The Southlake Police Department's "improper photography" case against photographer Louis Vogel came to an abrupt end today when Tarrant County prosecutors tossed the case out the window. Vogel was arrested October 12, jailed and accused of being a sexual predator on television by Southlake Police Lieutenant Ashleigh Douglas for taking pictures of the crowd at Southlake's Oktoberfest celebration.
"I can offer him the apologies of the criminal justice system," said Tarrant County Prosecutor Kurt Stallings. The Southlake Police Department offered no comment.
The following is the text of KXAS Channel 5's news story:
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Tarrant County prosecutors threw out the case against
Louis Vogel on Monday. Vogel was accused of taking photographs at
Southlake's Octoberfest for sexual gratification.
Prosecutors who reviewed the photos said police got it wrong and that there
was nothing improper with his photos.
Vogel was arrested under a new state law that makes it a crime to take
unauthorized pictures for sexual gratification. At the time, police said
Vogel zeroed in on specific body parts of strangers.
But prosecutors say Vogel simply snapped photos of the crowd and that none
appeared sexual in nature.
"A lot of the photographs frankly are crowd scenes, some of them are
artistic photographs. There's a little series of photographs of a table and
a balloon," said Kurt Stallings, Tarrant County Prosecutor.
Vogel spent nearly 24 hours in jail before bonding out, and his mug shot
appeared in TV and Internet news stories.
"What I wish they had done was print out the pictures and taken a good, hard
look at them and given us a call," said Stallings.
"I'm not surprised the case was dismissed. I think what happened here was
that the legislature passed a law that was vague and overbroad and then a
police officer took that law and used it arbitrarily and wound up causing
great harm to a citizen here in our community," said Lance Evans, Vogel's
With respect to Mr. Vogel, "I can offer him the apologies of the criminal
justice system. It's of no comfort to him, but it would hopefully be of
comfort to others for me to note that the criminal justice system, however
belatedly, did work here," said Stallings.
The prosecutor said the system ultimately worked because Vogel was never
NBC 5 received no comment from Vogel or the Southlake Police Department.
When I first heard about this issue, the whole thing struck me as suspect starting with a questionable story put forth by Southlake's public relations officer, Lieutenant Ashleigh Douglas. After watching Douglas' interview on Channel 5, I immediately suspected a "try-and-convict on TV" strategy.
Further, Douglas' statements just didn't add up.
I asked her what, specifically, the Southlake Police had on this guy.
Douglas hummed, hawed and danced the question. At that point, I felt the story was not about a sexual predator named Vogel, but perhaps a "Barbie Fife" named Douglas.
When the story broke, I wrote Southlake Mayor Andy Wambsganss an email asking for a comment. The following was his response about a week later:
Thanks for the note. I obviously have no first-hand knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the decision by officers to take action at Oktoberfest this year against Mr. Vogel. I have been updated briefly on their initial findings and the status of the ongoing investigation but am not at liberty to discuss that information publicly.
The biggest Southlake story to be told may well go back to last year. But that, my friends, is something you'll just have to stay tuned to Dallas.Org as we roll it out!
If you have friends in Southlake, tell them to keep an eye on this website. They'll be glad they did!
By the way, Mr. Mayor (and Ms. Douglas), you're welcome to submit a response to Dallas.Org. We'll post it on the front page unedited.