Houston Attorney Accuses Fellow Lawyer of Faking Letter from Doctor
Let's say you're prominent Houston criminal defense attorney Stan Schneider, and you've been hired by the wealthy siblings of a 53-year-old man who has already confessed to sexually assaulting an eight-year-old boy.
You hire a psychologist to examine your client, John Dolard, and the psychologist tells you Dolard has pedophilic tendencies (duh) but says nothing about the guy being insane. So you bring in a big gun — prominent Houston psychiatrist George Glass. You've used Glass before, and you know he's a good guy.
Glass is an experienced medical professional who once gave former hand surgeon and former living person Michael "Pass the Cocaine, Please" Brown a clean bill of health after Brown got in trouble for beating his pregnant wife with a broken bedpost and shooting at her through a locked bathroom door. A lot of lay people, as well as those in law enforcement, thought Brown was bananas — and highly dangerous, to boot — but those people were rubes. They didn't write books or have fancy degrees like Glass.
So Glass agrees to interview your child-rapist client, and he drafts a preliminary report in July 2011. Like the psychologist's conclusion, Glass's report says nothing about Dolard's being insane.
But time passes, and you don't just want your client to plead out. Surely there has to be a viable defense. Plus, the contract with your clients' siblings pays you more if you get a trial date set. You don't even have to go to trial. You get paid just for getting on the docket. Boo-yah.
So even though neither of your experts' draft reports touch on your client's sanity, you decide to file a notice of an insanity defense in Fort Bend County District Court. But first, you need something in writing from either the psychologist or Glass. You ask the psychologist, but he tells you he has nothing that could possibly help.
You already know Glass has never given you a written opinion on your client's sanity, but you've talked about Dolard possibly having Asperger's syndrome, so you think it might be worth a shot. (At the time of the case, Asperger's was a stand-alone social-emotional disorder listed in psychiatry's diagnostic manual but was not characterized by an inability to distinguish right from wrong.)
So on May 16, 2012, you sit down and shoot Glass an email that reads as a letter from Glass to you, saying Dolard did not know right from wrong at the time of the crime.
Two days letter, Glass provides you the exact same copy you emailed him, only this time it's on Glass's letterhead. Glass subsequently writes an in-depth report, and testifies at the sentencing hearing, netting a cool $38,000.
Ultimately, you decide to withdraw the insanity plea and persuade Dolard to take a plea deal in December 2012. He gets 20 years, and you get $200,000 from his siblings.
But then a curious thing happens: In 2016, another prominent criminal defense attorney, Randy Schaffer, files a motion on Dolard's behalf for a re-sentencing. Schaffer is able to examine all court records, including emails between you and Glass. Schaffer finds the May 16 email and Glass's identical letter, and he wonders if maybe the two of you cooked up a bogus insanity defense out of whole cloth — not for your client's sake, but in your own financial interest.
That's how things played out during a May court hearing, when Schaffer grilled Glass and attorney Stan Schneider about the emails. Fort Bend County District Judge Brady Elliott ultimately found no merit in Schaffer's allegations, but the record raises serious questions.
The email exchange at issue begins with a May 16, 2012, email from Schneider to Glass:
Glass responded with, "looks good, I'll get it done tommorrow [sic] am."
To which Schneider replied, "I will now file my notice of intent to present an insanity defense....I hope that the email will not get into your file."
Two days later, Schneider received this letter from Glass:
Transcripts from last month's court hearing show that, when Schaffer asked Glass if he wrote that letter, Glass replied, "Yes, I did."
Schaffer: "These are your words; this is your letter?"
Glass: "That's correct."
Schaffer: "Did Stanley Schneider tell you what to say?"
Glass: "Absolutely not."
Schaffer: "Stanley Schneider didn't tell you what to put in that letter?"
Glass: "Stanley Schneider did not tell me what to put in the letter."
But when Schaffer showed Glass the email Schneider sent him — the email identical to the letter Glass wound up writing — Glass equivocated.
Schaffer: "So Mr. Schneider did write the letter for you, didn't he?"
Glass: "Mr. Schneider wrote a letter he wanted me to write. I had no problems with it. I sent it back."
During Glass's testimony, Schaffer revealed the email exchange was in Schneider's records, but Glass apparently had not kept the emails, even though testifying expert witnesses are required to keep their case-related emails and turn them over to opposing counsel.
Schneider testified similarly. Asked by Schaffer who wrote Glass's May 2012 letter, Schneider said, "I would think Dr. Glass."
Schaffer: "Is that Dr. Glass' letter, or is that your letter?"
Schneider: "That's his letter."
Schaffer: "So you didn't write it for him?"
Schneider: "I didn't write it for him."
Schaffer gave Schneider plenty of chances to amend his answer, but Schneider only said, "I would not have written a letter like this for him" and "It's not my job to give an opinion."
When Schaffer showed Schneider the email exchange and asked why Schneider wrote "I hope that the email will not get into your file," Schneider said he "didn't want it to be a distraction" to a jury.
But Schaffer continued grilling Schneider: "Do you think it's ethical to tell an expert witness to basically destroy or hide [correspondence]?"
The stenographer had a heck of a time with Schneider's response: "I thought at the time it was — The question was what was — At the time I wrote that — let's see — four years ago, I thought it was appropriate, and there was nothing unethical about what I said or did."
We hoped to get more information from Schneider and Glass, but the former was busy in court, and Glass just didn't respond — which is a shame, because we even wrote Glass's answers for him, and just needed him to sign off.
As previously mentioned, Glass was Michael Brown's medical expert in 2002, after the hand surgeon was in danger of losing his medical license after he brutally attacked his then-wife. Brown had lost his privileges at Houston Northwest Medical Center, and when he applied to be reinstated, the hospital sent a list of questions from the panel regarding Brown's stint in rehab and his mental health. (Brown, who once wrote a series of letters to his newborn daughter detailing how exactly to have sex with her future husband, died in Florida in 2013 after a drug overdose.)
As we wrote in 2002, one of Brown's attorneys then faxed Glass the list of the panel's questions, along with some suggested responses. Brown's lawyer noted, "These are not intended to be directive in any way but it is due tomorrow and I am trying to help in any way that I can in facilitating this reply....Thanks for all your help for Dr. Brown."
A day later, Glass sent a letter to the hospital committee in support of Brown. As the Texas Medical Board would later note in its review of Brown's medical licensure woes, the letter Glass sent to the hospital's panel was "an exact transcription of a suggested report supplied to [Glass]" by Brown's lawyer.
Again, it's important to note that Judge Brady Elliott presided over the court hearings where Schaffer accused Schneider and Glass of shenanigans, and didn't seem to think it was a big deal — or, at least it wasn't significant enough to warrant a re-sentencing for Schaffer's client.
We ran this all by an expert of our own, Robert Schuwerk, professor emeritus at the University of Houston Law Center. Schuwerk said Elliott may not have shared Schaffer's belief this was some Machiavellian scheme because there was no clear evidence to suggest Glass didn't believe what was in Schneider's email. While Glass may have been "lazy" in parroting Schneider's exact words in this instance, Schuwerk said, it doesn't negate the fact that Glass actually examined Dolard, and later prepared a full report.
"This is sort of a slice in time," Schuwerk said of the email exchange at issue. "The case had been pending for some considerable period of time; [Schneider and Glass] may have had any number of discussions that aren't recorded" that could put the emails into more context. That's why Elliott may have given the benefit of the doubt.
Seems fair. Schneider and Glass's actions are far from the crime of the century, but we expected more from professionals at the forefront of their respective fields.