'Lawrence v. Texas' D.A. Resigns During Scandal Probe

HOUSTON – Add "former" before "Houston District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal," who's been outed as a racist and adulterer thanks to a bunch of emails he unsuccessfully tried to delete from his office computer.

Rosenthal represented his state before the U.S. Supreme Court back in 2002 when the Supreme Ones were considering whether Texas could legally prevent gays from engaging in private sex acts. The result was the now-famous Lawrence v. Texas decision, which not only overturned Texas' anti-sodomy laws, but similar laws in the rest of the country.

But now Rosenthal, who's held the D.A.'s office since 2000, has resigned in the wake of a pair of federal lawsuits, one filed by brothers Sean and Erik Ibarra, who claimed they'd been falsely arrested and abused by county deputies, and another filed just two months ago by Lloyd Kelley, who'd campaigned for Rosenthal's job before the last election.

Rosenthal's attempt to purge emails that may have been related to the suits from his government email account before turning his hard drive over to federal investigators. Even though he'd dragged much of the offending correspondence – "thousands of emails," by one report – to the trash and emptied the trash, government technicians are currently busy reconstructing the documents, which had been the subject of a subpoena in Kelley's suit before Rosenthal attempted to destroy them.

But at the moment, what's more interesting is the stuff Rosenthal didn't destroy. Besides a cartoon depicting an African-American suffering from a "fatal overdose" of watermelon and fried chicken, Rosenthal had also retained sexually-explicit video clips and love notes to his secretary (who'd been his mistress during his previous marriage) in his "saved" mail.

One interchange with the secretary had Rosenthal writing, "I love you so much" and "I want to kiss you behind your right ear," to which she replied, "Go spend time with your family."

"Even if you infer that various States acting through their legislative process have repealed sodomy laws, there is no protected right to engage in extrasexual — extramarital sexual relations, again, that can trace their roots to history or the traditions of this nation," Rosenthal had stated to the Supreme Court during the Lawrence argument.

Kelley's suit charges Rosenthal with drinking on the job and with "incompetence or official misconduct" – and Kelley sought to obtain Rosenthal's official emails in an attempt to find evidence to back up his claims. When Rosenthal failed to produce the emails, he became the subject of contempt of court proceedings in mid-February – and after giving contradictory testimony at that hearing, the judge agreed to adjourn the proceedings for one month, presumably so Rosenthal could get his story straight. If convicted of contempt, Rosenthal could find himself in jail for several months.

Interestingly, according to the New York Times, "Mr. Rosenthal has sought to keep the e-mail messages sealed, citing 'zones of privacy' carved out by the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 ruling overturning the state’s ban on sodomy — although Mr. Rosenthal had argued the case for Texas and the legality of the anti-sodomy laws."

On Feb. 15, in response to Kelley's lawsuit, Rosenthal blamed a combination of prescription drugs for causing "some impairment" of his judgment.