This thing stinks

Something stinks at City Hall, and it’s emanating from the third floor – Beaumont City Attorney Tyrone Cooper’s office.What is it?

Ironically, it’s not a plea deal that let Kendrick Perkins walk away with only a slap on the wrist, if anything, after being charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct. Sure, Perkins got a deal that few, if any, in Beaumont would have been able to get unless, they too were an NBA star.

But what really stinks is the way City Attorney Tyrone Cooper and his office handled the case.

Cooper was so adamant about concealing the deal that he’s used every legal tactic he could think of to keep public information from being made public. When copies of the arrest report, police videos, court filings and other documents were requested pursuant to Texas law, he fought against their release – in essence helping the defense. Bolstering his efforts was the fact that Municipal Court Judge Craig Lively issued a gag order in the case, coincidentally on the very day Cooper told defense attorney Langston Adams and Perkins that he wanted to see the case “go away.” Those comments are documented in a court filing by Adams and were later reported in the media.

Cooper was so angry that his comments were made public his office filed for sanctions against Adams – a direct retaliation if ever there was one.

The fact Perkins got a deal should not come as a surprise. Most anyone can get a deal in city court by pleading their case to the judge and throwing themselves on the mercy of the court. But Perkins’ case never made it that far because Cooper intervened.

Adding to the noxious odor is the fact that Cooper’s boss, City Councilman Audwin Samuel, is indirectly linked to the case. Samuel’s son, Sean Samuel, with whom he shares his legal practice, is representing Perkins in a pending expunction hearing, originally scheduled for Jan. 25, 2012 — the same hearing Cooper likely hoped would be held before the attorney general ruled on whether the city would have to release records related to this case.

Luckily, The Examiner was able to delay the expunction by filing a motion with the criminal district court explaining the situation. But it wouldn’t be surprising if Cooper’s office files an appeal depending on the outcome of the attorney general’s ruling. It’s a tactic he has used in the past to fight against releasing information that he didn’t want made public.

Rather than let this case play out and “go away” on its own, Cooper’s actions made it a bigger deal than it really had to be.

If history shows us anything at all from the Nixon era, it is seldom the crime but the cover-up that makes the headline. In this case, Cooper needs to do the right thing and turn over all the records requested and put the issue in the public eye as it should be. If not, an expensive drawn-out legal battle will ensue because The Examiner will fight for this information for the citizens of Beaumont with every legal option available.