Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal was “crestfallen” when two assistants told him on Nov. 26, 2007, that thousands of his e-mails that were under subpoena were missing, Scott Durfee, general counsel for the DA’s office, testified on Jan. 31. Durfee testified during a federal court hearing on a motion seeking a contempt finding and sanctions against Rosenthal for allegedly failing to produce the e-mails last November. Durfee testified that Rosenthal told him he thought the e-mails at issue were saved on the county’s e-mail system. “He had assumed that I had saved them,” Durfee testified during an all-day hearing on Jan. 31. “When I told him I had not, he was very . . . surprised.” First Assistant DA Bert Graham, who accompanied Durfee on Nov. 26, 2007, to tell Rosenthal about the missing e-mails, testified that Rosenthal said he thought the thousands of e-mails he deleted were backed up, copied or “still available” somewhere. Durfee and Graham were among four witnesses who testified at the hearing in U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt’s court on the contempt motion filed by the plaintiffs against Rosenthal in Erik Adam Ibarra, et al. v. Harris County, et al., a federal civil rights suit. Before Graham and Durfee took the stand, Gary Zallar, director of information services for the DA’s office, testified that Rosenthal deleted at least a few of the e-mails on Nov. 5, 2007, just hours after Durfee compiled a log that noted that 4,126 e-mails dated between July 1, 2007, and Oct. 15, 2007 — the time period cited in the subpoena — were in Rosenthal’s e-mail account. Zallar testified that about 2,000 of the Rosenthal e-mails cannot be recovered, despite his best efforts. Rosenthal didn’t take the witness stand on Jan. 31, but the hearing was scheduled to resume on Feb. 1. The witnesses testified before a packed courtroom, after about 100 protestors who were calling for Rosenthal’s resignation outside the courthouse took seats in the courtroom for the afternoon session.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys