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