GALVESTON — A special prosecutor bypassed a grand jury and dismissed a felony cocaine charge against the daughter of Galveston County’s district clerk, an opportunity the district attorney’s office doesn’t offer others.

A camera mounted in a Galveston police car captured the Jan. 18 traffic stop and arrest of Jennifer Lynn Kinard, 28, daughter of District Clerk John Kinard.

Jennifer Kinard admits on video to putting a bag containing cocaine behind the driver’s seat of her car, yet Sam Finegan, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, said the evidence wasn’t a “slam dunk.”

Finegan, a defense attorney who handles special cases for the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, dismissed Kinard’s first-time felony offense in the interest of justice without sending it to a grand jury, saying she successfully completed drug testing, counseling, classes and community service. The dismissal didn’t involve a plea deal.

“While we do that from time to time on misdemeanor cases, we really don’t do those types of arrangements in felony cases,” Galveston County Criminal District Attorney Jack Roady said.

Finegan also said he had no idea his daughter was Facebook friends with Jennifer Kinard.

By the book

Police Lt. Michael Gray said officers handled the case by the book, no differently than any other. As is customary with cases involving people connected to the district attorney’s office, Roady sent the case to a special prosecutor, so as to have no influence in the outcome and to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

John Kinard said he did nothing to influence the outcome and took extraordinary measures to avoid any perception of favoritism.

The Daily News, through the Texas Public Information Act, obtained the police report and dash-cam video of the arrest.

The video shows night-watch patrolman Adrian J. Healy traveling west in the 5100 block of Broadway when he pulls behind Jennifer Kinard at 2:25 a.m.

Healy claims in his report that Kinard’s car had a defective license plate light. The video shows Healy turning off his headlights, revealing Kinard’s dark license plate. Kinard turned north on 52nd Street and stopped. Healy shined his flashlight in the car, told Kinard to step out and her passenger to put his hands where he could see them.

Police: Marijuana in plain sight

“He’s got weed on his lap,” Healy said in the video, referring to the passenger in the front seat.

Healy radioed a police dispatcher, asking for backup, as Kinard stepped from the driver’s seat and put her hands on the top of her car.

“Keep your hands where I can see them,” Healy told her, as he walked to the other side of the car to speak with the passenger.

Kinard removed her left hand from the roof and it disappeared from view of the patrol car’s low-resolution dash-cam. Her clothing, apparently her shirt, moved, and then she leaned toward the car. Healy saw it and told Kinard to walk to his patrol vehicle and place her hands on his car.

“Are you kidding me?” Healy said on the video, as he walked to Kinard and handcuffed her hands behind her back.

“What did you just put in the car?” Healy said.

“I didn’t put anything in the car,” Kinard said.

“I just saw you reach toward the back seat,” Healy said. “If I find it, I’m going to charge you with felony tampering for trying to hide it.”

Kinard didn’t immediately answer Healy’s question.

“What did you just put in the car?” Healy asked.

“A bag,” Kinard said.

“A bag of what?” Healy asked, as he checked the passenger’s pockets and returned to search Kinard’s car.

“Oh, wow,” Healy said, interrupting Kinard several times as he informed her of her right to remain silent.

“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” Healy said. “Anything you say can be used against you as evidence in a court of law.”

Healy then asked Kinard what substance was in that bag.

“It is cocaine,” Kinard said.

‘Please don’t, for my father’s sake’

Healy, despite Kinard’s pleas, gently led her out of view of the camera to place her in the patrol car.

“Please, please, please, please, please don’t, for my father’s sake,” Kinard said.

Healy wrote in his report that he found the bag that had pictures of “eight balls” on one side. An “eight ball” is slang for one-eighth of an ounce, a little more than 3.5 grams.

The bag Healy found contained 0.75 grams of white powder, which, when tested, gave a clear indication for the presence of cocaine, the report states.

Police contacted Assistant District Attorney James Haugh, who said the district attorney’s office would accept the felony charge of possession of a controlled substance and recommended a $5,000 bond, the report states.

Healy also arrested Kinard’s passenger, Nicholas Daniel Proffitt, 24, on a misdemeanor charge of possession of narcotics paraphernalia — a yellow, glass marijuana pipe. He told Healy in the video that he didn’t use cocaine. A municipal court clerk said Proffitt paid his fine on the Class C misdemeanor in a period of five months, and the case was disposed.

Finegan appointed

The district attorney’s office appointed Finegan as a special prosecutor. Finegan worked from 1992 to 1996 as a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office before moving to private practice.

Roady said he didn’t know Finegan’s daughter was a Facebook friend with Jennifer Kinard. Finegan was also unaware, he said.

“It does not sound good, but I promise I had no earthly idea,” Finegan said, noting he had never seen Jennifer Kinard before her first court appearance.

After conferring with his daughter, Finegan said she knew Jennifer Kinard because she was a casual friend with Kinard’s younger sister. Finegan’s daughter hadn’t seen Jennifer Kinard in two years, he said.

Finegan said he decided against sending the case to a grand jury because it involved a small amount of cocaine, among other reasons.

“I gave her some hoops to jump through,” Finegan said, noting she had two clean drug tests, four visits to a certified drug and alcohol counselor and attended a drug and alcohol class.

Greg Russell, Kinard’s attorney, said his client also served 14 hours of community service.

‘Not a slam dunk’

Finegan declined to discuss the specifics of the case but noted the facts played a part in his decision.

“There was another person in the car,” Finegan said.

“I can’t tell you if I would have won or lost,” Finegan said. “It was not a slam dunk, so to speak. It was not just a simple, ‘It’s in her pocket.’”

Finegan also said he decided to save the time and expense of taking it to a grand jury.

Russell agreed there was an affirmative link issue with the case.

“Our position was it wasn’t hers,” Russell said.

Russell filed motions seeking to have DNA and fingerprint testing of the bag.

“She was adamant that her fingerprints or DNA weren’t going to be on it,” Russell said. “I was happy with the outcome. She was happy with the outcome. We weren’t complaining.”

Finegan compared his dismissal to a pretrial diversion program available in Harris County. Roady is working to implement a similar program only for misdemeanors in Galveston County by the end of the year.

Result not offered to others

Generally, prosecutors don’t send every case to a grand jury if they determine evidence is insufficient to proceed to trial. A defendant could also enter a guilty plea, waiving a right to a grand jury review, Roady said.

“Here, however, the special prosecutor agreed to dispose of the case without presenting it to a grand jury,” Roady said. “The terms of that agreement were different than what my office would agree to in other similar cases; namely, we don’t make agreements for first-time felony drug cases to be dismissed in the manner that was done in this case.”

The district attorney’s office appoints special prosecutors so there is not even an appearance of favoritism and to keep the office and integrity of the criminal justice system above reproach, Roady said.

“Needless to say, I’m very disappointed by the way this case was handled,” Roady said. “At the end of the day, despite our best efforts to avoid any hint of favoritism by appointing a special prosecutor, the defendant got a result that, had our office handled the case, would not have been offered to other defendants.”

Weight of evidence

There is a presumption that prosecutors commonly obtain convictions for drugs found in a vehicle, even though it’s unclear who possessed them, said Sandra Guerra Thompson, professor of criminal law at the University of Houston Law Center.

“It would appear it wasn’t a matter of not having sufficient evidence,” Thompson said. “She’s the driver. She seemed to know they were there. That knowledge and that she was driving the vehicle, that’s usually going to be enough.”

Thompson, however, questioned why prosecutors aren’t treating more people that way.

“Why not give other people the opportunity to diversion and to avoid the terrible repercussions of having a felony on your record forever?” Thompson asked.

The frustration people have is based on the assumption that prosecutors should treat all people the same, regardless of who they are, Thompson said.

“We are all offended by the idea that the children of powerful people are going to get special privileges,” Thompson said. “On the other hand, it’s very hard to have rules that govern what prosecutors can and cannot do.”

The rules of ethics require prosecutors to take a laundry list of circumstances into consideration, such as the strength of the evidence, the influence on the defendant, what the victim might think or whether the case could be handled through the civil process, Thompson said.

“At the end of the day, I’m not sure if the right answer is to put more rules in place to tie a prosecutor’s hands,” Thompson said.

Kinards stand by their daughter

John Kinard, an elected official, heads the district clerks office, which serves as the custodian of public records, including criminal cases filed by prosecutors.

Kinard said he and his wife, Chris Kinard, were shocked to learn of their daughter’s arrest, as she had not been in any trouble or had any issues with law enforcement.

“We believe in and stand behind Jennifer,” Kinard said. “We have provided her with our personal support and love throughout this ordeal.”

Kinard also said he did absolutely nothing — directly or indirectly — to influence the outcome, and that he didn’t know the special prosecutor.

“I have exercised extraordinary precautions to ensure that even the perception of any favoritism didn’t exist,” Kinard said, noting the only conversation he had with Roady about the matter was the day Roady informed him of the arrest.

“I have never discussed this matter with presiding Judge (Michelle) Slaughter,” Kinard said.

Kinard also said he didn’t speak to the Galveston police officers or management.

“I purposely didn’t attend any of her hearings, so no one would infer the connection between me and Jennifer,” Kinard said. “My position as district clerk shouldn’t have any influence on Sam Finegan or anyone else, since all cases filed with the district clerk are randomly assigned to judges.”

Kinard also said his FBI background taught him well to avoid any perception of conflict of interest, since perception is reality.

“When the special prosecutor dismissed the charges, I presumed that he did so because proof beyond a reasonable doubt didn’t exist,” Kinard said. “A dismissal would be warranted in any case where the prosecutor doesn’t have proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Disparities are ‘commonplace’

Kinard said he’s witnessed a lot of prosecutions during his 33 years of law enforcement and that disparities in prosecution are an unfortunate aspect of the justice system.

“But, nevertheless, they are commonplace throughout the country among prosecutors, even within the same office and judges,” Kinard said.

Kinard expressed concern that Daily News readers would, no matter how much he professed noninvolvement, conclude he must have done something because of this article’s publication.

“I have spent three decades in law enforcement building a reputation for absolute integrity,” Kinard said. “I hate to lose this based on innuendo.”

Mike Guarino, who served as Galveston County’s district attorney for 20 years before retiring in 2003, said Finegan worked for him and was a fine attorney with high integrity.

“I wouldn’t second-guess him,” Guarino said. “Sam’s not the kind of guy who does anybody favors. He calls it like it is.”

As a result of Kinard’s case, Roady said he’s reviewing the process of how attorneys are selected as special prosecutors in future cases.

Contact reporter Chris Paschenko at 409-683-5241 or chris.paschenko@galvnews.com.

(38) comments

Underdog

I am glad the woman received treatment and I hope she realizes that she got a big break and continues with a treatment plan.

jody marabella

this is a slippery slope... There are pros and cons to this.. I hate to see any young life destroyed by a felony, for a bad decision, But I know there going to be a lot of fuss about fairness.. We can only hope She learned a real lesson and does the right thing from now out..

David Schuler

Fairness?. This was not an open container violation for alcohol. This was not 'just marijuana' as in she was busted because the guy she was with had a bag that 'she didn't know about'. It was not even that cocaine was found in the car she was driving such that ownership was in question. That's reasonable doubt.
But this was cocaine, in a bag, on her person, found by a police officer who was doing his duty in a proper and professional manner. She even disobeyed a direct order to remain still and tried to hid it. And it doesn't even go to a Grand Jury?
This is 'who you know' favoritism, pure and simple, those in power watching out for those in power. Two black males caught in the same situation. Same outcome? Really?
Clear message to the arresting officer; next time, triple check IDs and make sure the person you're about to arrest isn't related to some important county official.

Ana Draa

She skated on this, an opportunity that certainly would not have been given to a black or hispanic woman. She should have been held accountable, for the benefit of everyone. A leopard doesn't change their stripes, we'll be reading about her again in the news, let's just hope it's not for a DUI where she kills innocent people.

Dwight Burns

This is proof positive how justice for some is not justice for all.

Comment deleted.
Dwight Burns

And that's a fact Jayne.

Stephen Murphy

The officer finds a bag of cocaine behind the driver's seat. The driver admits the bag contains cocaine. The special prosecutor claims this evidence is not "a slam dunk". Is this the same Samuel Finnegan of League City who was listed as NOT eligible to practice law in Texas due to failure to comply with MCLE requirements?

http://www.texasbar.com/Content/NavigationMenu/ForLawyers/MembershipInfoandServices/IneligibleAttorneyList/Ineligible.pdf

Evelyn Clark

Hey GalvTexGuy if you find out please let the rest of us know. Just wondering.[sad]

kevjlang
Kevin Lang

I think a deferred adjudication might have been reasonable. That way, if TXDoula is correct, she'll at least have a prior out there for a few years that would ensure she'd get a long sentence. On the other hand, if this scares her straight, she'd still have a life full of options. However, this should be a treatment available to everyone in similar situations, not just for someone who's connected.

Rich Gray

This is disgusting!

And to the arresting officer, THANK YOU for doing your job!

It should matter not who broke the law!

Sharon Reynolds

The only person with integrity in the whole matter was the arresting officer. Hopefully this young woman will take advantage of the chance to clean up her act and not end up like the last strung out drug addicted thief that stood on my front porch face to face with me. She may not have the opportunity to walk away the next time. Handcuffs or not.

Steve Bock

it use to be that a prosecutor had to talk to the DA before a major case could be dismissed. Every time something comes up Roady appoints a special prosecutor and I think if you would check his budget since taking office he has had 3 and I think 2 are full time on his staff. Thank God that election is coming up soon. According to the GDN he Roady) is going to bring some type of program for Misd that is used in Harris county. IS THINGS EVER GOING TO CHANGE.

George Croix

"She skated on this, an opportunity that certainly would not have been given to a black or hispanic woman."
The article doesn't say what race the woman is. You have to know the other's mentioned in the article to know that. Maybe that's why they were mentioned.
Question: How does your assertion compare with the February 2013 article, excerpted below, on 'The Changing Racial Dynamics of Women's Incarceration', by The Sentencing Project?

"Dramatic shift in racial disparities among women – In 2000 black women
were incarcerated in state and federal prisons at six times the rate of white
women. By 2009 that ratio had declined by 53%, to 2.8:1. This shift was a
result of both declining incarceration of African American women and rising
incarceration of white women. The disparity between Hispanic and non-
Hispanic white women declined by 16.7% during this period."

RonShelby
Ron Shelby

Without more explanation, this looks really bad....like strings were pulled big time.

LJ ODom

Did the passenger with the weed on his lap get any charges? If so; were they dismissed or dropped?

Evelyn Clark

Hi Cherrio, I would like to kinow also if they both got off. Just wondering

Miss Priss

I really don't get Roady's comments in this article..... He hired the special prosecutor and then says that he is dissappointed with the outcome of the special prosecutor and that his office normally prosecutes these cases???

Instead his comments and actions in this case have made the special prosecutor look bad as well as Kinard. Had Roady's office just done the work they are supposed to do, it would have saved a lot of innocent parties to this from embarrassment and heartache. People are already going through hell due to the situation - why does Roady have to add to it.

JBG JBG

Mr. BOCK & TruthSerum hit the nail squarely on the proverbial head:
-
1)Why did there need to be a special prosecutor?
2)Why, did the Grand Jury get bi-passed?
-
Lastly, is it just ME,....or do I spell CON-SPI-RA-CY?

We can now quit pretending to be so stupid as to believe JUSTICE is blind!
Justice in Galveston County,....has 20/20 vision,...if you know what I mean.
It would seem this county above all others,...have shown a propensity to make a mockery out of JUSTICE,..and the practice of law inside a fair and equitable SYSTEM of equality for all.
-
Cases handled like this one is a disgraced to the profession of law! I mean at least,... let the case get to a JUDGE. Here we had a SPECIAL PROSECUTOR to come in and .....handle the deed! This world is getting more dark and corrupt by the hour.

J94fab91

People...this is not about race. She was given a special opportunity that many others are not given. She should be held to the same standards that all others are held to. If she did not want her father's name mentioned, then she should of thought of that before she took possession of it.

Underdog

I am wondering, just wondering if Dupuy was correct about our legal system here in Galveston County. Like I said just wondering.

Isn't Finegan an attorney locally, I think he was on a criminal case last year. So how does he become a magic special prosecutor? I am so confused.

I am glad the young lady received treatment and I hope she continues her long journey of recovery.

RonShelby
Ron Shelby

I like Roady. But I'm pretty sure there would have been a method for Roady to override this hired prosecutor's decision if he really wanted to. Roady is the ultimate authority/elected official. If he truly thought it should be prosecuted, he could have set aside the recommendation and gone forward.

Because of the situation presented, this should have gone to a grand jury where a jury of peers could have "cleanly" made the decision that there was, or was not, enough evidence to proceed. The ways its been done looks "dirty" and I don't believe it meets the principals that our legal system is based upon. If there's a typical process followed it should be followed as "above board" as possible.

If I were looking at this during the next election, I'd vote to turn Roady out for this type of behavior, unless he has a change of heart and proceeds to present the evidence. He should still be able to let a grand jury to make the decision.

kevjlang
Kevin Lang

One thing I didn't notice earlier is that she's 28 years old. To me, this doesn't quite cut it as an error of youth. She's certainly old enough to have known better. It's also quite likely that she's either managed to avoid getting caught quite a few times in the past, or she's been caught before by others in some kind of authority position and managed to avoid significant penalties. Probably a bit biased on this point, and making assumptions based on it, but I just don't really think she's a new user that got caught early in her using career.

Hopefully she'll stay clean from here on out, and the justice system won't have to wear egg on its face for letting her walk without even much of a squirm let alone any sense of real punishment.

LJ ODom

Like "Underdog" I too wonder if Judge Dupuy was on to something about the legal system and then prosecuted with bogus allegations when he was eventually outnumbered by his peers. And why did this "arrest" take over seven months to come to light. I watched the video and it's incriminating. There appears to have been a LOT of people sweeping this under the political carpet and Finegan is a scapegoat. Maybe the GDN will do an unbiased investigation into how many desks the Kinard file was on before it was buried? And again I ask; Did the passenger with the weed on his lap get any charges? If so; were they dismissed or dropped like Jennifer Kinard's?

Steve Fouga

Man, I wonder what NurseJayne knows about the rest of us. I, for one, will be minding my P's and Q's!

Good job, NurseJayne! Maybe you can moonlight for the GDN. Pretty darn good investigative reporting!

[wink]

rah

Special treatment for official's daughter is absurd. She should have used better judgement before she got the drugs. I find it hard to believe that she is 28. Not too mature to try and throw a baggie into the car. And to beg not to tell her dad. With the amount of evidence the tape caught you should have not gotten the charge dropped. I would not have dropped. You do the crime you face the time for everyone, no exceptions. We do not need a special law for employees of Galveston. Glad she received treatment. Did the treatment change her mind set so that she will not poor decisions in the future? And who cares who she is friends with on Facebook. That has nothing to do with the crime she committed. If we could all just apply the laws that we have that sure would send a message to the kids still in school to not try something dumb.

Ashwin Kalia

Blatant display of favoritism. Tough pill to swallow for low income residents who regularly get the shaft.

Chris Gimenez

Roady likes "to get tough on crime" when he's persecuting and incarcerating innocent people like Bledsoe for ten months. I wonder how many other minorities or those without the resources to put up a defense has he abused? He needs to be gone ASAP.

sverige1
Lars Faltskog

Goes to show you it's "who you know" that gives one the "breaks" after they've spent years misbehaving. Being 28 yrs old and getting wrapped up with this is not in a category of an individual with the "spring chicken" designation And, you bet it's been going on for years...as it's always said that folks with more disposible resources ($ from parents) can very easily "deal" and consume.

This individual likely spent years getting in trouble (formally with the law), yet in the family way - she's no doubt been a pain in the butt for her loved ones. I did hear that with sites like mugshots.com and other arrest reporting sites, that a family with $ and connections can get the loved one's various arrests/pictures within wiped out of the database.

Robert Morris

Nothing quite like having that tainted legal system in play is there?

Chris Gimenez

One thing about Roady, he knows his limitations. In my opinion, if he didn't have double standards he wouldn't have any standards at all. He's the one who chose the "special" prosecutor and he's the one who bears the responsibility for this miscarriage of justice. Like Jason Murray and Christopher Dupuy, Roady was someone who got swept into office without the most basic qualifications needed to feign competency. He should be removed at the next election so the citizens of Galveston County can get back to having a justice system that is the same for all.
ChrisGimenez

Evelyn Clark

I agree with you bvresident, what kind of justic is he showing. It is a sad day when we se this kind on injustic.

kevjlang
Kevin Lang

Evidently, NurseJayne must have hit a bad chord. Whether her comment was true or not, it must have made someone a bit anxious.

George Croix

Maybe the unnamed drinker had second thoughts about sharing when it showed up in the paper...

J. Shaffer

Funny that my comment was removed when I named no names, only speculation.

That island has a grapevine Earnest & Julio Gallo would be proud of!

Chris Gimenez

I think it's funny that Hubris Taylor is a champion of free speech when it comes to the socialist professor at COM but he's double-quick to censor free speech when it comes to these comments. Double standard and hypocrisy? Of course.

Michelle Norvell

Not surprising. Fair and Ethical are not part of the GDA's office vocabulary. I had the misfortune to come in contact with their office due to property damage by a neighbor. The officer's did everything in their power to make sure thier statements were good, I's were dotted, T's crossed...etc. Then the case hit the wall of incompetency in the District Attorney's office. I basically had to have nuclear meltdown before they would perform due diligence in their own prosecution. It was a horrible experience. He lost my vote then and this article only confirms my decision to vote 'anything but Roady'.

Island Bred

Yeah that's pretty much what happened to me too.. Next time I get verbally assaulted and threatened - we both will be going to jail that day. Doesn't pay to hold your temper then file charges. The DA lets them walk. At least if there is a tussel - there is some sort of ending. As it is - I wasted a year of my time with empty promises from the DA, countless postponements, and she finally walked with a friggin fine. Not that I made a dime off of being the victim but the county sure did............ what a waste.

Chris Gimenez

I think there will be a lot of voter sentiment just like yours in the next election. Anyone BUT Roady. The job is way to important to allow a petty politician like him to be abusing innocent people the way he does.
ChrisGimenez

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