Changing the System: An Interview with Kim Ogg
Illustration by Shelby Hohl
With the election day on November 8 and early voting continuing from now until November 4 at 7 pm, it’s time to do your part and vote. One of the most contentious races in the city is for the position of Harris County District Attorney, between Republican incumbent Devon Anderson and Democratic challenger Kim Ogg.
Free Press Houston contacted Ogg to find out more about the race, her plans to lead our criminal justice system, and how her commitment to halting prosecution of misdemeanor marijuana possession could save the city millions.
Free Press Houston: During a podcast with The American Chronicle, Anderson recently said that you would be a “liberal, pro-choice, lesbian district attorney.” A spokesperson for her campaign said that the comments were taken out of context, do you believe this to be true?
Kim Ogg: The context obviously proves that Devon Anderson considers being a Lesbian a negative that somehow makes me less fit to serve. In her attempt to pander to the far right, by stoking their homophobia, Anderson confirmed that she is willing to discriminate when it benefits her.
FPH: Anderson recently came under fire for jailing a mentally ill rape victim. How do you feel about the situation and would you have handled it differently?
Ogg: The jailing of an innocent rape victim in order to win a case is another example of the incumbent district attorney’s bad judgment. Prosecutors all over the country successfully prosecute rapists without jailing their victims, but Anderson defended the tactic as though absent this act the accused rapist would have gone free. In truth, many options existed. The victim could have been returned to her residence out of county (she was not homeless — this is another lie being advanced by the District Attorney), housed in a hotel as many other witnesses often are, or had an ankle monitor placed on her so that she could be located. More simply, the DA could have asked the Court for a continuance until Jenny’s mental health stabilized. Instead, because it was Christmas, the prosecutors threw the victim in jail for their convenience. Anderson and her assistant district attorneys’ actions were unconscionable.
FPH: How do you feel about changing the protocol for marijuana possession charges in Harris County?
Ogg: I have committed to halting prosecution of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases in Harris County through a law that will allow officers to cite the offenders for the offense and avoid jail and bail. This will successfully remove an average of 12,000 people per year from the Harris County criminal justice system, helping them avoid convictions that result in lifelong criminal records. The savings is estimated at $10 million per year, tax money that Houstonians believe should be used to test rape kits and DNA collected from unsolved burglary cases which are sitting on crime lab shelves as we speak. Those caught with misdemeanor amounts of pot may be directed to community service on our bayous or be written tickets for paraphernalia; I will work within the system to determine the penalty, but none will be subject to jail, bail, or a criminal record.
FPH: How do you think expanding the diversion court system could help the city?
Ogg: While 115,000 people are arrested in Harris County each year, only about 4,000 are diverted to programs that will help them avoid a criminal record. Additionally, my opponent’s policy is to only offer diversion options to first offenders. My policies and practices will be directed at keeping people in the workforce whenever possible and to do so; I will open the opportunity for diversion programs up to thousands of more people who are charged with non-violent drug offenses, including offenders with previous convictions. Many of the offenders currently denied pre-trial diversion because of their past are literally pulled out of the workforce, sent to jail and rendered unemployable by the policies of the current district attorney.
FPH: What would you tell critics about the $500,000 advertising buy from George Soros?
Ogg: Until the current District Attorney made national news by jailing an innocent rape victim, no large PAC had contributed to my campaign. Because Harris County has had multiple national stories of injustice, because of Devon Anderson’s mistreatment of victims and wrongful conviction rate, PACs helped me fund my campaign to inform the public about my opponent’s terrible record. Harris County residents deserve to know who is responsible for such unfair practices: and that’s Devon Anderson herself.
My opponent’s campaign has tried to create a false narrative that my policies have been influenced by my financial supporters, but my policy and platforms have been consistent. The difference has been the Pct. 4 scandal and the jailing of rape victims bringing a spotlight on Devon Anderson’s irresponsible and dangerous decisions. The outrage extended beyond Harris County and allowed me to fundraise from many sources; from large PACs all the way down to a student in North Carolina who donated $2 in support.
FPH: Why should Harris County voters feel confident voting for you?
Ogg: I have a lifelong professional history of public service, having served as a prosecutor, a defense attorney, the City of Houston’s first Anti-Gang Director and the Executive Director of Crime Stoppers. I have succeeded in these diverse positions and have the experience to lead our criminal justice system during a time of much-needed reform and change. It is time to rethink the way we deliver public safety and stop over-convicting and incarcerating. We must protect ourselves from violent and dangerous criminals, AND we must protect everyone’s civil rights at the same time. Of the choices before voters, I have the best record of advocating for crime victims, protecting the innocent and reducing the crime rate. I am dedicated to building a trustworthy criminal justice system and being a District Attorney who the people can count on to safeguard our families and the rights we all enjoy as Americans.