Spinning the Story
The APD and U.S. Attorney's official position on Mala Sangre
In an extensive interview with the Chronicle last week, Chief Stan Knee and Assistant Chief Rick Coy responded at length to questions about why the Mala Sangre task force shut down in Austin. Their answers in essence reject much of the sworn testimony provided to city attorneys by federal agents and APD officers assigned to the investigation.
During the 90-minute interview, Knee and Coy insisted that whenever it could, the police department fully investigated all allegations concerning criminal activities by APD officers. The federal agencies involved in the investigation, said Knee, would not supply them with enough information to do very much additional investigation. And both administrators reiterated their belief that most of the allegations contained in IRS agent Wayne Young's Mala Sangre "Summary of Allegations" are based on rumors and unreliable sources.
Knee and Coy said that the responsibility for any criminal investigations fell on the shoulders of the federal agencies involved in the task force. When asked if that meant they believed the APD is therefore absolved of responsibility to investigate the charges on its own, Knee replied: "No, that is absolutely asinine, and I wouldn't say that, and if you print that I'll be real upset." However, the chief continued, "since the task force was investigating the criminal misconduct, it was their responsibility to do the criminal [investigation], unless they spun a case off and handed it to us and asked us to investigate it. And they didn't do that."
In their sworn depositions, however, IRS agent Young and U.S. Attorney Mark Marshall said that they would not have "spun off" another case while still pursuing Mala Sangre's main target, convicted drug trafficker Roger López, because that could potentially alert their primary target, thereby destroying years of investigative work. (Citing federal confidentiality agreements, the federal officers involved in the Mala Sangre task force would not comment on the case, aside from the testimony contained in their sworn depositions.)
In light of the APD administrators' reiterated conviction that the allegations against APD officers were baseless and did not merit further investigation, we asked Chief Knee why he thought several APD officers continue to disagree with that assessment. Knee paused. "Well," he replied, "I can't answer that."
A few days prior to the Chronicle's interview with chiefs Knee and Coy, the U.S. Attorney's office in San Antonio told us that it would not review the Mala Sangre case unless directly requested to do so by the Austin Police Department. Yet on Feb. 7, two days after our APD interview, U.S. Attorney Bill Blagg issued a prepared statement (published the next day in the Austin American-Statesman) which repeated -- virtually verbatim -- what we had just been told by Chief Stan Knee: "No officer of the Austin Police Department was ever called before the federal grand jury, charged or indicted in connection with the investigation. Had there been credible admissible evidence that any officer had committed a federal criminal offense, charges would have been pursued at the time." According to the Statesman, Assistant Chief Mike McDonald described the statement as "what [the APD] expected."
Unfortunately, the U.S. Attorney's statement -- headlined in the Statesman "U.S. attorney ends police inquiry" -- did not address the central charge made by Stan Farris and the other APD officers assigned to the Mala Sangre investigation: that they were not allowed to complete the investigation that could have provided "credible, admissible evidence" against APD officers.