Friday, June 26, 2015

Former deputy claims Garcia knew of county jail abuse

While we wait to see if the Supreme Court makes history again on June 26 (about an hour or so from this posting) let's excerpt, link, and comment on Adrian Garcia's latest headache.

When former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said he was kept in the dark by his top deputies about a mentally ill inmate found in a trash-filled, feces-littered cell, he was not telling the truth, according to an exclusive ABC-13 interview with Garcia's former chief deputy.

The interview with former Chief Deputy Fred Brown, who oversaw jail operations under Garcia, casts doubts on Garcia's claims that he never knew about the deplorable conditions inmate Terry Goodwin was kept in until Ted Oberg Investigates began asking questions about Goodwin in September 2014.

As late as April 24, 2015 Garcia said he knew "nothing" about Goodwin's condition before questions by ABC-13.

"What I know today is nothing that I can recall," he said in an April 24 press conference. "Not to that magnitude."

So the timing of these allegations is a little suspect, seeing as how the first poll in the mayor's race, released a couple of days ago, had Garcia in a statistical tie with Sylvester Turner.

But Brown told ABC-13 that he informed Garcia about Goodwin in October 2013, just days after a jail compliance team found that the inmate had been left in a cell for weeks. When jailers opened his cell door, Goodwin was found wearing a tattered orange jail uniform and surrounded by swarms of bugs. The compliance team took photos of Goodwin and the fetid cell.

Brown also said he showed Garcia those photos of Goodwin.

"I said, 'Sheriff, look at this,'" Brown said in a recent interview. "I told him about it. I showed him the pictures. He saw the pictures. We were in the executive conference room. He went through the pictures and looked at them."

When asked if Garcia was telling the truth in his steady and consistent denials that he knew nothing of the incident before ABC-13 broke the story on September 29, 2014, Brown was blunt in his reply.

"No he's not," Brown said. "No he's not."

Ted Oberg is as solid an investigative reporter as they come.  I'm sure he did due diligence on the veracity of Brown's claims.  The question is whether Brown is as credible as he seems in calling Garcia a liar.

Garcia launched a criminal investigation after the story broke, and ultimately called in the Harris County District Attorney, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department to probe the incident. Brown's narrative also raise questions if Garcia waited until the Goodwin incident became public to begin acting on it.

Ultimately, two jail detention officers were indicted in April for felony tampering with a government document after they allegedly signed off on cell checks that Goodwin was in good condition, officials said. Garcia fired those two, as well as four others. In addition, he disciplined dozens other jail workers and forced Brown to retire.

What do you see or sense that seems off?

Garcia declined a request for an on-camera interview, but on Thursday maintained he had no knowledge of Goodwin's conditions until September 2014.

"When I first found out about the condition of Terry Goodwin's cell last September, I was furious," Garcia said in an emailed statement. "I took decisive action. I launched an investigation, and as a result of that investigation, I fired and disciplined those responsible. I immediately issued orders to put procedures in place to see to it that something like this would never happen again and never be tolerated.

"Had I known earlier, I would have acted earlier with the same strong and responsible actions the record shows I took when I was informed. I will always take responsibility and act rapidly to deal with problems."

There's more from Brown at the link, including the fact that his memory was a little fuzzy on what he did or didn't show and/or tell the sheriff.  I see this as probably hardening the support of Garcia's backers; he doesn't lose many votes unless something comes out that verifies Brown's somewhat shifting recollection, or if there's more bad news behind another curtain.

Keep in mind, however, that 50% of those polled said they were undecided about whom to support. What remains to be seen is whether they choose to hold this development against Garcia, or not.

As regular readers here already know, I haven't been -- and won't be -- a supporter of Garcia's, from the beginning to the end of the municipal election cycle, for reasons that have nothing to do with this matter.  Garcia simply isn't my kind of Democrat, and I think there are more qualified individuals to lead the city.

In the long run, this affair won't damage him much at all.  Unless it gets worse, naturally.

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