Chuck Rosenthal stepped down Friday as Harris County district attorney in Houston after six weeks of mounting pressure and intense scrutiny brought by the exposure of embarrassing e-mails that prompted calls for his resignation from all but his closest allies, reports the Houston Chronicle. Rosenthal’s decision marked a change of heart from previous vows to finish out the remainder of his term even though he had abandoned his re-election plans because of the e-mail controversy. Rosenthal, 62, said a combination of prescription drugs had impaired his judgment, and constant media coverage of his controversial e-mails – which included some sexually explicit and racist content, along with affectionate notes to his executive assistant – had taken its toll on his family.
As recently as 10 days ago, Rosenthal publicly denied having any problems with medication to deal with pain. Rosenthal had worked in the office for 31 years and was elected the county’s top prosecutor in 2000. He was virtually assured of running unopposed in the Republican Party primary until six weeks ago, when a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the county exposed his e-mails, including campaign activities he conducted in his office on county equipment last year. Until the governor appoints a successor, the office’s first assistant – Bert Graham – takes over.