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District Attorney Sues Parole Board Over Rapist’s Release

August 29, 1986

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ A county prosecutor sued the state parole board Friday, saying it should not have released a convicted rapist eight years into his 123-year sentence.

Thomas E. Grettenberg was paroled in January and arrested Monday on a charge of attempted murder.

″The people pay for protection from crime. I think they deserve better than to have dangerous people turned loose,″ said Travis County District Attorney Ronald Earle after filing the suit against the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Earle’s suit was filed with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, and asks that it order the parole board to return Grettenberg to prison.

In 1977, Grettenberg was sent to prison for three aggravated rapes and two burglaries. A judge sentenced Grettenberg to three consecutive sentences of 33, 45 and 45 years for a total of 123 years.

Grettenberg, 33, was released after serving eight years and four months but accumulating a total of 23 years and 7 months of actual time and good-conduct time.

Grettenberg was arrested by Harris County sheriff’s detectives and booked Monday on a charge of attempting to commit capital murder.

Authorities allege Grettenberg broke into an 18-year-old college student’s home in Harris County on Aug. 18 and began choking her with a cord. He fled after she screamed, police said.

He remained jailed in Houston Friday in lieu of $100,000 bond.

Earle alleges the parole board ignored the judge’s order that the sentences, the single 33-year term and the two sets of simultaneous 45-year terms, should be served one after the other as three separate terms. Instead, they were treated as a single, 123-year sentence, he said.

Grettenberg should have accumulated 17 more years of credit before being considered for parole, Earle said.

The suit says ″the law requires Grettenberg discharge one-third of his first, 33-year term before accumulating parole eligibility credit towards his second, 45-year term. This is because the purpose of a sentence is confinement such that stacked sentences mean stacked penitentiary time.″

Mike Roach, a spokesman for the Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the board simply followed state law in Grettenberg’s case.

Quoting one of the state laws pertaining to such cases, Roach said, ″When two or more sentences are to be served consecutively and not concurrently, the aggregate of the several terms shall be considered the term.″

Also, under state law in effect when Grettenberg committed the 1977 crimes, any sentence of 60 years or more meant prisoners became eligible for parole when they got credit for 20 years, Roach said.

A law change in 1977 said serious offenders had to serve 20 calendar years before becoming eligible for parole. That new law doesn’t include credit for so-called ″good time.″

″Actually, if he’d done it a month later, he would have been under the (new) law,″ Roach said.

Earle said his office has heard from victims of the earlier crimes.

″It is infuriating,″ the prosecutor said. ″We’ve gotten calls from several of Grettenberg’s victims, as well as other people. They’re frightened. The nightmares that they had some years ago are coming back.″

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