Friday, July 9, 2010

Judge Fine Strikes Again

No county in the United States comes anywhere near Harris County when it comes to injecting lethal chemicals into the arms of its citizenry. Harris County is of course in Texas, home to Houston. Of the 461 people executed in Texas in the "modern era", 113 were tried for crimes in Harris County. The Texas county with the second highest number of executions is Dallas County, with a mere 43.

If Harris County were a state, it would have more executions than any other state, excluding of course the remainder of Texas. (You can't beat Texas, even if you are Harris County.) Compared to Harris County's 113 executions, Virginia has executed 107, Oklahoma 92, Florida 69, Missouri 67, Georgia 47, Alabama 46, and North Carolina 43, same as Dallas County.

Harris County has a victim's rights division within its District Attorney's Office. Eloise Mireles had worked in that division for sixteen years. Some time after the turn of the century, she noticed an accounting weakness in the tracking of restitution payments made by convicted criminals. Rather than fix or report that weakness, she exploited it. She stole incoming cashier's checks and money orders and had her loving husband, Daniel, deposit them in their personal account. They spent the money on trips, concerts, and tickets to Houston Texans and Houston Rockets games.

As embezzlement schemes are apt to do, this one fell apart. Last August, she was arrested for stealing $1000 from the restitution fund. Last December, the charges were upgraded after investigators determined she had stolen more than 400 checks and money orders, valued at more than $255,000.

Their case came before none other than Judge Kevin Fine, who will later this year will consider the constitutionality of all those executions in Harris County. Eloise pleaded guilty to theft by a public servant of more than $200,000. That's a first degree felony, subjecting her to a sentence ranging from probation to life in prison. Daniel pleaded guilty to second-degree felony theft, subjecting him to a sentence ranging from probation to 20 years in prison.

I'll give you a moment to guess at the sentence handed down by Judge Fine. I predict that whatever you guess, you won't come anywhere close.

Yesterday, July 8, Judge Fine ordered that Eloise spend the next 6 months in prison. He also ordered that the two of them would:
  • Spend one month in jail each year for the next six years
  • Pay full restitution over the next 10 years, beginning with the $95,000 they still have on hand.
  • Complete 400 hours of community service. She must pick up trash. He can pick up trash, clean graffiti, or wire homes for Habitat for Humanity. (He had been previously employed as a cable television technician.)
  • Display a sign in front of their home reading "The occupants of this residence are convicted theives. They stole $250,000 from the Harris County Crime Victm's fund. Signed, Judge Kevin Fine.
  • Wear signs for five hours every weekend, he on Saturdays and she on Sundays, at the corner of Post Oak and Westheimer. The sign will read "I am a thief. I stole $255,000 from a crime victim's fund."
Using Goggle Street View, I present the intersection of Post Oak and Westheimer. This is where Eloise and Daniel Mireles will wear their signs for five hours on weekends. Working clockwise from the upper left, there's an Ethan Allen, a Dillard's, a Starbuck's and the Houston Galleria. Click any image to enlarge.

Through his attorney, Daniel said he would rather admit every day that he was wrong than go to prison. Through her attorney, Eloise had no comment.