Indictments Leveled Against Longtime Lawman
by: Pat Hernandez, January 13, 2012 1:01:00 am
Abercia and two of his staffers, Chief Lt Weldon Kenneth Wiener and Office Chief Michael Butler, were arrested before a 13 count federal indictment was unsealed.
Abercia and Wiener stand accused of soliciting and accepting money from companies interested in running background checks on prospective employees, by using a database restricted to law enforcement use.
It's alleged they used the National Crime Information Center numerous times. Abercia and Butler are also charged with bribery in connection with the hiring of an otherwise unqualified deputy constable in return for a $5,000 bribe. The charges were detailed during Abercia's arraignment. He's hired noted defense attorney Rusty Hardin to represent him. He spoke outside the Federal Courthouse.
Precinct One Constable Jack Abercia
"I've known Constable Abercia for a long time. He's had a very honorable and good service for the county, and I look forward to finding out what the government says it thinks he did wrong. So, I think its inappropriate for me to say anything right now till we know something."
Abercia's trial date is set for next month in Houston Federal court. He decided not to seek re-election in December, citing health reasons.
"You know, it's a sad physical condition. I mean he's 77. He has colon cancer. He's in a wheel chair, and it's just a very, very tragic thing."
His resignation becomes official at the end of the month.
Harris County Commissioners Court named Ken Berry, who ended his 35 year service with the Sheriff's Office as a major, to replace Abercia. No doubt, the office of constable is a noble profession with honest, hard-working employees. But all 8 county constable offices are under scrutiny by the Harris County District Attorney's Office. And there are some who question the need for so many law enforcement agencies. Consultant and former news reporter Joe Householder is no stranger to policing in Houston.
"It just reminded me of something that's been in my mind ever since I came to Houston as a young reporter in the early 1990s. You can go to a crime scene at times, and you will have HPD, the Harris County Sheriff's Office, a constable deputy, UHPD, HISDPD, all responding to a scene. And it strikes me that in a state that is into rugged individualism and limited government, at a policing level at least, we're way over governed."
He says instead of the multitude of redundant agencies, they could all be rolled up under the Harris County Sheriff's Department.
"Or more boldly, why can't we have something akin to what I believe they have in Miami Dade County, which is a metro-wide police department that serves all of these functions? You could argue that it would create a massive new bureaucracy to run it. But we already have that massive bureaucracy, it's just spread out over ten or twenty agencies."
Abercia served as Harris County constable since 1991.