Drug War

A Houston Man Framed on Drug Charges Is Suing the Lethally Corrupt Cop Who Sent Him to Prison

Otis Mallet's ordeal, like the deaths of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, involved a fictional drug purchase.

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Ten years ago, Otis Mallet was convicted of selling crack cocaine in Houston based on a transaction that prosecutors and state courts eventually concluded never happened. But in the meantime, Mallet was sentenced to eight years in prison, of which he served two before he was released on parole. This travesty might never have come to light but for the scrutiny that followed a deadly 2019 drug raid orchestrated by Gerald Goines, the same narcotics officer who framed Mallet. That operation, which killed a middle-aged couple, Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, whom Goines portrayed as heroin dealers, was likewise based on a fictional drug purchase.

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, Mallet is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Goines and his immediate supervisor, Sgt. Troy Gamble, for violating his constitutional rights. He argues that Goines knowingly framed him and that Gamble would have discovered that fact if he had been doing his job properly. The details of the case belie former Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo's assurances that the disastrous 2019 raid did not reflect a "systemic" problem in his department. They also show how the war on drugs facilitates outrageous police abuses that would be more easily discovered in other kinds of criminal cases.

According to a police report that Goines filed, he was working undercover on April 29, 2008, when he drove an unmarked car to 1121 Danube Street. Goines supposedly gave Mallet's brother, Steven, $200 in cash, which he gave to Otis, who retrieved a blue can from a black Chevrolet truck parked at the house, removed crack from it, and handed it to Otis, who delivered it to Goines. As he drove away, Goines said, he notified his colleagues, who arrested the two brothers.

Goines' testimony was the only evidence against Otis and Steven Mallet. There were no other witnesses to the alleged transaction, and the can that he claimed contained the crack he supposedly bought had no usable fingerprints. Neighbors said they had not seen anything like the transaction Goines described. A drug-sniffing dog did not alert to the truck where Mallet allegedly had stashed the can of crack. During Otis Mallet's trial, the prosecution said that, given his many years of public service, Goines "deserves to be treated with more respect than he's been treated with."

After the raid that killed Tuttle and Nicholas, local prosecutors began reexamining drug cases involving Goines, a 34-year veteran who had worked in the Houston Police Department's Narcotics Division for two decades. During a February 2020 hearing in which prosecutors urged a judge to recommend that Otis Mallet be declared "actually innocent," they said Goines "repeatedly lied about nearly every aspect" of the case. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said Goines' refusal to testify at Mallet's hearing was "compelling evidence that the entire alleged narcotics transaction was a fraud."

Harris County District Court Judge Ramona Franklin agreed that Mallet should be declared innocent, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed that finding. "No credible evidence existed that inculpated [the] defendant," it said, "and the defendant [was] actually innocent of the crime for which [he] was sentenced." Mallet later received $260,417 in state compensation for his wrongful conviction.

Another Harris County judge, Kelli Johnson, reached the same conclusion regarding Steven Mallet, who pleaded guilty to possession in exchange for a sentence of time served—10 months. He said he had rejected an earlier plea deal that would have required him to implicate his brother and decided to plead guilty only so he could get out of jail. The appeals court agreed that he was innocent.

Although Otis Mallet had always maintained his innocence, his claims got no traction until after investigators discovered that Goines had invented a heroin purchase by a nonexistent confidential informant to justify the home invasion in which his colleagues killed Tuttle and Nicholas. Goines faces state charges, including felony murder, and federal civil rights charges in connection with that raid.

Mallet argues that Goines' supervisors should have been aware of his chicanery long before it had deadly results. His lawsuit notes that nine complaints against Goines were sustained between 1987 and 2005, including allegations of "misconduct" and "improper police behavior." And although Goines claimed he had used "police money" to buy crack from Mallet, that money was never recovered, and it was not mentioned in Goines' expense report for April 2008. The following month, Goines said he had paid a confidential informant $200 for assistance in identifying the Mallet brothers as drug dealers, a detail that is conspicuously missing from his description of the crack purchase in his report and other case documents.

Since Gamble signed off on Goines' paperwork and was supposed to be supervising him, the lawsuit argues, he is culpable in Mallet's false arrest. "As Defendant Gamble was present as a surveillance officer for Plaintiff's arrest in April of 2008," the complaint says, he "was aware" either that Goines "was not accounting for drug buy money associated with Plaintiff's arrest" or that Goines "did not actually use any drug buy money in connection with Plaintiff's arrest." If Gamble "had been properly supervising Defendant Goines," the lawsuit argues, "this red flag would have caused the investigation into Plaintiff to be more thoroughly reviewed, the fact that a drug buy did not occur would have been discovered, and the malicious prosecution against Plaintiff would have been terminated prior to his wrongful conviction."

In a 2020 interview with the Houston Chronicle, Gamble said he did not recall the Mallet case, but he implicitly agreed that the inconsistencies between Goines' paperwork and his account of what had happened should have prompted scrutiny. Gamble "said he reviewed any expenses on any case he was involved with—and a situation where expense reports didn't line up with details in an arrest report would concern him." He emphasized that "all the expenditures should add up" and that "if you spend money, any money spent should be documented."

This sloppiness is of a piece with the lax supervision and outright fraud that Ogg's investigators discovered in the Narcotics Division. "Houston Police narcotics officers falsified documentation about drug payments to confidential informants with the support of supervisors," Ogg said in July 2020. "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." Ogg's findings resulted in criminal charges against a dozen officers, including several supervisors, who are accused of falsifying reports to back up drug cases and claim phony overtime.

Acevedo and his underlings are clearly responsible for allowing this corruption, even when they were not actively participating in it. In a federal lawsuit against the city of Houston, Acevedo, and 13 current or former officers, the Nicholas family says the narcotics squad to which Goines belonged "operated as a criminal organization and tormented Houston residents for years by depriving [them of] their rights to privacy, dignity, and safety."

Drug law enforcement is especially conducive to the egregious misconduct that sent Otis Mallet to prison before it killed Tuttle and Nicholas. By criminalizing peaceful transactions between consenting adults, drug prohibition creates opportunities for Goines-style fakery that would not otherwise exist.

When someone is murdered, there is a body. When someone is assaulted, there are injuries. When someone is robbed, there is stolen property. In all of those cases, there are identifiable victims, and there may also be independent witnesses who are motivated to come forward because they have an interest in punishing and deterring predatory crime. But when a "crime" consists of nothing but handing a police officer or an informant something in exchange for money, the evidence often consists of nothing but that purported buyer's word, along with drugs that easily could have been obtained through other means.

Leaving aside the blatant injustice of punishing people for conduct that violates no one's rights, this situation invites dishonest cops to invent drug offenses and take credit for the resulting arrests, as Goines did for years with impunity. When your job is creating crimes by arranging illegal drug sales, it is not such a big leap to create crimes out of whole cloth, especially if you are convinced that your target actually is a drug dealer. This line of work also offers many opportunities for other kinds of police corruption, such as stealing drugs or drug money and taking bribes to look the other way.

Acevedo, meanwhile, has decamped for Miami, where he is running that city's police department. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez called him "the best chief in America."

The fraudulent raid that killed Tuttle and Nicholas did not dim Acevedo's enthusiasm for the war on drugs. He repeatedly praised the officers involved in that operation, including Goines, as "heroes" while tarring their victims as dangerous drug dealers and claiming that neighbors were grateful that his officers had eliminated a locally notorious "drug house." Even after it became clear that the operation was built on lies from start to finish, Acevedo concluded that the problem was a few bad apples, as opposed to the rotten barrel built by drug prohibition and supervisory negligence. Now he is Miami's problem.

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  1. Sincere opponents of Government Almighty should be outraged over crap like this! (I know, my “outrage glands” are wearing out as well, as much as they get abused every day).

    But can we PLEASE spend a WEEE tad less energy attacking Section 230, just ’cause our posts (on FaceBooooo etc.) got taken down? And more energy publicizing and condemning utter crap like THIS?!?!?

    1. No. You will get angry about the thing which makes Twitter mad, not thing that kills people.

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    2. And what happens when government decides criticizing the police is “misinformation” and leans on social media to censor it?

      1. That’s why you don’t elect cop-worshipping fascists like Republicans who have actually begun passing such laws.

        1. What, you mean like Kamala Harris?

        2. Goddamn, you are one stupid poof.

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  2. Oh yeah? What about the Trumpista Conservative Martyr? Huh? Where’s an article about Saint Babbitt? Reason never made a single mention of her! Ever! Except for when they celebrated and high fived! Because they all voted for Biden and wanted this to happen! Aaauuughhh!

    Did that cover all the bases?

    1. You should take a nap sarc.

    2. Saint Babbitt? Yes!

      But also Saint Horst Wessel! Don’t forget Hero of the People Horst Wessel! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horst_Wessel

      1. The super neat part is that the guy who literally saved the republic, also
        told the shooter of seven republicans
        where they were.

      2. Or your hero Horst Schitt.

    3. I hope you laugh extra hard at your own posts, to make up for everyone else that roles their eyes.

  3. Unfortunately your only choices are to defund the police and leave society to the tender mercies of the criminals or to back the blue and allow them to run roughshod over your civil liberties, there is no third way.

    1. Too bad nobody’s willing to face the reality that all laws come with a potential death sentence at the hands of the police, so if you’re gonna make something illegal then it better be fucking important.

      That’ll never happen.

      1. Not *quite* “nobody, but yes, certainly a vanishingly small percentage. :-\

        1. Nobody in power anyway.

      2. Too bad you didn’t leave and go to glibs like you said you were. That was the best 3 days in recent history of this comment section.

    2. That is not the only choices. We need to start policing the police. We also need to end the war on people who use drugs. This will allow police who actually care about serving their communities to go after real criminals.

  4. Since a leopard cannot change his spots, IF Aceveda was dirty in Houston he WILL be dirty in Dade.

    Glad Goines is getting dealt wiht, but there are far too man others on his team that have so far skated. If any of them knew enough to where they SHOULD have spilled da beans, they are also corrupt and MUST face their own dance band. Thise directly responsible for Tuttle and Nichols’ deaths MUST be fully charged. ButI rather expect my pet chicken will fly to the moon and back all by herself before that will happen. Sigh……
    The REAL travesty here as far as restitution and justice is that NONE of the perpetrators will bear the burden. Nope. It will be the taxpayers of the district. It WILL come out of city or county funds.

    1. They pitched the indictments on the other cops for murder.
      https://abc13.com/houston-police-raid-harding-street-rhogena-nicholas-dennis-tuttle/10957912/ Ogg is trying to blame an ADA, who is himself claiming they’re on crack, and botched the cases themselves. Google “Coby Leslie”

      The OT fraud case is still running strong though.

    2. What gets me the most is how other cities are completely willing to hire Acevedo. Do they just not care? Does the populace not notice? Does the city council go “Oh, you’re the sheriff responsible for that Goines fellow who is making national news for murdering people in their homes? You’re hired!”? Did it just not come up in the job interview? “Why did I leave my former job? Well, I may or may not be responsible for several murders…”

      How does this sort of thing happen in a way that doesn’t look laughably corrupt and/or awful?

      1. 1) Acevedo is a Cuban Hispanic, so he gets to play the race card.

        2) Acevedo successfully sued a police commissioner that revealed his earlier misconduct as chief of the California Highway Patrol.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Acevedo

        It’s possible that the Mayor relied only on his resume and information from his previous employers (who neither want to get sued nor reveal how badly they screwed up when they hired him) and never did an online search. Mayors can be effing incompetent too.

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  6. Democrats have been running Houston, and the Houston police, for 40 years. Democrats successfully gaslighted the country into thinking the abuse of blacks by police they manage is because of systemic racism, Trump and his supporters, rather than their police procedures and policies including civil asset forfeiture, policing for profit, abuse via qualified immunity, etc. Then they got BLM to riot, loot and burn against businesses, rather than protest how Democrats run their police. And distracted everyone with their nonsense of “Defund the Police” rather than recall the Democrats who run those police departments.

    1. The problem isn’t Democrats running the police. That’s just as retarded as blaming all police abuse on racism.
      Cops are going to enforce the law with violence. It’s their job.
      The problem is that most of the laws they enforce are unjust.
      Sure you can blame Democrats for that, and then you’ll be just as retarded as BLM.

      The problem isn’t police, it isn’t Democrats, it isn’t racism, it’s society wanting all these laws while ignoring the fact that even the most petty laws can result in being killed by the cops. It’s this belief that laws are somehow magical and people will just follow them because. Laws are not magic. They’re violence. So they better be damn well important, no matter which party creates them.

      1. No shithead, the worst offenders are always in democrat run cities. You know this, but you’ll suck their dicks in order to deflect from their failures.

        You’re a paid leftie troll, everyone here knows it, stop pretending.

        1. Oh look everyone! An actual dick-grabbing Trumpboy snowflake aping the Hitlertreuen chicks in the Riefenstahl movie. How pathetically nationalsocialist!

          1. Fuck off you pathetic nutcase. You’re the kind of weirdo people cross the street to avoid.

            Just go back to your abortion snuff porn. We know you love killing babies more than anything.

    2. You are right the Dems have run this city for years with an assortment of feeble minded progressives and did nothing to improve police morale. Gerald Goines was allowed to operate because of horrible leadership like Art who is now spreading his phony wokeness in Dade county.

  7. It is(and should be)impossible to sue a cop,but the City or State he is employed by is liable.But the Officer should be fired and his pension revoked.

    1. You’re in the wrong place to argue that it should be impossible to sue a cop, Kemosabe.

  8. Having worked for the California highway patrol in the early 1980s I can tell you categorically that chp officers have little to no experience in big city community policing. The chp are traffic cops. The give tickets, do dui enforcement, investigate traffic accidents. But with the exception of rural chp officers, who are often the only law enforce the in the area, they are not general law enforcement officers. they do not have a narcotics division, a homicide division, a robbery division. They don’t respond to domestic calls or any emergencies that are not highway related. A chp officer who has made it to a chief rank is even more unqualified to be a city police officer than the average chp beat cop. But those are art acevedo’s credentials. A chp chief. And he went directly from a chp chief to chief of Austin pd. His tenure in as Austin’s chief was dismal as was his tenure in Houston. Although one might argue that he gained big city experience in those positions that would be faulty reasoning. He gained experience as an executive but not as a police officer. I would be surprised if he ever made an arrest or investigated any case more serious than a car theft or a dui with injury In his entire career. He is a terrible unqualified chief . I really can’t understand how he keeps getting hired.

  9. Tuttle! Archibald Tuttle… not Buttle!

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  11. a style of Japanese film and television 9Anime animation, typically aimed at adults as well as children.

    Otis Mallet’s ordeal, like the deaths of Dennis 9anime Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, involved a fictional drug purchase. Ten years ago, Otis Mallet was …

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