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Dan Hagood’s mission, which he chose to accept, isn’t exactly pleasant. He is in the unenviable position of investigating his former workplace. From the moment he took on the role of special prosecutor, detractors cried foul, claiming that Hagood had a conflict since he had formerly worked at the Dallas District Attorney’s Office. But of all the challenges facing Hagood as he investigates how the Dallas DA’s office, law enforcement officials and others handled the fake drug scandal two years ago, the biggest one may be time. For the past three months, Hagood -� who usually makes $500 an hour as a partner in Dallas’ Fitzpatrick & Hagood but now is paid $100 an hour as a special prosecutor -� has been investigating whether state charges are warranted in one of the city’s worst criminal justice scandals in recent memory. Dallas District Attorney Bill Hill appointed Hagood to look at any possible violations of state law that might have occurred during the fake drug scandal, placing no limitations on who Hagood could investigate. In 2001, the Dallas Police Department arrested and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted dozens of Mexican immigrants on drug charges for what later turned out to be ground gypsum. Police paid informants thousands of dollars for information that led to arrests of people accused of possessing narcotics that turned out to contain little or no drugs. Three drug informants later pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges, and the DA’s Office dropped most of the drug cases against the immigrants in which those informants participated. [ See "Prosecutors, Defense Counsel May Feel Fallout From Sheetrock Cases," Texas Lawyer , Jan. 14, 2002, page 25.] When Hagood accepted the task on Dec. 2, 2003, he pledged to look at police officers, lawyers and even judges when examining how Dallas’ criminal justice system failed. His investigation into the fake drug scandal is scheduled to end in June. But while Hagood declines to talk about the details of the investigation, several lawyers with experience in public integrity investigations say it will be a race against the clock. Hagood likely will look at several allegations involving possible public integrity-related offenses that require indictments within a couple of years of the day the crime occurred. Those offenses, such as official oppression, have a two-year statute of limitations because they are misdemeanor charges, according to �12.02 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Others, such as tampering with a governmental record, have a three-year statute of limitations because they are felony charges, according to �12.01 of the code. Most of the allegations Hagood is investigating occurred more than two years ago. The statute of limitations is the most frustrating aspect of public integrity-related cases, says Cliff Herberg, chief of the white-collar crime division for the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure is weak when it comes to public integrity cases, he says, because it doesn’t allow enough time to investigate some offenses criminals may have covered up for years. “It drives you crazy,” Herberg says. “People do not understand it’s like an iron gate coming down, and it cuts you in half. There is no way around the statute of limitations. Everything just comes to a grinding halt.” It’s a problem Hagood says he is well aware of. “That’s on the forefront of my mind on a daily basis,” he says. And if Hagood finds a charge that will stick at the end of his investigation �- or doesn’t find one -� someone likely will have a problem with his conclusions no matter what they are, he concedes. It’s a situation George Gallagher, a former criminal-defense attorney who served as a special prosecutor numerous times in Tarrant County, can empathize with. “It’s a tough deal when you get appointed [as a] special prosecutor,” says Gallagher, now judge of Fort Worth’s 396th District Court. “You’re kind of the bastard of the system. Some will say you’re a puppet of the state. And others will say you’re on a mission or a vendetta.” That’s another aspect of his job that Hagood can do little to control. “People are going to think what they’re going to think,” Hagood says. “I just hope they respect the results.” State Investigation In early November 2003, Hagood met with Hill for lunch to first discuss the prospect of Hagood leading an inquiry into the fake drug scandal. Hill says he chose Hagood because he’s a “man of integrity.” Weeks after that meeting, a jury acquitted Dallas police officer Mark Delapaz of federal charges connected to the fake drug scandal. Delapaz is the only law enforcement official who has faced trial on any charges related to the scandal. Prosecutors had alleged that Delapaz lied about drug transactions in police reports. Hill says he is the one who decided to ask the Federal Bureau of Investigations in 2002 to look into the fake drug scandal. Hill is adamant that his office was not complicit in the fake drug scandal � an assertion he believes is borne out by the FBI investigation into the drug scandal that resulted only in Delapaz’s indictment. But Hill say he wants the issue put to rest once and for all with an additional state investigation. “At that point in time, I could have said, “The most prestigious investigation institution in the world has investigated this thing, and if they couldn’t find anything, that’s the end of it,’ ” Hill says. However, he adds, “ I felt that there was a possibility that there were some other charges that could be filed against some other people in the police department, etcetera.” So Hill told Hagood to look into the work done by his office. “If he hadn’t said it, I would have,” Hagood says. If anyone knows the Dallas District Attorney’s Office, it’s Hagood. Hagood was a prosecutor there from 1982 until 1994 and rose to the position of supervisory chief felony prosecutor. He also supervised the office’s organized crime division and has plenty of experience with drug cases, he says. He had a string of successes as a prosecutor on tough cases ranging from the capital murder prosecution of a woman whom a jury found guilty of hiring an assassin to kill her husband in 1983, and the conviction of a group of men who killed two clerks at a Richardson sporting goods store during an armed robbery. Hagood also has had a successful run as a criminal-defense attorney. In January, he convinced assistant U.S. attorneys in Illinois to drop two drug conspiracy charges filed against client Frank Perez, a Dallas solo. Perez vehemently denied the allegations. Few attorneys who know Hagood question his integrity or his ability as a criminal lawyer. But three lawyers who’ve been keeping an eye on the fake drug scandal believe there’s an appearance problem in Hill appointing Hagood to investigate an office for which he used to work. “He came out of that office recently enough that some of the people he’s going to look at, he knows,” says Paul Coggins, a partner in the Dallas office of Fish & Richardson, who defended Delapaz in his federal trial. “I just think it’s problematic when the DA is picking who is going to look at him.” Coggins points out that Hill has sent other public integrity-related cases to district attorneys’ offices in counties adjacent to Dallas for investigation, including a pending investigation into bribery allegations surrounding Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles, which is being handled by the Collin County District Attorney’s Office, and an investigation into a campaign funding dispute concerning 2002 Dallas mayoral race, which has been handled by the Tarrant County DA’s Office. “Had this been the Tarrant County fake drug case, Hagood would have been superb,” says a former Dallas County prosecutor who requests anonymity. “But there’s always going to be a lingering doubt about whether his connections are compromising. And that’s unfortunate for him.” But Hill defends his choice of Hagood, saying that if he’d asked another DA’s office to look at the fake drug scandal, Hill would still get criticized. “Somebody would have probably said, “Well, heck, because he’s asking another district attorney’s office to investigate our office, it’ll be one of those deals where you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,’ ” Hill says. Hagood says he is taking no orders from Hill or anyone in his office during the investigation. His client is the state of Texas, he says, not the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. Hill says the appearance problem is cured by Hagood’s decision last month to ask Jack Zimmerman, a criminal-defense attorney and partner in Houston’s Zimmermann & Lavine, to assist as a deputy special prosecutor. “No. 1, it was thought best by everybody involved to have someone come in from the outside who had no connection to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and the Dallas Police Department,” Zimmermann says. “And, secondly, it was turning into a lot of work for one attorney.” If anything, Hagood may be more willing to root out corruption in his former workplace than a person with no connections to the DA’s office, says Christie Williams, a former Dallas assistant prosecutor who’s now a partner in Mills & Williams. “I think that anybody who has worked at the DA’s office has a vested interest in that office being continued to be viewed as an ethical place,” Williams says. “It’s offensive to anybody who’s spent any time there that police officers and prosecutors aren’t doing things right.” Rusty Hardin, a former Harris County assistant district attorney who has served as a special prosecutor and is a friend of Hagood’s, doubts Hagood will pull any punches. “You’ve got to understand that those of us who become prosecutors and defense attorneys and trial lawyers have big egos. And none of us want to be seen as rollovers,” says Hardin, founder of Houston’s Rusty Hardin & Associates. “I think it will do great damage to Dan’s conscience to be perceived as rolling over just because he knows people in the office.” Still, Hagood is in a position where he’ll never be the good guy, Hardin says. “If he seeks indictments against a bunch of people, their supporters are going to be all over him,” Hardin says. “And if he doesn’t seek indictments, then the other people will say, “Why didn’t he indict them?’ “ But Hardin says Hagood is a standup guy for taking the thankless job. “I figure Dan thought somebody had to do it,” Hardin says. “It might as well be him.”

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