TYC Allegations: Not Just Abbott

Davis attack ad taps history of blind eyes turned to rape cases

Texas Youth Commission attack ad from Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, raises unanswered question about what Attorney General Greg Abbott knew, when did he know it, and why didn't he do anything about it?
Texas Youth Commission attack ad from Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, raises unanswered question about what Attorney General Greg Abbott knew, when did he know it, and why didn't he do anything about it? (Photos: Greg Abbott by Jana Birchum, Wendy Davis by John Anderson)

The latest commercial from Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, hits Attorney General Greg Abbott hard with claims that his office spent two years ignoring allegations of abuse at state juvenile correctional facilities. That the awkward part of this for Abbott? The same question has been asked, over and over again, for the past seven years.

The new 30 second commercial, “Time Went By”, concentrates on what Abbott knew about the allegations of abuse of students by staff at the West Texas State School in Pyote, run by the Texas Youth Commission.

A quick reminder: In 2007, the legislature ripped wide open a history of abuse, both physical and sexual, so intolerable that whole agency was dismantled. At the time, lawmakers pondered openly why it was being left to them to take such steps. After all, it only came to their attention when Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski brought the accusations to their attention. The problem? Burzynski had spent two years trying to get state, local, and federal prosecutors to do anything about it.

This is an old question. On March 1, 2007, we asked, "Why have there still been no prosecutions? Will the trail of incompetence and foot-dragging finally lead to Attorney General Greg Abbott's door?"

But it was not just the Chronicle asking such questions, and they were not just being posed about Abbott. When Gov. Rick Perry announced that Jay Kimbrough was being made TYC conservator, former Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, asked why he had done nothing about the scandals when he was briefed about them, either in 2005, when he was Perry's Deputy Chief of Staff, or 2006, when he was Abbott's Deputy First Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Office of Special Investigations. Shapleigh argued at the time that Kimbrough's job seemed to be doing "the work of the defense attorneys," after he wrecked a separate major silicosis investigation by illegally grabbing 10,000 x-rays.

And there is not just state blame in this. The U.S. Department of Justice knew about the abuse in 2005, but left the prosecution to Abbott's office, arguing that state law would mean heavier penalties. When it was clear after a year that nothing was happening, why did the feds not move forward? And the US Attorney General at that time? None other than former Texas Supreme Court Justice Alberto Gonzales.

Abbott's campaign spent all of Monday firing back that their hands were tied on the investigation, and that they could only become involved at the request of the local district attorney. However, even if that completely hamstrung his work, why did it take three months from when the Ward County DA asked for his assistance to the first arrests of TYC staff?

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Election 2014, Greg Abbott, Wendy Davis, Texas Youth Commission, TYC, Election November 2014

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