Getting Lonely at the Top

A recycled city official comes home to roost

Sylvester's Time?

State Representative Sylvester Turner was all over the recently concluded state Democratic convention in El Paso, leaving no doubts that he's gearing up for another Houston mayoral race. Turner lost a close, mud-smeared runoff to Bob Lanier in 1991 and then waged war with a libel suit against Channel 13 and investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino. Buttons worn by his supporters in El Paso proclaimed "It's Turner's Time" and featured a clock emblem with "2003."

Although many political observers assumed that the bad publicity Turner received during the libel trial and long-ago campaign made another mayoral bid unlikely, Harris County Democratic chair Sue Schechter begs to differ.

"I rate his chances very good," says Schechter. "I've done a jillion events [with Turner] and the crowds love him. On their feet and wild about him. On a bus trip to a legislative session, he had everybody up with ovation after ovation. He was just fantastic."

One crowd that isn't giving Sly ovations is the folks at the State Bar of Texas. It issued a public reprimand to the lawyer late last year and published the details in the May issue of its journal. A bar grievance committee found that a woman had paid Turner $1,000 to be her divorce attorney, but he didn't communicate with her about the case or trial date, and didn't even show up in court to represent her. A judge granted the divorce and issued a default judgment against her -- but Turner didn't tell his client about that either. He was ordered to pay the woman $1,543.

Before running for mayor again, maybe Turner needs to clean his clock.

Blast from the Past

The national news coverage of the bizarre court maneuvers of so-called 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaouibriefly focused last week on Houston attorney Charles Freeman. Reports described him as a Muslim lawyer and adviser to the man charged in the September 11 conspiracy. They failed to note that Freeman has some life experiences that might be of use in defending the alleged terrorist.

In 1967, Freeman was one of five Texas Southern University student activists charged with homicide in the shooting death of Houston police officer Louis Kubaduring a TSU campus riot. Police claimed they were fired on from the dormitories. Students claimed it was a police riot and that the officers fired on the dorms and trashed the rooms.

The bullet that killed the officer apparently came from another policeman's gun. However, the group was charged with murder under a wide-ranging Texas law passed during the unrest of the '60s. It made participants in a riot responsible for any illegal actions that occur during the incident.

That parallels Moussaoui's situation -- he was already arrested and in a jail cell when the hijacked planes hit their targets on September 11. He faces the death penalty for his alleged role in the planning of the attacks. A judge has ruled that Freeman cannot be his attorney because he is not licensed to practice law in Virginia.

In the TSU situation, only Freeman was tried on murder charges. That 1968 proceeding in Victoria ended in a mistrial and the state eventually dropped all charges. Freeman went on to law school and a career as a lawyer in the Harris County criminal courts. It will likely take a feat of courtroom wizardry to produce the same result for Moussaoui.

Forget Me Not

In our exploration last week of rising Asian-American political clout in Houston, The Insider somehow neglected to cite Jay Aiyer, the first Indian-American to sit on the Houston Community College Board. Aiyer, a former chief of staff for Mayor Brown, was appointed to the board last year. He and another trustee automatically received full terms when they faced no opponents last fall.

Also, a tip of the hat to paralegal Andrew Tran. The Vietnamese-American is the Democratic candidate facing incumbent Talmadge Heflinfor the position of state representative District 149 in Harris County.

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