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

Added 07-03-20 07:21:02pm EST - “The charges against six narcotics officers reveal a culture of shady practices that led to a deadly drug raid.” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “Phony Overtime, Fictional Drug Buys, and Mysterious C.I. Payments Offer a Glimpse of Houston Police Corruption”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

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.

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.

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