[WB1] On Friday, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg direct-filed felony murder charges against the HPD officer (Gerald Goines) who led the raid that killed Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas in January and charged his partner Steven Bryant with evidence tampering. From the Houston Chronicle reporting:
“We have not seen a case like this in Houston,” Ogg said. “I have not seen a case like this in my 30-plus years of practicing law.”
Ogg said that as investigators probed the case, they determined that Goines first lied about using a confidential informant to buy heroin; then claimed to have bought the drugs himself; then lied about who identified the drugs; and finally admitted that he couldn’t determine whether Tuttle was the same person from whom he allegedly purchased the drugs.
Ogg also said that after the shooting, Bryant lied in an offense report about helping Goines with the investigation and falsely claimed that they’d recovered a plastic bag that contained a white napkin and two small packets of heroin.
Because the deaths occurred in the course of another alleged felony — tampering with a government record — Goines was charged with felony murder.
Unlike a regular murder charge, felony murder doesn’t require showing that the defendant intended to kill. Instead, prosecutors just have to show that, while committing another felony, the defendant committed an act clearly dangerous to human life — in this case, the execution of a no-knock warrant — and that it resulted in a death.
In her press conference, Ogg apologized to the families of the victims of HPD’s Harding Street Massacre: “I want to tell them how sorry we are, as a city and a county.”
[WB2] Art Acevedo, who inexplicably remains as Sylvester Turner’s chief of police, conducted a followon press conference (out of uniform) in which he praised himself and HPD for being able to investigate itself (neglecting to mention Ogg’s threat of subpoenas in response to HPD foot-dragging), and effectively declared the rest of the department clean.
[WB3] Acevedo’s claim does not appear to have aged well, as various observers of Harris County criminal justice scrutinized the probable cause affidavits filed by Ogg and discovered a bombshell that Acevedo HAD to have known at this stage of the proceedings. The Chronicle reported as follows to lead the Sunday edition of the newspaper:
The home first came under scrutiny after a Jan. 8 call to police from an anonymous woman who said her daughter was using drugs in the house with a woman named “Reggie,” according to the court documents filed Friday.
The caller told police that she’d seen multiple guns in the home and that the people inside would not cooperate with law enforcement.
Nicole Blankinship-Reeves and her partner, Officer R. Morales, visited the house but did not find an indication of criminal activity, the records show, but contacted the original tipster, the caller insisted officers enter the home.
Blankinship-Reeves continued to research the home but didn’t take any further action that day, according to the court documents. Instead, she jotted her notes down on a yellow legal pad and turned it over to her girlfriend, Marsha Todd, a lieutenant who oversees the narcotics division’s FAST squad, which handles the division’s civil asset forfeiture cases. Three days later, Todd relayed the tip to Goines, who worked on a different squad in the same division. On Jan. 28, Goines sought a no-knock warrant from a municipal court judge. Several hours later, he and 10 other narcotics officers raided the Harding Street home.
Blankinship-Reeves, as various observers have noted on twitter and facebook, is the daughter of former HPOU president and HPD officer Gary Blankinship, an interesting connection. It’s also interesting that Blankinship-Reeves’ girlfriend (Marsha Todd) just happened to be a supervisor in Goines’s division. But sure, nothing to see here – HPD is squeaky clean and above-board in the way it conducts its business (and provides information to the DA’s office, eventually, under threat of subpoena).
It seems likely that the City of Houston is eventually going to be paying these families a LOT of (taxpayer) money. The next shoe to drop: The ballistics report, which should tell us whether the homeowners shot any of the officers or they took on friendly fire.
[WB4] The Chronicle featured a frank admission from City of Houston officials on their lack of progress in improving Houston’s resilience to flooding, two years after Harvey:
Yes, the Harris County Flood Control District has 50 percent more work in progress than it did before Harvey, thanks to the $2.5 billion bond voters approved a year ago. Only a fifth of the 149 bond projects underway, however, have started construction.
Houston officials, without a comparable source of local funds, acknowledge the city is no more prepared for a flood than it was when Harvey hit, in large part because federal flood mitigation aid has been crushingly slow to arrive.
It’s hardly surprising at this point that Turner administration officials are good at finding others to blame for the administration’s deficiencies, but as Bill King notes, there IS a fund for drainage projects available to the City of Houston, this little thing known as the Rain Tax.
[WB5] Speaking of flood control, Bill King released a highly detailed plan to address Houston’s flooding issues.
[WB6] CNN checks in on the Army Corps of Engineers’s decision to flood certain neighborhoods to “save Houston.”
[WB7] Meanwhile, the Corps continues to revise its coastal barrier plans in response to feedback from stakeholders.
[WB8] HISD amended its lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency, in an effort to prevent the agency from potentially taking over HISD.
[WB9] Harris County DA Kim Ogg (among others) filed objections to Harris County’s proposed bail deal.
[WB10] Houston commuters spend a lot of time in traffic (which isn’t exactly news).
[WB11] Perhaps this wasn’t the smartest place to locate a bus stop, METRO. As their commercials continue to assure us, however, they spend money wisely!
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