Police Abuse

Phony Overtime, Fictional Drug Buys, and Mysterious C.I. Payments Offer a Glimpse of Houston Police Corruption

The charges against six narcotics officers reveal a culture of shady practices that led to a deadly drug raid.

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On January 22, 2019, Houston narcotics officer Hodgie Armstrong paid a confidential informant who bought drugs as part of a case he was investigating. The informant made the purchase around 6 p.m. that day at 4437 Knoxville Street, and another narcotics officer, Steven Bryant, was there to observe the transaction and Armstrong's payment to the informant an hour and a half later, serving as the witness required by Houston Police Department policy.

Or so Armstrong and Bryant claimed. According to the local prosecutors who this week accused Armstrong of tampering with a government record, cellphone location data showed Bryant was nowhere near that address at the time of the purported drug purchase or the subsequent payment. At 6 p.m., the charge against Armstrong says, Bryant was more than 30 miles from 4437 Knoxville Street; between 7:30 and 8 p.m., he was more than 25 miles away.

That incident illustrates the widespread irregularities in the HPD's Narcotics Division that have been discovered following the January 2019 drug raid that killed a middle-aged couple, Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, in their home on Harding Street. The Harding Street raid, which discovered no evidence of drug dealing, was instigated by veteran narcotics officer Gerald Goines, who obtained a no-knock search warrant based on a fictional heroin purchase by a nonexistent informant. Goines faces state murder charges and federal civil rights charges, both of which are punishable by life in prison, because of that fatal fraud.

By contrast, the charge against Armstrong, Goines' former partner, carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail. But the false report Armstrong allegedly filed fits a pattern of shady practices and lax supervision in the Narcotics Division exemplified by Goines, who was employed by the HPD for 34 years. That environment, which included the frequently sloppy case documentation revealed by an audit report released this week, apparently made Goines think he could get away with implicating Tuttle and Nicholas by concocting a story that no one would try to verify.

Bryant, the officer who falsely claimed to have witnessed the transaction that Armstrong supposedly arranged six days before the raid that killed Tuttle and Nicholas, also figured in the latter case. Because he backed up Goines' account of a heroin purchase that never happened, Bryant faces a state charge of tampering with a government record and a federal charge of obstructing justice by falsifying records.

This week Harris County prosecutors filed two more record tampering charges against Bryant, one related to Armstrong's 2019 report and another related to a confidential informant payment that Goines claimed to have made in April 2018. Although Bryant said he witnessed that payment, prosecutors say cellphone data contradict that account. Furthermore, the informant identified by Goines—the same person he initially claimed had bought heroin from Tuttle—denied making any purchases for him at the location he identified.

Bryant was also charged with stealing about $3,000 in taxpayer money by falsely claiming overtime pay between March 21, 2018, and January 22, 2019. Prosecutors say cellphone data show he did not actually work the hours he claimed.

In addition to the charges that had already been filed against him, Goines now faces a theft charge and three more charges of tampering with a government record related to search warrants. Prosecutors are reviewing drug cases he handled and so far have identified 164 questionable convictions—including a 2004 case involving Houston native George Floyd, whose May 25 death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers triggered nationwide protests.

The charges announced this week also include three Narcotics Division supervisors.

Sgt. Clemente Reyna faces three counts of tampering with a government record based on false statements similar to the ones Bryant is accused of making. In December 2018, for example, Reyna claimed to have witnessed Goines' payment to a confidential informant for a drug purchase. Prosecutors say cellphone data show that meeting never happened, and the informant identified by Goines—again, the same person who supposedly bought heroin from Tuttle—denied participating. Reyna, like Bryant, is also charged with theft.

Sgt. Thomas Wood is likewise accused of falsely claiming to have witnessed Goines' payment to a confidential informant, this one in October 2017. Prosecutors say the informant—once again, the same person Goines named during the investigation of the Harding Street raid—denied making the purchase that Goines described, and cellphone data showed Wood could not have observed it in any case. Wood, like Bryant and Reyna, is also charged with theft.

Lt. Robert Gonzales is charged with misapplication of fiduciary property, a felony punishable by up to two years in jail, for failing to properly verify and authorize expenditures. Prosecutors say he violated department rules by approving thousands of dollars in confidential informant payments by Goines and Officer Felipe Gallegos after they had already been made and/or without laboratory testing of the drugs used as evidence in those cases.

More charges are expected. "The new charges show a pattern and practice of lying and deceit," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said on Wednesday. "Goines and others could never have preyed on our community the way they did without the participation of their supervisors; every check and balance in place to stop this type of behavior was circumvented."

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  1. “Phony Overtime, Fictional Drug Buys, and Mysterious C.I. Payments Offer a Glimpse of Houston Police Corruption.”

    Sounds like a great premise for a sit-com.

    1. No, wouldn’t work. Unlike real life, fiction needs to make sense.

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  2. This is one of the rare times when I am glad the prosecution is loading up the charges. At least these scumbags will serve some time.

    1. Don’t count on it. It will likely drag out a few years before they’re all rehired with back pay.

      1. Goines retired.

  3. …including a 2004 case involving Houston native George Floyd, whose May 25 death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers triggered nationwide protests.

    Jesus.

  4. “The new charges show a pattern and practice of lying and deceit,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said on Wednesday. “Goines and others could never have preyed on our community the way they did without the participation of their supervisors; every check and balance in place to stop this type of behavior was circumvented.”

    How often do prosecutors and judges bother checking police work? How often do prosecutors and judges effort to hold police accountable without being forced to do so by glaring public scrutiny?

  5. I’d like to recap some of the things police chief Art Acevedo has said over the course of this news story.

    Regarding Gerald Goines, as he was in the hospital: “He’s a big teddy bear. He’s a big African-American, a strong ox, tough as nails, and the only thing bigger than his body, in terms of his stature, is his courage. I think God had to give him that big body to be able to contain his courage, because the man’s got some tremendous courage.”

    Once evidence surfaced that it was a phony drug buy: “I don’t have any indication it’s a pattern and practice.”

    After Goines received a federal murder indictment: “We had a reason to be in that house, and probable cause or suspicion to be in that house. There’s a reason we were there, and that will all come out in due time.”

    When asked that same day if there’s deeper issues in his department: “What I can guarantee is that, number one, we will continue to be vigilant in our processes and our systems and our audits…. We will always ask the tough questions when we take a life. What I can tell you is that the chances of this being systemic are not going to happen because of the processes in the systems that we have in time.”

    This guy is a giant piece of shit.

    1. Yeah, he rotten to the core, but everyone in Houston limits loves him. Some people can fool all the people all the time, for a certain value of people.

      Also, Maxwell didn’t kill herself.

    2. And I’ve never heard him refer to Tuttle and Nicholas as anything but suspects. They were never suspects. They were set up so Goines could get a nice rush raiding a house that he hoped would justify a raid in the end.

      As for courage, Goines was an adrenaline junky who like to shoot it out. Acevedo is too stupid to know the difference.

      1. Actually I doubt he knew Goines from Adam. He’s a plus-sized black man, so Acevedo called him “a strong ox, a big teddy bear, a big African-American.” He got shot in the neck during a raid so he called him brave and courageous. He defended him initially because Acevedo believes that he is way too awesome to have dirty cops on his force. He doesn’t know his officers because man is clearly too busy playing politics to actually run a department.

  6. Did union officials know?

    1. Do union officials care?

  7. THIS is what BLM and all the protestors ought to jump all over. Go to Houston. Spend all that energy looking into your own police department. Do something PRODUCTIVE.

    Libertarians and a lot of other people who care about real human rights, the right to not be framed, the right to justice, have been complaining about this for years, decades, and all you clowns want to protest is verbal “violence” and gender identity?

    Grow up. Do something useful. Stop voting for statists.

    1. Are you implying that Gerald Goines was a dirty cop, a serial liar who took shortcuts and got people killed because he didn’t give a fuck? That he’s disrespectful of other people’s rights and shits on the fourth amendment?

      What a racist thing to say. He’s a black man, his truth is different than yours.

    2. In fairness I don’t know exactly what the BLM crowd has been doing in terms of activism because all I see reported in the media is people tearing down statues.

      Maybe they really are pursuing a reform agenda while the blind squirrels in the media yell “look over there! another statue is falling!”

      But to the extent they are focused on performative protests like statue eradication, or highly intellecutalized but impractical things like “redefining violence”, they are spending too much energy in those areas.

      Fine, tear down the Confederate statues on public property, they should never have been there in the first place, and call it good. Now move on to something more substantive, like real police misconduct reform.

      1. Sometimes I wonder if the BLM people would be satisfied if cops ramped up violence against non-blacks to the point where they couldn’t claim racial disparity. They would have the equality they demand. It would mean more killings by cops, but if they killed four whites for every black then there wouldn’t be any institutionalized racism.

        1. I am sure there are some BLM idiots who believe in a ‘tit-for-tat’ version of ‘equality’. Which is just rooted in vengeance, and stupid.

          But to the extent that the message is rooted in genuine police reform, that should be something we can all get behind.

          1. Yeah.


  8. Border Wall Built by Trump’s Hand-Picked Contractor Is ‘in Danger of Falling into the Rio Grande

    You can’t make this shit up. The contractor was picked because he praised Trump and then delivered “poor planning and shoddy engineering.” The foundation is only 2.5 feet deep.

    I am entertained.

    1. Grifters gonna grift.
      It’s like Solyndra all over again. Except instead of solar power execs who donate to D campaigns to get sweetheart deals, we have engineering execs who donate to R campaigns to get sweetheart deals.

    2. I’ll certainly take Dan Abrams’ word for it.

  9. Maybe one day, after enough riots disguised as peaceful protests, we will get a legal system that never, ever, uses anonymous sources. Whoever is making the accusation, citizen, cop, or weasel (I mean confidential informant), should be required to sign their true name to the statement. And the judge should be held responsible for being sure the facts are, in fact, facts.
    And there should be free unicorn rides in all public parks.

    1. Anonymous sources are not the problem per se.
      There’s plenty of very reasonable and plausible situations where an anonymous source wants to ‘come clean’ to the authorities to report serious crime.
      The problem is relying *solely* on anonymous sources for an investigation or prosecution.
      The testimony of anonymous sources, *combined with* some type of physical or non-anonymous source, should be the minimum standard before sending in the Keystone Kops.

  10. I’m not in favor of the death penalty.
    But if I was, I might be inclined to support it for agents of the state who corruptly ruin the lives of innocent people while acting in their official capacities.

  11. Well thank god the good men and women at the Houston PD have rooted out these few bad apples in their midst. And in such a remarkably short period of time!

    1. In the case of Goines, it only took 34 years to find the rotten apple! But in fairness, when you’re surrounded by rotten apples, it can be difficult to find the one or two that are truly putrefying. That’s why it took 34 years.

      1. Hey Lying Jeffy, someone said you’re fat. Is that true?

        1. Fuck off, dickwad.

          1. Look out guys, cytotoxic the badass Canadian is gonna get rough! He’s pissing his pants and he’s thinking of drinking it!

      2. You may want to recalibrate your sarcasm meter.

  12. So white people are entitled to take to the streets, rape, maim, assault, and murder people at their leisure, loot, plunder and burn private shops, tear down public monuments, deface public property, and occupy a square mile a major city with armed security because a black cop conspired to murder these two white people, right?

  13. that’s odd…i didn’t see this story anywhere else

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