Metropolis: Wednesday, October 3, 2002
A Pass for Bad Cops?

A claim that the D.A. protects criminal officers has thrown a police group into an uproar.


“We’re going to support Tim Curry because Tim Curry will not prosecute a police officer who commits a crime.”

According to numerous officers who were there, those unsettling words were spoken by John Kerr, president of the 1,400-member Fort Worth Police Officers Association, at the group’s Sept. 18 general meeting. Kerr was trying to explain to a roomful of irate cops why the organization’s political action committee had recently voted, without notifying the members or receiving their input, to give the FWPOA’s endorsement to incumbent Tim Curry over opponent Terri Moore in the race for Tarrant County district attorney.

Forgetting the first rule of holes, Kerr kept right on digging.

A lot of Fort Worth cops “would be in the pen if it weren’t for Tim Curry,” the officers quote Kerr as saying. Then, the officers said, Kerr added that he personally had been able to pick up the phone and call Curry and get him to drop charges against police officers, particularly if one had commited a crime in uniform.

Kerr’s words were greeted with stunned silence. Then all hell broke loose, these witnesses said, as angry cops began yelling at the beleaguered Kerr that they didn’t want such favors.

“I was there, I heard him, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Lt. Marty Salinas told Fort Worth Weekly last week. The 21-year veteran law enforcement officer, a commander in the Fort Worth police department’s training division, is so sure of what he heard, he said, that he’s willing to take a lie detector test if Kerr denies he made the statements. His account was backed up by three other veteran Fort Worth police officers who were also at the meeting but asked to remain anonymous.

Kerr has not returned numerous calls seeking comment.

Curry, however, was quick to deny Kerr’s allegation. “I don’t know what John said at the meeting, I wasn’t there,” he said this week. “But the accusations are all lies. I’ve never done that [protected a cop from indictment and prosecution] and I won’t.” Curry blames the charges on Moore. “Terri’s getting desperate,” he said.

Moore, a former prosecutor in Curry’s office and former federal prosecutor, said she heard about Kerr’s statements from police officers who were at the meeting, and that Kerr told her the same thing privately. “Basically, he said that I could forget about an endorsement because Fort Worth police ‘owed’ Curry for his protection of dirty cops over the years. Now, I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is, it’s a grave disservice to all the good cops out there who don’t need the protection that these sleazy few are getting,” she said.

One officer said that the dust-up would never have occurred “if we’d been able to vote like we should have in a democratic organization. ... But to have that endorsement crammed down our throats, in a secret vote, no way.”

That vote by the political action committee, which the general membership knew nothing about until after the fact, the officers said, is what brought so many of them to the September meeting in the first place.

But that issue was quickly overshadowed by a far more chilling one — the allegation by Kerr that Curry had knowingly covered up criminal acts by Fort Worth cops.

“John didn’t just say [that Curry had protected rogue cops], he bragged about his own role in it,” one officer said. “When he told us that he’d personally picked up the phone and gotten Curry to drop criminal charges against police officers, I just got sick to my stomach.”

For Salinas, Kerr’s admission that some had been cops who committed crimes while in uniform was an indefensible betrayal of trust.

“I asked him, ‘Do you mean to tell me that you’ve let me and other honest officers work with partners who broke the law and got off?’” Salinas said. “I don’t want to work with an officer like that, and as a commander, I don’t want one working for me.”

Despite Curry’s avowal that he’s never protected a cop from an indictment, an April 1985 news story report about a surreptitiously taped conversation between Curry and Fort Worth Police Officer Kevin George, indicated otherwise.

“I went out of my way to see that you didn’t get indicted,” Curry reportedly told George after the officer and his partner, Kevin Foster, were involved in a fatal shooting of a black youth on Fort Worth’s East Side during a drug bust. When the 15-year-old tried to grab George’s gun, he was shot to death, hit six times by bullets from both men’s service revolvers, the medical examiner’s report stated. Blacks were clamoring for indictments, which Curry quashed, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which had received a copy of the tape. “I did you some favors,” Curry said to the officer, “If it hadn’t been for this office, you might very well have been indicted.” Confronted by a S-T reporter, Curry said that he was only trying to “alleviate potential problems.”

When asked about the 1985 story this week, Curry said, “I explained what I was doing at the time.”

The facts in a more recent case suggest that a Fort Worth cop almost got away with murder because Curry’s office refused to indict him. In 1995, attorney Bonnie Arnett Horinek, wife of Fort Worth Police Officer Warren Horinek, was found dead with a gunshot wound in her chest and a blood-soaked pillow case knotted tightly around her neck. Warren, who was in the house at the time she died, had his wife’s blood splattered on his body. He said she committed suicide and that he’d used the pillow case as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. The D.A.’s office didn’t indict him, prosecutors said, because no fingerprints — neither his nor Bonnie’s — were on the gun that was used to kill her. Bonnie’s outraged parents hired their own investigator and an attorney who found a little-known state law that allows a citizen to present evidence to a grand jury. Horinek was indicted, tried by a special prosecutor, convicted of murder, and is now serving time.

Curry dismissed such cases as rare, and said they prove nothing. “There is no pattern,” he said, pointing to the “large numbers” of peace officers he has taken to court. According to a list provided by his office, Curry has prosecuted 23 law enforcement officers since 1978, including 14 Fort Worth police officers. An accompanying note from Curry says, “The list is by no means complete. I know that we have five or more DWIs a year involving officers, but we simply do not remember them all.”

The 24-year history that Curry provided shows only two Fort Worth officers prosecuted for drunk driving during that period — and their cases were filed after March 2001.

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