Drug War

Prosecutors Back Dismissal of 91 More Cases Involving the Houston Cop Who Lied to Justify a Deadly Drug Raid

The announcement brings the total number of suspect cases initiated by Gerald Goines to 164 over 11 years.

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Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Kim Ogg plans to support the reversal of "at least 91" more convictions in cases involving Gerald Goines, the former Houston narcotics officer whose fraudulent search warrant affidavit led to the January 2019 drug raid that killed Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas. Ogg's office had already backed the dismissal of 73 cases initiated by Goines, who faces state murder charges and federal civil rights charges in connection with the deadly invasion of the middle-aged couple's house on Harding Street.

"We will continue to work to clear people convicted solely on the word of a police officer who we can no longer trust," Ogg said in a press release last Thursday. "We are committed to making sure the criminal justice [system] is fair and just for everyone."

The latest batch of questionable cases all involved search warrants obtained by Goines. The previous batch involved cases in which Goines was the only purported witness to drug transactions he claimed to have observed.

Prosecutors are filing motions asking that lawyers be appointed for each of the 91 defendants. If those lawyers decide that Goines' sworn statements were material in convicting their clients and seek new trials on that basis (both of which seem likely), prosecutors "anticipate that they will agree to relief and eventual dismissal," Ogg said.

"We've come to the conclusion that every conviction in which Goines was the major player, for the past 11 years, needs to be flipped," said Josh Reiss, chief of the Post-Conviction Writs Division at Ogg's office. "The number of cases may grow."

Goines, who served the Houston Police Department (HPD) for 34 years, has admitted that he invented a fictional heroin purchase by a nonexistent confidential informant to justify the no-knock Harding Street raid. Four officers were wounded by gunshots during the exchange of fire that killed Tuttle and Nicholas, which began when the cops broke into the house and immediately used a shotgun to kill the couple's dog. Lawyers for Nicholas' family say she and Tuttle were napping at the time of the raid. Police found no evidence that the the couple was selling heroin, as Goines had claimed.

One of the men framed by Goines, Otis Mallet, was sentenced to eight years in state prison because the officer claimed he was involved in a 2008 crack cocaine sale. Mallet, who served two years of that sentence, has always denied Goines' account. He was declared "actually innocent" in February, along with his brother, Steven Mallet, who served 10 months after Goines implicated him in the same purported transaction.

"If the magistrate who Goines asked to sign a warrant to permit the raid on Harding Street had known of his history of lies and deception, he would not have signed it, and Rhogena and Dennis would likely still be alive today," Ogg said. While Tuttle and Nicholas were white, all of the defendants in the 164 cases identified by Ogg's office so far are members of minority groups, and the vast majority are black (as is Goines).

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who initially hailed Goines as a hero while posthumously tarring Tuttle and Nicholas as dangerous heroin dealers, has denied that the problems revealed by the disastrous Harding Street raid reflect a "systemic" failure within the HPD's Narcotics Division. At least 164 suspect convictions over 11 years involving a single officer suggest otherwise.

Another former Houston narcotics officer, Steven Bryant, faces state and federal charges because he backed up Goines' phony story about a "controlled buy" that never happened. It is hard to believe that no one else was complicit in Goines' shady practices spanning more than a decade, either by actively assisting him, by looking the other way, or by failing to adequately supervise his activities. Ogg said her office is investigating "other officers" in Goines' squad.

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  1. Normally prosecutors seem to resist dismissal of charges, no matter how egregious the misconduct might have been that lead to the charges being filed. Why are the Houston prosecutors agreeing to this?

    1. I hope it’s because there’s people like me who realize the entire narcotics division is dirty, if not the whole fucking police force, and they’re demanding more. This is the prosecutor throwing them a bone while refusing to get into the systemic problems. “No, look, it was just this one bad egg, look at all these cases where he was unreliable!”

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    2. Because they are all involved with this malfeasance. The wink and nudge complicity by the judge and DA on down is why they are overturning convictions. If we had a real fbi that actually cared about justice we would see the entire department brought up on conspiracy.

      Like the swamp, the good old boys clubs these days are too big to fail.

    3. Ogg was elected on a platform of cleaning up Houston’s prosecutor’s office.

      1. Odd Ogg. Half turtle and half frog.

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      2. And let’s not forget, it’s an election year. She has got to at least look like she’s serious.

    4. Most of the cases DA Kim Ogg is trying to get overturned, happened before she got elected in a Democratic wave in 2016. Albeit smaller than the Beto wave two years later.

      The DA’s before her were all Republicans, going back to 2001 when Chuck Rosenthal was the DA. I can’t remember if Johnny Holmes who had the office for 21 years before Rosenthal, was also a Republican. Anyway, her making the other party look bad trumps any loyalty to prior prosecution attorneys.

    5. The warrants and arrests were all based on the two crooked cops’ observations. The DA would have reviewed the cases to see if there was another party present that could conceivably be trusted. Absent that, then remove their testimony and there was nothing left to the cases. Curious if anyone mentioned a motive for doing this particular warrant to begin with?

  2. Acevedo was incompetent and duplicitous when he was the police chief here in Austin, and he has only gotten worse.

  3. “We will continue to work to clear people convicted solely on the word of a police officer-“

    Yes! This is it! True reform is coming!

    “-we can no longer trust.”

    Oh, nevermind. They think they just need to throw out one bad apple and that will fix everything.

    1. Ogg said her office is investigating “other officers” in Goines’ squad.

      Throw a rock in that division and you’ll hit someone who’s complicit in Goines’ bad behavior. There’s no way one guy is completely breaking all the rules and nobody knows about it or isn’t intentionally staying ignorant. And just because others have vouched for him doesn’t mean shit-Steven Bryant vouched for the warrant on the Tuttle house.

      1. Yes. Every time someone spouts off about good cops and throwing out the baby with the bathwater, this needs to be thrown back in their face. Where have all those good cops been for the last 11 years? How about the 23 years before that — did he show no signs of corruption and cutting corners? Odds are he was on the vice squad precisely because he had spent 23 years showing how corrupt he was.

        1. Odds are he was on the vice squad precisely because he had spent 23 years showing how corrupt he was

          100%

  4. “If the magistrate who Goines asked to sign a warrant to permit the raid on Harding Street had known of his history of lies and deception, he would not have signed it, and Rhogena and Dennis would likely still be alive today,” Ogg said.

    ………………………..

    It is hard to believe that no one else was complicit in Goines’ shady practices spanning more than a decade, either by actively assisting him, by looking the other way, or by failing to adequately supervise his activities.

    You mean like the magistrate who never thought to look very closely at all at a cop who for years had been asking for warrants based solely on his own uncorroborated testimony?

    Are warrant applications court documents subject to public records laws? Is there a way to check how often warrant applications are denied (if ever), particularly with regards to this particular magistrate? I’ve always just assumed that in single-judge jurisdictions a judge is not going to get elected without the support of the local police and the prosecutors office and is therefore not very likely to be asking many questions about warrant applications and in multi-judge jurisdictions the cops and the prosecutors know which judges will rubber-stamp warrant applications and which won’t. It might be interesting to see if there’s any pattern in which magistrates get asked to issue warrants and which ones ever deny the application.

    1. “It might be interesting to see if there’s any pattern in which magistrates get asked to issue warrants and which ones ever deny the application.”

      Especially the ones detailed for assignments like “No Refusal Weekend,” where the cops get a court order to stick you for a blood sample if you refuse to give them one. Strangely, the magistrate at the other end of the phone never turns the request down. How odd.

    2. In answer to your questions, Yep! These are ALL public records, part of the court record. To check on a particular magistrate, however, would be tediously time consuming

  5. As always, Mr. Sullum, thank you for staying on top of this.

    It is only by keeping the spotlight on incidents like this one that any change ever happens at all. It was obvious that the HPD was more than willing to deceive the public about this raid until people like you poked giant holes in their fabrication. Then, they wanted to sweep it under the rug, but you and others wouldn’t let them get away with that, either.

    The change might be less sweeping and more limited than any of us like, but it makes an enormous difference to any individual who has their convictions overturned.

  6. Still waiting on that shooting report in the Tuttle incident. My guess is Tuttle wasn’t even holding a firearm when he was gunned down.

    1. The cops claimed he opened fire immediately. The only way that reads is if he was strapped when they kicked in his door and shot his dog in the face. Good for him if he was.

      1. I haven’t seen a ballistics report made public yet from that shooting. It ought to have been easy to figure out for the trauma surgeons if they were pulling pieces of 75 grain 5.56 TAP (or whatever their entry team used) out of the officers vs a .357 slug from Tuttle’s revolver.

        That we haven’t heard anything is a decent inference that the news is not pro-HPD.

        1. It probably means there is no evidence retained by the trauma surgeons. At that point the HPD was completely in control of the narrative. Their story was that they executed a warrant on a drug dealer, and he opened fire on them, and they returned fire, killing him and his wife. There was no reason to preserve that evidence-the shooter was known and the perp was dead.

          For my part, I’m still assuming that he did return fire at some point, probably after they shot his dog and/or wife. Otherwise why invent this story that he was returning fire with a .357? Make it a 9mm if you’re making shit up, it matches the warrant, which invent the 9mm because it’s the most common caliber for handguns in the world. Goines probably had a gun in his car, ready to plant, just in case. He just didn’t count on getting shot in the neck before he could drop it.

          1. I don’t think he got off a shot. I think what’s much more likely is poor communication between the members of the entry team and a whole lot of sympathetic gunfire. They admit knocking the door in, and near immediately shooting the couple’s dog. My guess is that the dog shooter didn’t communicate that he was blasting Fido, someone else in the stack heard gunfire, maybe even ND’d into one of the other members. Then it becomes a whole lot of, “Shots fired! Officer down!” and the rest of the members of the stack start thinking they’re in Ramadi instead of Houston, and begin a break contact drill, while giving no fucks about any fratricide issues.

            I do think someone discharged Tuttle’s revolver later. There were a couple witness reports of odd shots fired a half hour of so after the main fusillade.

            The alternative is that they kicked the door in on an old school Bianchi Cup competitor, who had his gun on him, went to Condition Black in an instant, and who began to fuck them up with his .357. You’ll need a bit more evidence for me to believe that story instead.

            1. The two alternatives aren’t “He never fired a shot” and “He was instantly able to plug 5 officers with 6 shots.” I don’t have to take up the latter position in order to assert that he did return fire at some point.

              I think he was asleep, as the story is now proceeding. The officers burst in. Maybe the dog is in the bedroom with the. Regardless, a couple of officers are inside the house while he’s grabbing his gun. They shoot the dog at some point because what else are cops gonna do, the wife reacts and lunges for the dog, and the cops shoot her too because she wasn’t complying. Then Tuttle gets into a position to return fire because the fuckers just murdered his dog and his wife. And it all happened much, much slower than it’s been portrayed.

              1. Yeah I think he shot 5 officers with a 6-shot revolver after being startled out of bed in the middle of a no-knock raid. Because he’s a cross between Wyatt Earp and Chris Kyle.

                1. Again, fucking people attempting to force strawmen words into my mouth. I didn’t say that, and some of the hits may have been friendly fire. That doesn’t mean I think they completely invented the firearm, for reasons I’ve already stated. And it’s definitely not me coming at this from the position of defending the police.

                  1. All of the hits were ‘friendly’ fire.

                    They fired the gun they found later (much later) and there is evidence of that. Read up on the rest of the articles. Sullum linked a bunch of them.

              2. And BTW, the police side of the story is the one where he’s Chris-Wyatt-Kyle-Earp.

                So the options are:
                1. That.
                2. They’re lying. Again.

            2. That’s the problem with swarms of police. It’s a powder keg, an if anything sets them off half of them empty their magazines. They do it because numbers and dynamic entries make them feel safe and badass, but in reality it’s just a danger to everyone in the area.

              1. Yeah. I think these guys doing these no-knock raids think they’re fucking Seal Team Six going after Bin-Laden’s secret compound, when inside it’s often law-abiding home-owners.

              2. It doesn’t even need to be them kicking in a door to see panicky, spray and pray, fire. Go look at the pictures from the car chase/hostage situation with the UPS truck in Miami a few months ago. They turned that brown van into a colander, and ended up killing the hostage, as well as some poor bastard stuck in traffic, downrange of their fusillade.

                Round accountability is for other people.

  7. Yes Art Acevedo deserves to die, and I hope he burns in Hell.

  8. Art Assinvader is going to spend eternity swallowing demon seed.

  9. I had to deal with HPD’s corruption as the victim of a crime. I can’t believe there’s a cop in the department who is honest.

    1. They’ve had 11 years to self-report, and have not. If there were any, their self-reporting got them fired long ago.

    2. I’ve been a victim of crime as well, and had to deal with HPD. The guy who was sent for my burglary was conscientious and thorough. I still don’t have my property back, and likely never will, though I get calls about it appearing in pawn shops from time to time, but I can’t fault the assistance I received from them.

      Traffic stuff is hit or miss. Clean car, right race and age, helpful attitude goes a long way towards making the encounter unpleasant, rather than life-threatening.

      I don’t see how you can have a Goines in that subunit of the department, and not know that something was horribly wrong. I guess if the guy kept bringing meat to the butcher, the guys making sausage out of it didn’t feel like questioning where it came from. So many warrants he applied for, stating guns and drugs would be found at the place to be searched, and nothing was found. I guess no one cared to audit their practices.

  10. Thanks again Jacob for the update. This is the kind of reporting that sets Reason apart from the alternatives.

    1. “Reason” alternatives? Would those be Vox, Salon, The Atlantic, Daily Kos, and CNN?

  11. “…It is hard to believe that no one else was complicit in Goines’ shady practices spanning more than a decade, either by actively assisting him, by looking the other way, or by failing to adequately supervise his activities…”

    Yeah. Who, me?

  12. OMG I remember this when it happened! It smelled fishy af! There were people commenting on both sides of this story but it just goes to show you should always question authority. I hope word spreads quick to whatever prison he goes to. Time for some real ass street justice…

  13. We will continue to work to clear people convicted solely on the word of a police officer who we can no longer trust…

    You could never trust him. But you did. Blindly.

  14. If the magistrate who Goines asked to sign a warrant to permit the raid on Harding Street had known of his history of lies and deception, he would not have signed it…

    Assumes facts not in evidence.

  15. Can we stick Ofc. Goines in the same cell with the 91 people who were put into jail by him, and will be reversed? I figure after 15 minutes, justice will have been done. And Houston taxpayers won’t have to pay for a lengthy trial and incarceration.

  16. He should be sentenced to an amount of time equal to the time spent by all the people who got convicted based on his actions …. times two.

  17. Narrowly, the Drug War is too costly in blood and treasure.

    Broadly, much of government employment, worse so in “Public Safety,” has become a dangerous and largely unaccountable quasi-aristocracy abusing and stealing from the public.

  18. Wow. Four officers were wounded by gunshots during the exchange of fire that killed Tuttle and Nicholas, which began when the cops broke into the house and immediately used a shotgun to kill the couple’s dog. rochester mn electricians

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