Chuck Rosenthal (district attorney)

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Chuck Rosenthal
District Attorney of Harris County, Texas
In office
January 1, 2001 – February 15, 2008
Preceded by Johnny Holmes
Succeeded by Kenneth Magidson
Personal details
Born Charles A. Rosenthal
(1946-02-07) February 7, 1946 (age 71)
Alice, Texas, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Cindy Rosenthal
Residence Houston, Texas, U.S.
Alma mater Baylor University and South Texas College of Law

Charles A. Rosenthal (born February 7, 1946) is an American lawyer and former District Attorney of Harris County, Texas.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Alice, Texas, and raised Baptist,[1][2] Rosenthal attended Houston public schools, received his undergraduate degree from Baylor University, and went to law school at South Texas College of Law. He served as Harris County assistant district attorney under Carol Vance starting in March 1977.[3]

After his predecessor, Johnny Holmes, retired, Rosenthal was elected Harris County District Attorney after facing Pat Lykos, County Attorney Michael Stafford and many others in the Republican primary. He was re-elected in 2004.[3]

On March 26, 2003, he argued before the Supreme Court of the United States in Lawrence v. Texas that laws against sodomy are constitutional. His performance was later described as "the worst oral argument in years", but some believe his lack of preparation reflected his lack of enthusiasm for the statute he was defending.[4][5] The Court disagreed, holding 6-3 that prosecutions for private sexual conduct violates the United States Constitution.[6]

On February 15, 2008, Rosenthal resigned as Harris County district attorney, following the filing of a lawsuit petitioning for his removal from office. The press release issued by Rosenthal[7] suggests substance abuse played a part in his decision. Rosenthal's official release claims, "Although I have enjoyed excellent medical and pharmacological treatment, I have come to learn that the particular combination of drugs prescribed for me in the past has caused some impairment in my judgment."[8]


In a federal court case, emails in the Harris County District Attorney's office were under subpoena.[9] Some of those emails exposed his extramarital affair with his secretary as well as being found to be using government computers for campaigning and receiving and sending racist emails.

After an emergency meeting with local GOP leaders, the GOP asked him to step aside and to not seek reelection. On January 4, 2008, he announced that he would not seek reelection, but would finish out his current term.[10][11][12]

Other controversies included:

  • Multiple Houston-area community groups called for Rosenthal's resignation,[13] as well as the resignation of Harris County sheriff Tommy Thomas for similarly racist e-mails.[14] Community groups are sensitive to racism because Rosenthal "presides over an office that sends more convicts to death row than any other prosecutor's office in the nation."[citation needed]
  • The Texas attorney general's office investigated whether e-mails discovered in the DA's county computer were evidence of criminal activity, such as Rosenthal's alleged use of public assets to engage in his now-withdrawn political re-election campaign.[15][16]
  • 32 indictments were thrown out due to a paperwork snafu under Rosenthal's watch.[17]
  • Approved a former lover's $11,000 raise[18]
  • On 28-March-2008, Rosenthal was found in contempt of court for destroying 2,500 e-mails subpoenaed in a federal court case.[19]
  • Harris County taxpayers paid US$400 per hour for attorney fees to represent Rosenthal in his contempt hearing. Although the contract was capped at US$50,000, taxpayers were expected to pay the full bill.[20]
  • Refusal to sign an agreement between Venezuela and the United States to allow the extradition of Jesus Salazar, who is wanted for the October 1999 murder of 17-year-old Felicia Ruiz, in exchange for Salazar agreeing to a 30-year prison sentence instead of a life-term.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Rosenthal is married to Cindy Rosenthal,[22] a retired FBI Special Agent.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Transcript". Archived from the original on October 2, 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ Nichols, Bruce (September 3, 2001). "With Yates case, new Harris DA gets chance to define his style: Pursuit of death penalty brings comparisons with his predecessor". The Dallas Morning News. 
  3. ^ a b c Rosenthal, Chuck. "Re-Elect Chuck Rosenthal for Harris County District Attorney". Archived from the original on 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  4. ^ Tushnet, Mark (2005). A Court Divided: The Rehnquist Court and the Future of Constitutional Law. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 169–70. ISBN 978-0393327571. 
  5. ^ Carpenter, Dale (2012). Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 189–91, 214–6, 234–47. ISBN 978-0-393-06208-3. OCLC 761383909. 
  6. ^ "Lawrence and Garner v. Texas". Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  7. ^ Rosenthal, Chuck (2008-02-15). "Open letter from Chuck Rosenthal". Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  8. ^ Shay, Miya (2008-02-15). "Rosenthal Resigns!". Archived from the original on 2010-01-31. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  9. ^ Oberg, Ted (2008-01-30). "Why Rosenthal had to turn over email". Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  10. ^ Stiles, Matt; Rogers, Brian (2008-01-10). "Rosenthal could lose his job or face criminal charges" (PDF). Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-19. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  11. ^ Rogers, Brian; Bernstein, Alan; Stiles, Matt (2008-01-09). "More e-mails emerge in Harris County DA scandal" (PDF). Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-19. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  12. ^ Casimir, Leslie (2008-01-12). "Black leaders urge Rosenthal to step down" (PDF). Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-17. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  13. ^ James, Eric (2008-01-11). "More calls for Rosenthal's resignation". Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  14. ^ Willis, Carl (2008-01-24). "Ministers Against Crime Want Sheriff To Resign". Archived from the original on 2008-01-28. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  15. ^ Archer, Phil (2008-01-16). "State Begins Rosenthal E-Mail Investigation". Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  16. ^ Bernstein, Alan (2008-01-15). "Challenge to Rosenthal ballot pullout is now unlikely". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  17. ^ Associated Press (2008-01-23). "Judge disbands grand jury". Retrieved 2008-01-25. [dead link]
  18. ^ Archer, Phil (2008-01-24). "DA Approved Former Lover's $11,000 Raise". Archived from the original on 2008-02-03. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  19. ^ "Rosenthal found in contempt of court". 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  20. ^ McGuire, Lee (2008-02-04). "Taxpayers' tab for Rosenthal's defense: $400 an hour". Archived from the original on 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  21. ^ Wright, Christina M. (June 25, 2007). "Slain girl's parents seek Venezuelan's extradition". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  22. ^ Rosenthal, Cindy (2008-01-25). "Rosenthal's wife responds". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 

External links[edit]