Naked City

A Mala Sangre Silence

It's been more than a week since Austin Police Department officials told Naked City that Chief Stan Knee was in the process of composing a statement that would: 1) outline the chief's reasons for choosing James McLaughlin to conduct an independent inquiry into Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman and 2) address the potential conflict of interest that McLaughlin's work as a legislative lobbyist may pose to the independence of the Chapman investigation. And yet, again, at press time, no such statement was available.

Knee retained McLaughlin, executive director and general counsel for the Texas Police Chiefs Association, to investigate whether Chapman committed perjury while under oath during a deposition taken in July in connection with the latest Mala Sangre-related whistle-blower lawsuit, filed last year by Officer Jeff White. What Knee failed to realize, or at least to tell the public, is that McLaughlin is also the TCPA's registered lobbyist -- a job that poses, at least, the perception of a conflict, since Chapman has recently hired Austin Rep. Terry Keel, chair of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, as his lawyer.

There is no indication that McLaughlin has lobbied Keel -- or any other members of the three law enforcement-related House committees on which Keel sits -- on any legislation. (Keel, the former Travis Co. sheriff, told reporters earlier this week that -- as improbable as it may seem -- he had neither met nor heard of McLaughlin before both the rep and the TCPA director became involved in the Chapman case.) Yet McLaughlin's multiple roles have cast another potential shadow over the APD top brass, already bruised after years of foot-dragging and downplaying longstanding allegations of criminal activity -- and obstruction of justice -- by officers related to the defunct mid-Nineties drug trafficking investigation code-named Mala Sangre, or Bad Blood.

While Knee has yet to release any public statement about his hiring of McLaughlin -- who is being paid $30,000 to conduct the Chapman inquiry -- he told the Austin American-Statesman that questioning McLaughlin's integrity was "unfair to [McLaughlin], and I believe [those questions are] inappropriate."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Stan Knee, Jimmy Chapman, Mala Sangre, Jeff White, James McLaughlin, Texas Police Chiefs Association, Terry Keel

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