Assistant DA fired for questioning victim’s immigration status, dropping sex assault case, police say

HOUSTON (KTRK/CNN) - An assistant district attorney in Houston was fired after an officer said he refused to pursue a sexual assault case.

Houston police say the prosecutor was more concerned with the victim's immigration status than the crime.

The assistant district attorney with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office was fired on Friday after an officer said he questioned a sex assault victim's immigration status and refused to file charges on the suspect.

“I'm glad the D.A. finally took action on one of her top appointees that was hand-picked by her," said Joe Gimaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers Union.

Gimaldi went to the media earlier this week and said on Halloween night, an HPD officer witnessed DWI suspect Karl Bonner expose himself and pull another inmate toward him, and the victim yelled out for help.

When the officer spoke with John Denholm at the district attorney’s office he said Denholm was more interested in the victim’s immigration status instead of the sex assault incident, Gimaldi said.

"Our officer reached out to us immediately,” Gimaldi said.

Soon after, Denholm was re-assigned, pending an internal investigation, but as of Friday, he was let go.

“It is wrong to ask about a victim’s immigration status; it is against our policy, and it won’t be tolerated,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “We treat everyone equally under the law, no matter how they came to be here.”

"Other officers were able to follow up on the case a few days after this unfortunate incident and were actually able to get charges on that suspect,” Gimaldi said.

Bonner is now charged with DWI and sex assault.

Karl Bonner is charged with sexual assault after an officer said he watched Bonner expose himself and pull another inmate toward him.
Karl Bonner is charged with sexual assault after an officer said he watched Bonner expose himself and pull another inmate toward him. (Source: KTRK via CNN)

"As it turns out District Attorney Denholm, he actually did violate a policy,” said Carlos Doroteo, an immigration rights attorney.

Doroteo said he contacted the district attorney’s office and was told this should have never happened and will never happen again.

“At the end of the day, criminals count on people being afraid. We don't want you to be afraid,” Doroteo said.

It’s a sentiment Gimaldi agrees with and hopes the immigrant community is not discouraged by this isolated incident.

"Please, please if you are the victim of a crime, come forward. We will help you,” Gimaldi said. “We are not going to question your legal status nor should anyone in criminal justice question their status."

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