HOUSTON (AP) _ A former prosecutor who resigned after the mistaken release of racist and pornographic e-mails was found in contempt of court Friday for deleting 2,500 e-mails which had been subpoenaed for a civil rights lawsuit.
Former Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal was ordered to pay nearly $19,000 in sanctions.
An order by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt criticizes Rosenthal, saying he "knowingly" violated the Oct. 31 subpoena seeking his e-mails, the Houston Chronicle reported.
"The court finds several areas of contradictions and misrepresentations that render (Rosenthal's) testimony unreliable and incredible. Moreover, the court views his conduct as venomous and hostile to the judicial process," Hoyt wrote.
More than 1,500 e-mails remained on Rosenthal's computer or were recovered, and Hoyt mistakenly released a batch earlier that included pornographic, racist and political messages. Love notes between the married prosecutor and his secretary also were mistakenly released and then resealed.
The judge also found the district attorney's general counsel, Scott Durfee, failed to properly act or advise Rosenthal on the matter. Durfee showed a "deliberate indifference" to the court's orders and the subpoena, Hoyt found. Durfee was ordered to pay $5,000 in sanctions.
Rosenthal and Durfee have until April 30 to pay the fines. Neither Rosenthal or Durfee returned messages seeking comment by The Associated Press on Friday.
The court order came after a hearing earlier this year to determine if Rosenthal should be held in contempt of court for deleting some 2,500 e-mails from his work computer. The documents were subpoenaed for a $5 million wrongful arrest federal lawsuit filed by two brothers against Harris County.
In the released e-mails between Rosenthal and his secretary Kerry Stevens, the phrase "I love you" was written more than a dozen times. Rosenthal also asked Stevens to let him hold her in the messages. None of those e-mails was explicit.
Rosenthal resigned last month. Stevens, 56, told the district attorney's office that she was retiring effective Monday, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Stevens could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press on Friday. She has been on authorized leave since she was told she would be reassigned to the grand jury division.
Rosenthal has said he was not having an affair with Stevens when the e-mails became public, though he did acknowledge one with her in the 1980s when he was married to his first wife. He said that while he did later divorce, the affair did not end that marriage. Rosenthal later remarried.
Questions of possible preferential treatment were also raised regarding Stevens. At $89,500, her salary was higher than that of executive assistants for most local public officials, including the mayor and county judge. She also received the use of a county car and free gas.
Just weeks before stepping down, Rosenthal approved an $11,500 raise for her.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.