(HOUSTON) — When Houston police narcotics detectives served a search warrant on one of her clients in 2016 for possession of drugs, defense attorney Monique Sparks questioned the validity of the case as soon as she saw Officer Gerald Goines was involved.
“I would say that at least for 10 years that I know of, he’s kind of been terrorizing the community,” Sparks told ABC News on Thursday.
She said she has received numerous complaints from defendants about Goines’ questionable behavior, which she described as threatening and even criminal. But she said they were too afraid to file official grievances.
“So they would tell me this and I’m like, ‘OK, what you have to do is make a report and they wouldn’t do it,” Sparks said, adding that most of the people targeted for arrest by Goines were low-income African Americans. “We would tell the prosecution this is what this cop did and it was just very hard to catch him or for people to want to take it up the chain.”
Goines is the former Houston narcotics officer now facing murder charges stemming from a January 2019 botched drug raid in which a married couple was killed in a gunbattle that left four police drug-team members, including Goines, wounded. An investigation found Goines allegedly lied in an affidavit to get a judge to sign off on the no-knock warrant, an angry Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a February 2019 news conference.
On Wednesday, Houston District Attorney Kim Ogg revealed that a review of cases Goines played a substantial role in, between 2008 and 2019, found 69 people who may have been convicted on false evidence presented by Goines.
“We need to clear people convicted solely on the word of a police officer whom we can no longer trust,” Ogg said in a statement.
Ogg filed a motion on Wednesday requesting judges appoint lawyers for the 69 individuals so they can begin the process of possibly having their Goines-related convictions overturned.
All charges were dismissed against Sparks’ client back in March 2019.
“In the interest of justice, the ongoing investigation of Gerald Goines prevents us from moving forward to trial on this case at this time,” Dane Schiller, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, said in a statement at the time announcing charges were being dropped against Sparks’ clients.
Sparks said Oggs’ announcement this week came as no surprise to her or for many members of Houston’s poor black neighborhoods.
“I think the truth has been known for a while that he was a dirty cop,” Sparks said. “This is just the first thing that surfaced that’s been made public. It was kind of common knowledge around the courthouse that he was a bad cop, but this made it common knowledge for everyone.”
Goines was relieved of duty in the wake of the botched raid that left Dennis Tuttle, 59, and his wife Rhogena Nicholas, 58, dead.
He had been a Hoston police officer for 25 years and was wounded in the line of duty three times, including during the raid on Tuttle and Nicholas’ home, Acevedo said at the time.
In August 2019, Goines was charged with two counts of murder stemming from the deaths of Tuttle and Nicholas. Another Houston officer, Steven Bryant, was charged with tampering with a government document in an alleged attempt to help Goines cover up the illegally obtained search warrant.
Authorities alleged that Goines falsely claimed in an affidavit that a confidential informant conducted two drug purchases of black tar heroin at the home of Tuttle and Nicholas after investigators learned the informant never went to the house, according to documents filed in Harris County District Court.
Goines and Bryant have both pleaded not guilty to the state and federal charges filed against them.
Both officers were charged in November with federal crimes of deprivation of rights under color of law, destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations and tampering with a witness, victim or informant.
In an interview with ABC station KTRK-TV in Houston, Ogg said that in the 69 cases now suspected of being tainted, Goines was the sole witness.
“People were convicted, they went to jail, they went to prison,” Ogg said.
She said Goines, who is African American, investigated, arrested and sought charges against low-income African Americans.
Goines’ attorney, Nicole Deborde, accused Ogg of attempting to influence potential jurors with her announcement this week and trying to make a publicity grab as she faces a Democratic primary election on March 3.
“These are carefully timed media blitzes which are an end-run around the ethical rules that she can’t talk about the facts of the actual pending case,” Deborde told KTRK. “This is a transparent political Hail Mary as she approaches the primary deadline.”
But Mike Doyle, an attorney representing the family of Rhogena Nicholas in a pending civil case against the Houston Police Department, applauded Ogg’s decision.
“I think at this point, it calls into question whether anything he [Goines] did can be trusted,” Doyle told KTRK.
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