As we noted last week, the jailed rape victim controversy has essentially consumed the race for Harris County district attorney this fall, putting other hot topics we previously predicted (wrongly, it appears) would overtake the race — such as drug diversion policies — in the backseat. The case, involving a mentally ill rape victim jailed for 27 days so the prosecutor could secure her testimony and convict her rapist, has become so contentious that it appears it has become a deciding factor in some people's votes.
But as with every controversy, it has many sides—and finally, for the first time, we got the prosecutor's side last week, along with a host of emails that the prosecutor, Nick Socias, and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, claimed showed that the rape victim's mother agreed that her daughter should be kept in jail before trial. As a result, they called a political ad in which the rape victim's mother condemned District Attorney Devon Anderson for jailing her daughter "misleading," since it wasn't Anderson's decision and she was unaware it had even been made, and they said it was "wrong" of the mother to turn around and sue the county after letting her daughter stay in jail.
But there's a problem: There's also a lot that those few emails omitted — such as all the other emails in which the mother is strongly opposed to and appalled by the fact that her daughter, Jenny, is in jail instead of a mental health facility — emails which were obtained by the Houston Press this week. While Anderson's campaign, Hardin and Socias have maintained that Jenny's mom simply wouldn't allow Jenny to stay at her home, the new emails appear to show that Jenny's mom was under the impression the entire time that her daughter would be transferred to a mental health hospital for her own safety and wellbeing.
According to the emails, Jenny's mother didn't even find out her daughter was transferred to the Harris County Jail from St. Joseph Medical Center until she received a jail phone call from Jenny. Writing to Socias on December 20, Jenny's mother says, "I thought she would be transferred to Harris County Psychiatric Center not Jail. This is really unacceptable for a victim of rape to put her in jail [sic]."
At the time, Socias himself was recovering from surgery for a cancer biopsy, and had thought Jenny had been transferred to the jail's mental health unit. Turns out, she was in general population. Growing more concerned, Jenny's mom wrote on December 23, "She is not going to be a good witness for you all if she stays there. She is not taking her same medication nor does she have the support of anyone... It is Christmas and here we are with [Jenny] unable to have physical contact with her... Right now, she is like a caged animal ready to explode."
Socias tells Jenny's mom that she can bail Jenny out if she wants, but warns her that she'll be on the line for Jenny's $15,000 bond if Jenny doesn't come to court or "the judge believes she got off her medication" (because apparently in Harris County, not taking your meds can lead a judge to revoke your bond, make your mom pay $15,000, and put you back in jail).
And while Hardin and Socias said Jenny's mom is now suing and criticizing Anderson even though she did not make attempts to contact Anderson, emails show that is not necessarily true.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
After a friend visited Jenny in jail and saw her with a black eye, Jenny's mom attempted to email Devon Anderson directly about her concerns for Jenny's safety but apparently wrote her email incorrectly, Socias told her. She demanded Anderson's correct email address, saying, "Jenny is a victim and needs to be moved today to HCPC... She is not a criminal. She has a black eye and is not stable on her meds. The sheriff's office stated it is not their job to make sure she takes her meds. This all violates Jenny's victim rights. If someone hurts Jenny in jail. Your office will have bigger issues [sic]."
It wasn't until December 29, in emails Hardin gave to the press last week, that Jenny's mom conceded Jenny "would have to stay at the jail," unless she herself told jail staff she was unstable and needed to be transferred to county psychiatric center. And while it is apparent that Socias tried to get Jenny help, whether by moving her to the mental health unit or to a hospital, none of his efforts seemed to materialize.
In the meantime Jenny's mother worried her daughter might kill herself over the Christmas holiday.
Jenny ultimately testified, and the serial rapist whom Socias said was suspected of having as many as 17 victims was convicted as a result. Curiously, while Socias said last week he would not have done anything differently, he wrote to Jenny's mom on December 4, before Jenny's stint in jail: "Although I want to make sure this guy goes away for life I'm not going to do that at the expense of anyone — especially Jenny."