Hundreds attend “Make it Right” event at Lakewood Church to clear open warrants
As is often the case, the hundreds inside Lakewood Church were seeking redemption.
A crowd of more than 200 flocked to the mega church Saturday to try to resolve arrest warrants at a “Make It Right” event hosted by District Attorney Kim Ogg, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Lakewood pastor Joel Osteen.
Participants - more than 5,000 people were invited - were given an alternative to appearing in court for low-level, nonviolent misdemeanor offenses filed in Harris County Precinct 1 and 6.
“Today’s all about second chances,” Ogg said. “It’s the district attorney’s office and the county commissioners office’s opportunity to give back with Lakewood to our constituents, to get small legal problems solved.”
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Charges attendees could potentially resolve were offenses of criminal mischief, criminal trespass, a minor consuming or possessing alcohol, minor in possession of tobacco, issuance of a bad check, failure to provide identification, failure to appear in court, drug paraphernalia, public intoxication, disorderly conduct and theft of less than $100. In Texas, these Class C fines can cost up to $500. For those who procrastinate in their payment, the fines can quickly pile up and lead to warrants, Ogg said.
Small run-ins with the law can sometimes lead to a domino effect of negative consequences: arrests, loss of jobs, loss of child custody and financial difficulties.
“It’s that citizens obligation to go be responsible, pay that ticket, but people don’t always do that,” she said.
The DA’s office anticipates the Class C misdemeanors cleared at the event will save the county thousands of dollars in criminal processing.
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“I got my letter in the mail,” said one male participant who preferred not to be identified. “I thought, ‘It’s easier than going to court, and I might as well go to church while I’m at it.’”
Ellis said before the event, he remembered a man he met cycling in the Fifth Ward who would benefit from the event. “He has warrants for riding a bike on the sidewalk,” Ellis said. “We’ve got lawyers trying to sort it out and I thought of him and told my staff ‘Find that guy, go pick him up and bring him here.’”
The volunteer legal team on-hand - including Harris County Public Defender’s Office lawyers, Beacon Law attorneys, local Justice of the Peace judges, Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen and Precinct 6 Constable Silvia Trevino - provided free advice to the public for issues including landlord-tenant conflicts, immigration and child support. The program’s participants, who were invited regardless of immigration status, were also encouraged to attend a career fair outside Lakewood’s worship center to learn about educational opportunities.
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Booths lined the second floor lobby area with representatives from Houston Community College, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Houston Independent School District Drop Out Prevention Program, among others.
“Individuals reaching out for the DA’s services, when they come through here, they might need their diploma,” said Kevin Robinson, a HISD dropout case worker. “We all have obstacles in our lives and while they’re here taking care of the legal aspect, I explain it to them how easy it can be to come back to school.”
Ogg said she anticipates serving hundreds more by holding events like this throughout the county within the next year.
Scroll through the gallery above to see fugitives being sought by Houston law enforcement