AUSTIN (KXAN) - Police Chief Art Acevedo formally apologized to the lawyer representing embattled Detective Charles Kleinert after a complaint was lodged saying the chief intimidated the lawyer and her police-officer husband, letters obtained by KXAN Tuesday say.
Part of the Chief's response to Nadia Stewart reads: "I can see clearly in hindsight that my comments were inappropriate."
The matter stems from the leaking of confidential information relating to the investigation into the deadly shooting last month involving Kleinert. The detective's lawyer, Nadia Stewart, has called for a formal investigation into the leak.
But in a letter dated Aug. 15 to City Manager Marc Ott, Stewart's lawyer says Acevedo told Stewart that he suspected her husband of providing the confidential information to the news media. The letter also said Acevedo told Stewart to alert her husband to expect a call from the department's Internal Affairs Division to provide an interview as a suspect in the leak.
"I request that you immediately repudiate Chief Acevedo's stated intention to involve Ms. Stewart's husband in this matter, and order him to apologize to Ms. Stewart for his inappropriate actions," Stewart’s attorney, B. Craig Deats, says in the letter.
The next day, City Attorney Karen Kennard sent Deats a response saying the chief acted outside the city policy that "all employees carry out their duties in an ethical and respectable manner." Kennard also wrote the chief's comments were "inappropriate and unacceptable." Avecedo was ordered to issue a written and personal apology to Stewart.
At the time, Stewart said she told the chief, "Please don't involve my husband in this." She said she would take a polygraph exam to prove she was not the leak.
In the apology letter dated Aug 18, Chief Acevedo wrote, "let me assure you that there is no plan or intent to interview Officer Stewart in connection with reviewing the alleged information leak from Det. Kleinert's interview. Though you were present during that interview, I have no reason to believe that you disclosed confidential information from that interview to your husband."
The Chief's letter went on to say:
"I made the references to Officer Stewart providing and interview in the spirit of humor, based in part on what I believe to be a good working relationship between us. Nonetheless, I can see clearly in hindsight that my comments were inappropriate, created the wrong impression in front of my executive staff, and should not have been made."
An APD spokesperson released a statement to KXAN Tuesday afternoon, saying, “The chief provided the appropriate response to everyone involved and will not be providing additional comments.”
Stewart's colleague at CLEAT, John Curtis called the chief's comments 'intimidation' that had cast doubt on Stewart's reputation as a law enforcement attorney.
"That seed has been planted apparently from the chief's office and that's most discouraging. He's put the word out you (Austin's police officers) can't trust your own attorney and that's outrageous," said Curtis.
He echoed earlier comments from CLEAT and Austin's Police Association for an independent leak investigation from outside the city.
City Attorney Kennard, in her letter, said that the chief was not involved in the city attorney's office inquiry into the leak and was not being kept abreast of developments.
"The investigation continues and is being conducted in a fair and impartial manner," Kennard said in her response. "I want to ensure you that Ms Stewart and her husband are not subjects that will be interviewed for the purposes of my office's investigation or any other investigation that may be occurring within the city."
Det. Kleinert shot and killed Larry Eugene Jackson on July 25 after a struggle. Kleinert chased Jackson into a wooded area after the man ran while being questioned after a bank robbery that Kleinert was investigating. Jackson was not a suspect in the robbery but police said they had reason to believe he might have been intending to commit an unspecified fraud.
Jackson's family has retained a lawyer and has said the shooting was not justified.
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