?
JC: Or a police officer of any type?
JC: And is there anything else that was on that drive that you lost?
DD: An electronic copy of that right there [Dowell's printed notes] that I gave you. I believe that’s all.
But what about the emails? Where did they go?
Judge Campbell: You’re saying you have not received any emails or done any emails concerning Occupy Houston or any type of Occupy Wall Street?
Detective Dowell: I would say there are definitely. I did receive and send some emails, I don’t know how to get them out of the my computer, I mean they’re deleted.
JC: They are at work? They were done on a work computer in the Austin Police Department work computer?
DD: Yes, ma’am.
So Detective Shannon Dowell deleted the emails pertaining to a major undercover investigation.
Today, major corporations and government agencies are expected to have data retention policies, which govern what data is stored and for how long. I called the Austin Police Department’s Public Information Office and spoke with Public Information Specialist Lisa Cortinas. Her response — there is no policy, but APD is working to craft one:
As of right now, the city is working on a retention policy for emails. This is being worked on through the city clerks office. Once that is put into policy, it will be based on the content or context of the email as it relates to the investigation. If it’s case specific, it will probably be the same period as case retention.
It is shocking to me that a law enforcement agency could survive until 2012 without a policy on the handling of emails pertaining to ongoing investigations. Judge Campbell was not amused either, and gave the following orders:
Judge Campbell: The fact is, I don’t know how long it takes to go through a computer to find something. I think what takes long is it sits on someone’s desk as an assignment before they go to the computer. So I am suggesting that I expect everything in this courtroom next Wednesday. I don’t want it sitting on someone’s desk … I want them doing it this afternoon. Maybe it’s like building a wall out of bricks and it does take physical time to do. I’m confessing right here in open court, I’m confessing I don’t know the answer but I want them to start doing it this afternoon.
If convicted of the charges, the Gulf Port 7 could face between two and ten years in a Texas state prison.