Random Friday Morning Thoughts

  • I bring you the greatest legal story of the year:
  • State Rep. Poncho Nevarez announced he wouldn't seek re-election last week and now we know why: He dropped a sealed envelope at an Austin airport which had four little bags of cocaine in it. It was found by a TxDOT worker on the ground who opened it. The press learned of this after DPS sought a search warrant to get the DNA off the seal of the envelope. Besides the issue of whether that should kill someone's political career, this case is a great factual scenario for Criminal Law exam:
    • Was it an illegal search for the TxDOT worker to open up a sealed envelope? Should the the government have obtained a warrant first? (If yes, the cocaine can't be used against Nevarez and there is no criminal case.)
    • Does it matter that that person who opened it was just a TxDOT agent who not part of law enforcement? Does it matter if he was on duty or off duty?
    • Does it matter that the sealed envelope was found on the ground?  Does the owner still have a privacy interest in it or is it considered "abandoned"?
    • Can you accidentally abandon property or must you intentionally discard it to lose your privacy interest?
    • Does it matter that it was sealed with his name and office address on it since it would  appear to be property that was lost and a person could easily determine where to return it?
    • Do any of the federal mail laws apply? What if there was a stamp and address on it? 
    • Do the cops actually need a search warrant to get the DNA off the envelope? They didn't get a warrant to open the envelope so why do they need one now? 
    • Does the seeking of a search warrant for the DNA by DPS constitute an admission by the agency that the envelope shouldn't have been opened without a warrant?
    • Nevarez admitted he was an "addict" yesterday and was seeking "help". Can he still challenge the opening of the envelope as an illegal search?  
    • Does Nevarez's statement qualify as an "admission" of knowingly possessing cocaine in this very incident or is it too vague or refers only to extraneous offenses which are generally inadmissible?
    • Nevarez had just gotten off a private plane. Is there any way he could be federally charged? Is there sufficient proof of crossing state lines? If not, does federal regulation of airport property enough to give federal jurisdiction?
  • Nevarez, amazingly, is facing a Third Degree Felony (2 to 10 years) although no one outside of law enforcement seems particularly excited about prosecution. All his colleagues are "saddened" and "glad to see he is seeking help." No one thinks he should be locked up. (And it makes you wonder how many other "normal" people routinely do cocaine but you just simply don't know about it and nothing about their conduct tips you off.)
  • A guy who should face a greater offense is the guy in San Francisco caught on video tearing off the face mask on the Joe Montana statute. I hope he at least sees some time inside the hoosegow. 
  • Nancy Pelosi spoke yesterday indicating that key word from here on out will be "bribery" instead of "quid pro quo." In more entertaining news, she turned to the camera and explained "exculpatory" to Trump.
  • The PAC Empower Texans has made a lot of news lately primarily by ambushing Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and causing his ouster. I've found its president is one strange guy. And factually and legally challenged as well as Exhibit A demonstrates: 
  • Fort Worth ISD is selling Farrington Field (by Casa Manana). It has lots of bathrooms, a big yard, but is kind of a fixer-upper. 
  • This was floating around yesterday regarding how UT's south end zone will look like once construction is complete. I have no idea if it is real. I hope it is.
  • In case you missed it, an aTm alum almost killed a quarterback last night by trying to crush his head with a helmet. Best quick loading videos are here and here if you haven't seen it. 
  • The Star-Telegram will no longer have a Saturday print edition beginning sometime in 2020.
  • The Federalist Society, which every conservative judge sucks up to in order to get federal appointments, had a big gala in D.C. last night. Brett Kavanaugh was there. Outside, protesters put up a huge video screen showing the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford (video), and others dressed up as from the Handmaid's Tale (pics).  I'm more interested in Kavanaugh talking to a young Mary Tyler Moore look-alike.
    "Ooooooooh, Brett!"
  • The first Watergate hearing in 1973 was described with terms of "dramatic laboriousness" and "tedious" in the New York Times
  • The alternative Fort Worth Weekly is already questioning how the Tarrant County DA's office will handle the prosecution of the police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson. On a related note, I was caught off guard by a line in the story that said "the judge" had issued a gag order in this case. I thought that was 100% wrong because the cop hasn't even been indicted. How can there be a gag order when there is no case which has been assigned to a judge? But, I'll be, there is one. Some of my criminal law knowing readers need to explain this to me. (I'm guessing the judge is the one who has jurisdiction over the grand jury, but why is there a cause number?) Regardless, I've never heard of a gag order pre-grand jury. 
  • There should be a better system than 10-0 Decatur having to travel all the way to Childress for a first round playoff game. (It's 181 miles away per The Google.)
  • Regarding the headline below, I'm not sure why he is "sought"? Give him a call and he'll turn himself in. What are we, Barbarians? (DPS obtained a warrant last night and let the press know about it.)