AG Orders Conroe to Release Sadler DWI Video

Conroe, Texas (Montgomery County Monitor) – At approximately 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, 2009, Montgomery County Judge, Alan Sadler was involved in a minor traffic accident on North Loop 336 at Longmire Road.  A Conroe Police Department patrol unit discovered the scene and eventually moved the vehicles into a nearby parking lot.

During the course of the accident investigation, officers performed a field sobriety test on Sadler and placed him into custody for suspicion of driving while intoxicated.  According to published reports, at the jail, Sadler eventually gave a breath and blood sample for testing.  The breath sample showed an amount of alcohol well below the legal limit and Sadler was released.  The blood sample results, released weeks later, showed phenobarbital in Sadler’s system.

The story at the time was extensively covered.  The Courier reported they requested copies of various items, including dash camera video, from the City of Conroe.  The city sought to withhold the information and asked for a ruling from the Texas Attorney General.  The Attorney General ruled to allow the city to withhold some of the information requested including any dash camera video of the incident.  Texas law allows governmental bodies to withhold information if the release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime.

Sadler performing a field sobriety test administered by a Conroe PD officer

According to court records, on April 3, 2009, Sadler plead guilty to a class B misdemeanor charge of Driving While Intoxicated.  He was fined $1,000, ordered to pay court costs of $428.00 and had his drivers license suspended for 90 days.  This plea agreement effectively eliminated the City of Conroe’s main argument for not releasing documents, including dash camera video, related to this incident.

On June 1, 2009, Montgomery County Monitor sent a request to the Conroe Police Department asking for a copy of, “any patrol unit videos…” from the incident.  The request was forwarded to the city and Assistant City Attorney, Gary Scott, responded to the request.

Scott’s response included a brief sent to the Texas Attorney General seeking to withhold the video.  The brief contained four arguments for withholding the requested video.  To summarize, Scott claimed:

  1. The video depicted a third-party private citizen.
  2. Sadler had not exhausted his post conviction remedies.
  3. The video depicted a peace officer.
  4. Crime status information was audible on the video tape.

On July 1, 2009, Montgomery County Monitor also sent an identical request for the video to the Montgomery County District Attorney.  Bill Delmore,  Assistant District Attorney and Public Information Officer for the District Attorney’s Office, responded with a request for a ruling in part stating, “the district attorney hereby joins in the city’s request for an opinion, and seeks the attorney general’s opinion as to whether the video may be withheld…”

In his Attorney General’s request for a ruling, Delmore reiterated three of the four arguments made by the City of Conroe.  The arguments included:

  1. The video depicted a third-party private citizen.
  2. Sadler had not exhausted his post conviction remedies.
  3. The video depicted a peace officer.

Not believing any of the arguments met the exceptions allowed under the law, Montgomery County Monitor sent a rebuttal to the Texas Attorney General refuting the claimed exceptions listed above.

On August 31, 2009 the Texas Attorney General ruled the entire video of the incident must be released.

Two of the four arguments, along with the Attorney General’s specific responses, are highlighted below.

In his argument regarding the peace officer depiction in the video, Scott claimed,
The officer depicted in the dash cam video is the officer that effectuated the arrest of a popular political figure her[e] in Montgomery County.  Such action, by some in the community, is seen in a bad light.  Some in the community may seek retribution or to do harm based upon this officers actions depicted in the police dash cam video.  The officers physical safety could be in jeopardy by his actions on March 4, 2009.”

In response, the Attorney General’s ruling states:
You argue that because the arrested individual is a popular political figure, his arrest is ’seen in a bad light’ by some people in the community.  You assert that these people ‘may seek retribution’ against the officer depicted in the video recording.  After review of your arguments, however, we find you have not demonstrated, and it is not apparent from our review of the submitted information, that the release of the images of the officer in the submitted video recording would endanger the life or physical safety of the peace officer depicted; therefore the department may not withhold the images of the officer…” Follow this link about Public Records Montgomery County and find more.

Additionally, Scott argued Judge Sadler had not exhausted his post conviction remedies, in part, by stating,
The individual arrested, charged, and convicted maintains his right to a post conviction writ of habeous corpus.  This individual maintains this right and may assert this post conviction right.  The individual has not exhausted ‘all appellate and post conviction remedies’ , thus making the state a potential party to litigation of a criminal nature….  Due to the recent conviction of the defendant, his status and political position in the community, and the nature of the charge against him, his potential to assert his post conviction rights are likely…”

In response, the Attorney General’s ruling states:
“…you assert that the individual at issue has not exhausted ‘all appellate and post conviction remedies.’  We note the department would not be a party to any appellate proceedings regarding this matter and therefore does not have a litigation interest in the matter….  Furthermore, the requestor has provided this office the Trial Court’s Certification of Defendant’s Right of Appeal, in which the individual at issue acknowledges that the case at issue was ‘a plea-bargain case, and the defendant has NO right of appeal.’  Therefore, we find the department has failed to show that litigation was reasonably anticipated on the date it received the present request for information.”

As per the ruling, the video was released last week.

A full length unedited version which runs 61 minutes and a shorter edited version which runs approximately nine minutes are available for viewing.

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