Indictment Of Financially Strapped Texas Sup. Court Justice In Home Torching Dismissed; Subprime Mortgage Recently In Foreclosure; Grand Jury Outraged
- The highest reaches of the Texas judicial system were consumed Friday by a real-life legal thriller that could be titled "The Runaway Grand Jury." A grand jury indicted a Texas Supreme Court justice Thursday on arson-related charges. But on Friday the district attorney's office that brought the case to the grand jury in the first place dropped the charges, angering members of the panel and drawing allegations of political backscratching. Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, who is himself embroiled in a scandal involving inappropriate e-mails found on his office computer, said there was insufficient evidence to support the charges against Justice David Medina, a fellow Republican.
- [Medina's] wife, Francisca, was accused of setting a fire last summer that destroyed the couple's suburban Houston house and damaged a neighbor's residence. Her husband was charged with evidence tampering in the June 28 blaze, which caused nearly $1 million in damages.
- The fire marshal's office has said the fire at the Medinas' home in Spring, north of Houston, was not electrical or accidental. A dog detected an accelerant at the scene. Investigators became suspicious after discovering a mortgage company sued in June 2006 to foreclose on the $300,000 home. The lawsuit, filed after the family missed payments for five months, was settled in December 2006. [Medina's attorney] has acknowledged the family had financial problems. They owed nearly $1,900 in fees to a homeowners association and also let the insurance policy on the house lapse, meaning losses from the fire were not covered.
- “I’ve just never seen anything like the vigor with which these two defendants were defended by the Harris County district attorney’s office,” the assistant foreman, Jeffrey Dorrell, told The Chronicle. “It was theater of the absurd. We knew before we handed the indictment down that the district attorney was going to refuse to prosecute.”
The Houston Chronicle reports that the fire also damaged two adjacent homes, and describes Medina's mortgage that went into foreclosure as a subprime adjustable rate mortgage. See Medina attorney asks judge to sanction 2 grand jury members:
- Medina and his wife purchased the home in the Olde Oaks subdivision in 1992, according to appraisal district records. Loan documents show he took out an adjustable rate home equity loan in 2003 for $288,000, equal to the home's full appraised value at the time. The interest rate was high — almost 10 percent — and was to adjust upward to a cap of almost 16 percent in December 2005. His previous monthly note of about $2,500 could have jumped considerably.
For a subsequent column in the Southeast Texas Record on this story, see A Judicial Career Up in Flames? The Strange Case of David Medina.